No matter where in the world you end up, being an expat can be lonely and disorienting at times, and it’s important to make sure that you have a support system of people who understand the challenges, barriers and frustrations you face as a foreigner. And while you may not have intended to socialise with other expats, they can really make a difference when it comes to settling in, so don’t discount this valuable resource. Here’s where to find them:
Second Language Classes
When you become a resident of another country, you may not have the communication skills down yet and should definitely consider taking classes in the native language. This also happens to be a great place to meet other expats who are also trying to fit in. Everyone there is an expat of some sort, and you might find a number of new friends who speak your language or even come from the same country as you.
The US has its Little Italys and Chinatowns, and other parts of the world have their expat communities too. Take, for instance, the gated communities of Canadians and Americans in Mexico. They’re full of people who come from the same places and speak the same language, and these communities also tend to host tons of events where people can come together and mingle. Find the “English” neighborhood in your new city and even if you don’t live there yourself, you’ll be welcomed by your fellow foreigners.
Online Forums and Message Boards
Because travel and relocation are such a part of our lives now, there are a myriad sites out there that are dedicated to linking expats with each other. For example, britishexpat.com has forums, newsletters, and articles for expats’ enjoyment and helps to hook British citizens up with other English speaking expats living abroad. An online search will show up lots of these sites, so pull out your laptop and start looking.
Some places abroad have stores that are dedicated to selling imported food from English nations to locals and expats. You wouldn’t think it, but this can be a great place to get a number or two from people who are in the same boat that you are. If you happen to spot someone in the store next time you’re craving a bag of Cheetos, strike up a conversation and get their number or email address. You could meet someone that may become a great friend, and they may have other expat friends to connect you with.
The Local Irish Pub
Whether you’re in Tokyo, Manila, or San Salvador, there will be Irish Pubs. You may not find a hundred per cent Irish crowd, but English-speaking expats do often meet there and come to have a pint of their favorite ale and eat a few hometown favorites. You’re even more likely to find a friendly expat if there’s a soccer, football, or baseball game on the pub TV. Be talkative and introduce yourself the next time you hear someone order in English, and you may have found your next partner in crime.
Expat Clubs and Meet-Ups
Expats also have clubs and organize meet-ups. This can be helpful for those who feel uncomfortable randomly trying to chat up whoever speaks English and hails from the Western World. These meet-ups are usually announced online or in familiar places like consulates and immigration offices. The great thing about meet-ups is that you can find friends as well as valuable advice for living in a new and sometimes unfamiliar country.
Essentially, there will come a time when it is crucial for you to have a connection to home or at least one friend who speaks your language, especially in the more ‘foreign’ cities around the world. An expat friend can really help with navigating the new territory you’re traversing in terms of laws, language, finances, purchases, and cultural differences that you may not be aware of. Find an expat club, joining an online community, and meet as many people as you can – then tackle the locals!