One of the frequent questions facing soon-to-be expats is the idea of meeting new friends once they move. While this is not always such a daunting thought for expats moving between Westernized countries (like American expats living in Germany), there is often a lot of trepidation with cultures so different from our own like most of Asia.
The first piece of advice? Relax, there are likely a good number of expats nearby doing some form of work, it’s very trendy and popular to move to Southeast Asia in particular right now. Countries like Thailand, Indonesia, and the Philippines are quite popular expat and retirement spots, which means there are entire communities and resources for Westerners also deciding to pick up their lives and move to Asia.
One note though, countries like China make it hard to generalize because although there are a number of international expats throughout the country, the majority are concentrated in the major cities. If you plan to teach English or work in rural China (or similarly remote places) the likelihood of finding a large expat community is low.
So, what to do when you move abroad for the first time?
Do Your Research on Expat Communities
Find where the expats hang out with some simple Google searches. Often there are entire forums and expat group sites with the sole purpose of connecting expats to one another, as well as providing new expats with tips and resources for settling in (other expats are your best bet for visa advice, good deals on furniture, Western grocery stores, and other handy tips).
Find the Travel Cafes and Interact
The internet is all well and dandy, but actually landing in a new country and getting out there, into the community is a great way to meet others. I can’t tell you how many new friends were born out of chance encounters at a favorite lunch spot, or because we both exercise at the same park. Be friendly and look for familiar faces as you settle into your new routine.
Exercise Your Patience and Learn the Language
Having other expat friends can really smooth the transition from your home country to your new expat home, but also consider the reason why you’re here in the first place?! Try learning the local language, and eat at locally run businesses–if you make the effort to befriend the locals you just may be surprised by how much faster you acclimate as an expat.
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