Moving to a city alone is a fantastic adventure, and it’s also a wonderful way to step outside of your comfort zone! You’re going to have the opportunity to go out on your own to find a place to live and finalize all of the exciting details of your international exchange, internship or new employment. Armed with a great to-do list, you’ll be packing your bags in no time!
But something that many people don’t really think about is how to meet new people and network once they find themselves in a brand new city. Depending on where you’re relocating, you may be dealing with a bit of a culture shock, so the usual methods of building social support may not always apply.
However, thousands of young people leave the comforts of home every year — in a quest to build a new life and experience a world quite different from their everyday routine. The main thing is to be prepared, which is why we have created this checklist to help you discover new ways to surround yourself with new friends and feel like a local in no time!
Maybe even before you actually move, give your contacts a quick scroll and see if you know anyone in the area. Even think of cities that are nearby, as that young people receive great discounts on rail passes that take you from one place to another quickly and at a low cost. It’s always nice to know someone in your new home-away-from-home.
But, if you can’t seem to think of anyone you know in Berlin, Rotterdam or wherever your location might be, don’t worry. You may even want to think about asking your friends. In fact, making a simple post on your favourite social media platforms might help you become acquainted with a friend of a friend. If so, meet up for coffee. Your new friend will be sure to make introductions, and before long, you’ll have 10 more. You’ll quickly discover what you have in common, and you’ll always have a handful of friends on call for going to the theater, hiking the best trails or spending a rainy day at an art museum.
When you’re deciding where to live, try looking for safe accommodation in a bustling area, where there are numerous regular activities and attractions. Just by doing a quick online search, you’ll easily be able to see where the lively areas of town seem to be, mostly by a long list of dining options, public parks and abundant nightlife. It’s also best to look for a room or apartment where you can get around on foot. You never know when you might meet someone on the way to the library, or on your walk to a new gallery opening.
Additionally, you may want to work with a trusted housing platform to center your search in areas with a high percentage of other young people and/or expats. You’ll be able to meet other individuals who live in your building, and some communities even hold their own events where you can network as well. One night at a local BBQ could leave you with a dozen new friends under your belt.
One of the best ways to meet new people is by joining a group or an association — in real life, not online! This is a sure way to meet people and network with individuals with whom you have something in common.
If you’re a student, all universities have associations, including those with the sole purpose to help international students acclimate to their new environments. There are entire weeks set aside to take part in tours of your university, learn about the best places to eat and where to go running. Plus, student associations keep full social calendars, including everything from networking meetings with potential employers to full-scale themed parties. You’ll have a new group of friends before you can blink!
If you're moving to your new city to start a promising career as a young professional, you’ll also have plenty of opportunities to make new friends at your workplace and beyond. Lots of companies have their own sporting teams, where you can get in a good workout and meet people — all in one activity. Also, check with your employer about any clubs that they might have. Remember that it doesn’t have to be anything formal. Try to never eat lunch alone — take on any invitations to try out the new food truck down the street, or even put it out there yourself. After you finish a particularly difficult team project, suggest that everyone go out for drinks at the local beer garden. There’s no better way to loosen up and find out which co-workers you have the most in common with at your company.
When you move abroad, it’s likely that you may not be fluent in the local language. If this is the case, explore the idea of signing up for a language course. Many area universities or community groups offer classes, and the good news is that they are often free of charge. This can be helpful in two distinct ways.
You can learn the local language. Not only will this look great on resumes or transcripts, but getting used to your new home will be so much easier if you speak the language. Plus, it will be a lot simpler to communicate and make friends with the locals if speaking with them isn’t inhibited with a language barrier.
You’ll meet other expats. Most of the people attending a language course will be other expats. Not only will they be people who have simply moved abroad, but they will also be the type of individuals who are also interested in learning the language and networking with new people. This will make it easy to strike up conversations and make lunch plans or head out to a local festival to practice your new dialogue!
One thing you should always do whenever trying to build a network in a new city is to get used to saying the word “YES!” Even if you may want nothing more than to go back to your room and spend the entire night binge-watching Netflix, if you’re invited to go out, don’t decline the offer.
When you’re working your way into a new social group, you may receive some invites to activities that might not really be “your thing.” However, if you go bowling and have to wear those awful shoes, you might just strike up a conversation about fitness and find a new workout partner. Tagging along on a few experiences that you’re not all that crazy about could lead to connections that allow you to do things that are much more your style.
BUT, you’ll never know if you don’t go!
It’s a fact that many expats experience feelings of depression or homesickness when they move abroad. This makes perfect sense — you miss your family, friends and perhaps even your old routines. But remember that you made the decision to move to a new city alone to step out of your comfort zone, so follow a few good tips to make sure that feelings of homesickness don’t keep you from getting out and meeting new friends.
Watch out for social media: While utilizing social media to make plans with people in your new home is one thing, sitting around in your apartment alone and looking at what your friends and family are doing back home is never a good idea. FOMO is real! Stick to texting and emailing, and build a new circle of support while you’re abroad.
Stay in good health: Feeling physically sick AND homesick at the same can’t be a good mix. Be sure that you have your health and travel insurance set up before your move abroad, and take care of yourself! There’s a big difference between having the blues and the having the flu, so be sure to know when you need to see a physician or when you need to get out and see your friends!
Reach out: Don’t be afraid to let someone know if you think you need to see or talk to a professional. There are numerous mental health hotlines where you can even speak to someone anonymously. You can also contact a counsellor at your university or with your employer’s network. What’s important is that you talk to SOMEONE.
Your time abroad is going to be one of the most memorable of your entire life. Chances are that you’ll be hanging out with the locals and acting like a city native before you even know it. Just be ready to get out there and meet the adventure head-on by making new friends, building a supportive network and looking forward to each new opportunity that presents itself. Happy travels!