A blog reader emailed me last week– she recently moved to China with her husband and has been feeling a bit lonely. She asked if I had any advice about making new friends in a new country. I’ve found that many of my strategies for making friends in the U.S. don’t work well here in Kenya, so I appreciated her question.
While writing back to her, I realized that other readers might be grappling with this same issue, so I wanted to share what I said:
The first few months in a new place are so hard because you’re adjusting to so many new things at once. For me, the most helpful thing is to get out of the house often and try to meet people as soon as possible. Here are some of the ways I do that:
- Take a language course- This has two benefits: it makes it easier to get around in a new country when you know a little bit of the language, plus you meet other people who are new in the country.
- Join an expat group- A lot of cities have facebook groups for expats. Usually you can meet people through there, or attend events that are organized by people in the group. I went on a hiking trip in Kenya with people I met in a facebook group, and I still hang out with one of the girls I went hiking with. Check out the InterNations website too. InterNations has online forums and city guides for specific locations, plus they also organize expat events.
- Volunteer- I like volunteering because it forces me outside of the house, I feel like I’m contributing to my community, and I get to see a part of the area that I might not otherwise see. If you do a web search, you will probably find local organizations that are looking for volunteers. You can also try searching for opportunities or organizations through Idealist.org.
- Hang out with your other half’s coworkers- When we first got here we went out to eat a few times with my husband’s coworkers. It was nice to have people to talk to and because they had been in Nairobi for a while, they had lots of good advice for us. While we’ve made non-work friends here, we still enjoy going out to eat or taking weekend trips with some of his coworkers.
These suggestions only cover meeting other foreigners in a new country. (I’ll have to address meeting local friends in another post!)