How To Make Friends In A New Country
Last Updated on October 5, 2018 by Estrella
One of the first things an immigrant needs to do is to make friends in a new country. In this article, I’ll talk about how immigrants can make friends in the U.S.
Making friends in a new country
Some immigrants are fortunate enough to have family members or relatives welcoming them to the new country. Some may be international students. Most likely the only person they know is the university’s admission director through correspondence. Some are professionals relocating to a new job. If the company has a relocation service, their transition will be much smoother. Still, they need to go through the process of building their network again.
Finding people with common interests
It is easy to talk with those who share the same interests. Perhaps you enjoy photography or hiking. Meetup.com is an international platform where you can find groups for all kinds of interests. Outdoor adventures, running groups, marketing groups, programming groups, kayaking, single parents, moms with toddlers, moms with newborns. And if you don’t find a group you want, you can always start one. There is a minimal fee to start one, but you can recoup by asking members to donate $5 or so at the meeting.
Someone I know did just this. There was no existing group in her area for Americans to practice Turkish, so she started one. Every week, her Turkish friends would help Americans practice the language. There’s plenty of cultural exchange in her group. And it has evolved over the years. Now it is a group to help immigrant women.
Toastmasters and Toastmasters International
Toastmasters is an organization to help people with public speaking. Groups meet in restaurants, churches, companies, schools. I visited a few myself. There is often a social time where members get to know each other better. And if you are already in one in your country, you can visit a few in your current location. Check how you feel about the group and select one you feel comfortable with. There is a minimal fee because of training material. This can help international students do better with presentations, and professionals more comfortable with work meetings.
Toastmasters and Toastmasters International meet in many cities. Some meet early in the morning before work; some meet in the evenings. Some companies carve out lunch time for employees interested in developing their public speaking skills.
There is a ton of possibilities in volunteering. Some of my clients have used it to practice their English, add work experience to their resume, make connections for future work possibilities.
One of my clients loves dogs. She volunteered at a dog shelter as receptionist to practice her English and to meet people. She had just arrived Seattle, and spent much of the time alone while her husband was at work.
Another client volunteered for the community aspect of City Hall. The location is inside a shopping mall with international food court. People from many cultures frequent this mall. With a mini City Hall inside the building, the volunteer staff can answers questions on where to find resources. There is a one-year commitment, and volunteers are selected, as they need to go through training first. But just think, at the end of your service, you can add City Hall to your resume!
Using the Library to find group meetings
Another place that may be overlooked is the library. King County Library System is one of the most used library systems in the U.S. It’s no longer just a place with books and DVDs waiting to be checked out. Many libraries have programs to serve immigrants, children, teenagers on all kinds of topics. They invite speakers for all kinds of topics. There is story time for children. The room is always full with mothers and their little ones. Moms get to meet other parents.
Colleges with ESL programs also use library meeting rooms for English classes. Certain ESL classes cost only $25 a quarter. There are meetings called Talk Time, designed for volunteers to practice English with immigrants. Sometimes they are held at churches. Since Talk Time is run by volunteers, it is free, and no registration is required. Just drop in and meet people from around the world.
I used to host International Gathering at libraries. My intention is to provide a place where immigrants can meet others who share similar experience, learn about other cultures, and build friendships. It evolved over the years, and now there is a core group of friends who celebrate each other’s birthdays and special events.
These are just some ideas to help you brainstorm where you can meet new friends. You don’t need to have a large group of friends. A handful that you feel comfortable with would make a huge difference in your life when you are new to a country.
If you think of other ways of making friends that you would like to share, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you find this article helpful, you might also like this one on Interview Tips for Immigrants.
Estrella Chan coaches immigrants and international professionals in English fluency, interview skills, and public speaking. To schedule a session with her, please email email@example.com