Chiang Mai has an interesting mix of retired expats, working expats, mid-term stayers and travelers. So if you can find friends in your own country, you can make friends here! Even though COVID has thinned out the foreigners, there are enough people for you to find your own tribe.
The Power of Virtual Friends
It may sound obvious, but the expats in Chiang Mai are big users of Facebook and there are many groups to join to begin to ‘virtually’ meet people. There are groups for hiking, lifelong learners, decorating, general questions, nature lovers, homeschooling. It really is endless.
When I first arrived in Chiang Mai, I just watched the forums. There were clearly regular contributors and I could get a feel for the people that may be well worth checking out in more detail.
I have been surprised and delighted with the friends I have made from the Chiang Mai pages. I have made connections that have led to wonderful experiences. Through my Facebook Chiang Mai connections, I have been able to volunteer helping teach English and discover educational courses run by local people. I even found my kitten through an online rescue place and that connected me with many kindred spirits.
Become a Regular
This seems to be a secret, but what I say makes complete sense. Find a place, whether it be an expat restaurant or expat bar, and become a regular.
Expat business owners talk to everyone and hold lots of useful information. They become the center of the expat community.
Through this fabulous network, I have found out so much valuable information from where to buy a miniature screw to fix my sunglasses to the best place to have my car worked on.
Slowly, you get to meet other regulars and find the people that you connect easily with. Regardless of that, you will slide into a community that helps each other.
Most expat bars do fundraisers of some kind or another and you can feel that you are making a difference in the local community.
The Benefits of Cafe Culture
Just simply hanging around a cafe can be a great way to meet people.
In Chiang Mai, most restaurants and coffee shops are small, so there is already an imposed intimacy. It is easy to strike up a conversation with someone at the next table.
I have met many good friends as a part of the cafe culture. But there is also another benefit: you can become friends with the people who work there.
Thai staff are patient when you are practicing your Thai and are generally open to friendships.
Personally, after a year of chatting with my local waitresses, I ended up holding English lessons for them. We share culture and have a good laugh. I consider it a true blessing.
The Conspiracy of Secrets
The latest research on social behaviors has discovered something very interesting about human behavior. It is called “the conspiracy of secrets.” The perception is that many humans shy away from striking up conversations with strangers because we feel people don’t want to be bothered.
But this research suggests otherwise. Apparently, most people welcome strangers starting a chat in places where they feel comfortable.
One of my closest friendships happened in Chiang Mai. There, out of nowhere, a stranger asked my opinion about a hairdresser question. She wanted to know which hair color suited her better. I was happy to help, and we have been close friends ever since.
So don’t forget to strike up conversations with people as an expat. It can lead to the most wonderful connections and community. How about you? Have you had similar experiences?
by: Rachel Devlin