How to make new friends when you’re on an expatriate assignment

Everyone needs friends and a support group, especially new expats

Undeniably, the worst thing about accepting an expat assignment is leaving your friendships and support groups behind.  Friends don’t only make life more fun, a lot of the time they make life a whole lot easier too, whether it’s someone to share the school run with or a friend to call on in a crisis.

Get ready to make the first move

Many expats hold back from asking for help, but in fact being new can be a great excuse to get to know people. Use your ‘newness’ as an advantage; ask people’s advice and let them feel good about being able to help you.  You can only play the ‘new person’ card for about six months, so don’t waste the opportunity! Don’t wait to be invited or asked, shyness is a luxury you can’t afford. Ask someone you have connected with if they will have a coffee with you and answer some questions you have.

Barriers to making new friendships

The biggest barrier to making new friendships is that people feel threatened by something they are not familiar with.  As a new expat you might be worried that you won’t fit in, but in fact your recent life elsewhere may seem very exotic and somewhat threatening to someone who has lived in the same suburb all their life.  Be prepared to downplay your own experiences and instead take the time to learn about theirs.

Meeting your ‘own kind’

Moving to a country where they speak your language can be unexpectedly challenging.  While on the surface it may seem easier, you may come across as someone not really needing help and you also may not get the opportunity to belong to specific ‘expat’ groups such as Brazilians in Melbourne or Francophiles in the Philippines. Members of these groups are generally also looking to make friends, but the locals are not actively ‘recruiting’ new friends, as they already have plenty.  Of course this is not to say that you won’t ever make friends with locals, but you can and should take the pressure off yourself by joining some kind of expat support group when you first arrive; Internations is a great place to meet people from multiple backgrounds and you will find that your local friendships develop far quicker when you are more relaxed and less ‘needy’.

Be available

Finally, accept any and every invitation that is offered to you.  Even if the event doesn’t appeal, there may well be other people there you may connect with – and making connections is the fastest way to feeling at home here.

For more advice when embarking on a new expat experience click here.


About the Author

Patti McCarthy

Patti McCarthy

Patti McCarthy is an expatriate & life coach who helps migrants and expatriates to not just survive the experience but actively enjoy it. For further information please visit

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