When you’re in a country for an extended period, and for extended I mean over three months, you’ll probably want to find some friends to hang out with. This is particularly important if you’re solo travelling.
Of course even if you’re in a country for a shorter time you might meet the same travellers at different destinations. For example you might be in a country heading from north to south so you occasionally bump into them at various points on the way down. Sure you can make friends with the people you meet along the way, but you’re on your schedule and they’re on theirs, so it’s not really anyone regular.
I’m talking about regular friends where they and you are both in the same spot. In this post I’ll tell you the best places to meet people.
English vs non-English countries
The focus of this article will be non-English speaking countries. In English speaking countries you can meet friends like you do in your own country, here are a few suggestions:
- It could be someone you work with, if you’re working in that country.
- Joining the local expat group or interest group on Facebook. (Expats often band together overseas).
- If you’re doing a course or training you get to meet people with the same interests as you.
- Bars/pubs. This isn’t usually as common but it is possible to find people you like to hang out with at bars or clubs. Usually people are a lot more open and relaxed at these places so it’s easier to talk to people.
- MeetUp. This website is great for finding all manner of random things. In Australia I found dance groups, drumming groups and gaming ones. I did stay in contact with a few people before I left to come overseas. It’s another great place to find people with similar interests.
This is where it can get trickier to meet friends, especially if you don’t really speak the language or know where you can go. Below are a few suggestions of where you can go to meet friends in a foreign country.
If you’re in a non-English speaking country the chances are they’ll be an English club somewhere near you. By English club I mean a place where people meet in a social situation to practise their English. This can be from a more formal setting in a classroom, to less formal at a bar or someones house. These are great places to meet new people, whenever I’m in a new town and want to meet people I look up the English club in town and ask if I can join them. I’ve never been knocked back, in fact it’s been the total opposite, I’ve been welcomed with open arms and sometimes been treated as the guest of honour. In smaller towns foreigners are especially rare, so for a club the chance to practise with a native speaker is great. I’ve met lots of great people at English clubs and they’re easy to find, Facebook would be the first place to start looking.
The great thing about English clubs too is that everyone who’s there is a local, and I make a huge effort to make friends with locals. You see and do more with locals than you do with expats.
The downside of English clubs
One thing I did notice with a small handful of clubs is that sometimes I didn’t know if people wanted to meet me just because I spoke English, or because they actually liked me. I got a few requests from people saying “I’d love to practise my English with you”, at first I didn’t mind but after the 20th-30th time I was really thinking to myself “I’m not just a walking English dictionary”. You can be the best judge for yourself, but I’ve never felt any ill intentions from any people from clubs, they’ve been amazing experiences and I’ve met great people.
An expat is a foreign national living in a different country. So for me I’m an Australian expat living in Vietnam. These bars are pretty easy to spot: in Asia they’re full of white people, and as you get closer you can hear the English banter. They’ll probably have an English name too.
The plus side of an expat bar is everyone will speak English, so it’s easy to communicate and find people to hang out with. The downside is that they’re expats, not usually locals. Some people don’t mind this, but I prefer to make friends with locals rather than expats because I’ve been hanging around with westerners all my life, and now that’s lower on the priority list. However if you want someone to talk to who speaks fluent English an expat bar is the place to go.
Expats aren’t bad people, they’re just like everyone else, but I feel you do and see less hanging with an expat than you do with a local. Still, sometimes it is a welcome relief to be able to speak slang and talk as you would with your friends at home, rather than sometimes thinking in the back of your head “do they understand this word?”
Whether you’re a Facebook lover or hater it’s a great platform to find friends, and I’m not talking about when you click “yes” to some random friend request by someone you don’t know just because you have one mutual friend.
You can find all manner of groups in your area/city. Groups like expats, travellers and special interests. Sometimes they take a day or so to join because the admin has to approve you, but once you do a massive new web of people will be available for you to contact, and hopefully some of them you connect with.
You need to get out
If you stay in the same place long enough it’s inevitable you’ll make friends, but you won’t do that sitting in your room all day watching Netflix. You’re going to have to make an effort, at least initially, to get out and meet people. It takes time and usually money to do all the things I mentioned above, but once you break the ice with your first MeetUp or Facebook gathering it’ll get easier. Remember the more you do something the easier it gets, so perhaps start an experiment to saying “yes” to every social event you’re invited to or find. Maybe you’ll make some pretty good friends.