New Expat Wisdom
For many of us who spent large parts of our lives in the same town, starting over in a new place and making new friends as an expat can intimidate us. If you’ve had the same job and same friends for your entire life, then trying to find your tribe all over again can seem daunting.
It is difficult at first, especially if you are moving to a very local neighborhood where the cultural barriers can seem tough to breakthrough. That’s why many foreigners first move to a community with an already established expat population.
The benefit of establishing an expat life there is that you have neighbors and peers who are going through the same transition as you. It’s easier to relate to one another, and everyone else is looking for new friends too. Expat communities are friendly because expats can sympathize with the journey of moving to a new country. Most expat communities have their go-to expat “hang-outs” and clubs to join, Facebook forums for the community, and many other ways to get involved.
Seek Expat Hangouts When Feeling Isolated
So, you just moved to your new home, finished getting settled, and started getting bored, maybe even a little lonely.
My first recommendation is to get out of the house. Go check out the local hang-outs. I used to walk around my neighborhood, greeting all of my neighbors.
Some of them ended up being my best Spanish tutors, as they would invite me in for coffee and answer my incessant stream of language and cultural questions.
When I was feeling overwhelmed by culture shock, I would go to the local restaurants where expats gather and spend time to speak in English about American football or how our families reacted when we revealed our plans to move to Panama.
There is an Expat Group for Everything
Another way to get involved is to join some clubs or get involved in the community. When I first moved to my town in Panama, I went to all the meetings, the church services, and took part in community events. Now, this was partially my job as a peace corps volunteer, but it worked. I felt like a member of the community within my first 3-5 months.
My tactic may be a little extreme, but I would suggest checking out one of the many expat groups to meet people. Here in Boquete, we have groups for everything; hiking, birdwatching, knitting, volunteering, single ladies’ group, etc. Go get social; you’ll be happy you did.
Expat Socialite or Social Media?
If you’d rather dip your toes in the expat social scene before diving in, search on Facebook for local community groups.
We have at least five different Boquete expat groups on Facebook where people ask questions, share information, and introduce themselves as newcomers.
Social Media can be a great space to connect with local expats and reach out personally to those people you may want to grab a coffee with.
The important part of making friends in a new community is to just put yourself out there. It is unlikely that you’ll have an instant connection with every person you meet, but one acquaintance often leads to more, and you never know at which chance-encounter you could meet your new BFF.
So, get to know your community and let the people there get to know you, and in no time, you won’t know what to do with all the social engagement invitations coming your way.
How do you make new friends in a foreign county? Share your experience with the TCI community.
by: Megan Thompson