How to make friends in a new country

For expats, moving to a new country comes with many challenges - from trying to understand the different cultural quirks and lingo, to trying to find a cheap but reliable car to buy. But one of the biggest challenges that many expats deal with is finding real connections with new people, and battling those feelings of loneliness and isolation.

If this is you, and you’ve been feeling lonely or struggling to meet new people, let us tell you definitively that you are not alone! Many expats feel exactly the same way as you. It is also especially hard when you are a more introverted person, who enjoys intimate catch-ups, say in a café for brunch, rather than a huge raving party.

Maybe you also get a little anxious about the whole ordeal because let’s face it, it can also feel a bit like some weird form of dating! You have to put yourself out there, try and form a connection with new people, try to stay on their radar, and then hope that it sticks! 

Here are some tips from us to start building friendships in a new place:

1. Catch up with everyone you know and their friends

If you know someone in the country you have just moved to, then get in touch with them! Even if it has been a long time since you last spoke and even if you knew them in high school or they are your mother's distant cousin’s son. Message them to catch up for a coffee. It doesn’t matter how remote the connection, if they’re willing to meet up, then at least it’s a start. For it’s a great way to get an idea of some good places to go and have the opportunity to reconnect, and maybe they can introduce you to some people too. 

2. Live in a shared house

A good place to meet and spend time with people is by moving into a flat with at least one other person. Flatmates can become friends, or at the very least they are someone you can talk to at the end of the day. On top of this, they will most likely invite friends around or invite you to things, so it’s a good place to start to try to get into an already established friendship circle. In NZ, it can be quite hard and daunting to try to squeeze your way in, but flatmates can be an easy in. It’s important not to try compare yourself in the group to others. Your friendship is new and theirs pre-existing. In-time, you’ll feel just as part of the group as the them, it just takes a bit of patience and comfortability in yourself.

3. Join a club

If sports is your thing, then joining a sports team is a great way to make friends and stay fit at the same time! Check out your local community boards or the internet to find the nearest teams. If sports isn’t your thing, then there are many other clubs you can join like book clubs, evening acting classes or even a te reo Māori language class. The reason why clubs are a great way to make friends is because normally you will meet up every week or fortnight and typically the same people will be there each time. Making friends is about frequency and consistency to build trust and conversation. 

4. Say ‘Yes’ as much as possible

It can be very daunting to put yourself out there to make new friends. But many people are very generous and love meeting new people. So if you get invited to go out, try to say yes, even if it is just once. At least you got out there and tried stepping out of your comfort zone, and if speaking to people doesn’t come naturally, well practice makes perfect! The more you do it, the less scary it gets. Even if you are tired and maybe it’s not really your thing, at least you can have a different experience. If you say no, you might not get another chance to say yes and find yourself regretting it later.

So, you’ve met some people - now what?

The hardest part is over, if you’ve made that first connection with someone, now it’s time to put in the effort to maintain and build that connection. Friendships don’t happen by sitting around waiting for a message. - Be the one to send a message. - Be the one to put an idea out there to go to that event or away for the weekend.  - Be proactive.

Lastly, don’t be too hard on yourself - If an instantaneous connection wasn’t made, that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you or that people don’t want to be your friend. Friendship takes time to build, you just need to maintain the courage to stick at these new connections until they transform into trusted friendships. The time and mental effort is all worth it, we promise.

You’ve got this!


If you get a little anxious about these kind of things, or if you want to try something a bit different and fun, then give TribeUpp’s Expat Game Experience a try - an Auckland based outdoor team game that helps you meet a new tribe of friends as well as learning a bit about the city, culture and practical things about living here. We sort you into teams when you start, no one knows each other beforehand and will meet for the first time as they set out to play the game and compete against the other teams playing for the grand team prize!

After the game, you and your team will start the 7-week post-game ‘Whānau challenge’ where each week we’ll send your team ideas and options of places to catch-up, based on a particular theme e.g. comedy, adventure, sport etc. This final part of the game takes out the awkwardness of wondering if you should message people to meet up again and gives you all good reason to stay in touch and keep the fun going, and as a bonus, there’s a prize in it if you manage to complete it!

There’s fun to be had, prizes to be won, and new friends to be made… what’s not to like!?

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