When you choose to start life in a new country, something that will have a huge impact on your quality of life is creating and maintaining new friendships.
Friendships have been proven to improve health and happiness. For instance, researchers at Flinders University in South Australia followed nearly 1,500 senior citizens for 10 years and found that people with the most friends outlived those with the fewest.*
“Friends are an essential nutrient,” says Marla Paul, author of The Friendship Crisis: Finding, Making and Keeping Friends When You’re Not a Kid Anymore. “They’re not a luxury. They’re really important to your emotional and physical health.”
Here are a few suggestions on overcoming cultural differences and how to meet new friends when you find yourself in a new country.
1. Learn the Language
Try enrolling in a language course that’s taught by a local language teacher. Not only will you meet other people in the class, but the teacher will most likely know other people looking to make new friends.
2. Establish a Routine
The easiest way to make friends is organically, especially by having repeat encounters with the same people, says Paul. “Maybe you get to know the person at the post office or the woman who serves you your coffee,” she explains. “If you maintain a consistent routine where you see the same people over and over again, you’ll become a fixture [in those people's lives], and natural relationships may develop.”
3. Pursue Your Passions
You can also meet people by doing things you enjoy. If you love biking, for instance, it might help to join a cycling club, or if you like baking, you may want to take a cooking class.
“Differences that exist because you come from another country will fall away because you have a shared passion,” Paul says.
4. Go Online
Even though virtual connections aren’t a substitute for real ones, social networks can be a good way to get the friendship ball rolling. Use Facebook to find mutual friends who can make introductions, or find other online communities that also get together locally.
Make sure you do your homework on the local culture before making new friends. For instance, in some countries it’s taboo to have friends of the opposite sex, while, in other countries, friends are expected to freely share belongings with one another.
“Be aware of the customs in the country you’re in so you don’t inadvertently do something that will be misconstrued,” Paul says.
Meeting new friends and feeling connected is important for everyone. Remember to stay connected with the family and friends you have back home as well. Send money worldwide with Western Union through westernunion.com or with the Western Union app to show them you are thinking of them along the way.
*”Effect of Social Networks on 10-Year Survival in Very Old Australians: The Australian Longitudinal Study of Aging,” 2005, Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health