Making friends abroad is not difficult, even if you are less social. Especially for us Americans, we tend to have a bit of that individualistic mentality.
As a digital nomad physician, I know I will find myself in several countries. I’ve already lived in Mexico and now Spain. I have managed to make friends in all these places. Here is how I did it.
Making Friends Abroad
Let me sum it up so that you can stop reading here: say yes, be interesting, and don’t be negative.
1. Saying Yes
The trick to making friends abroad is to say yes. Comfortable or not, a yes is the path to many adventures.
Especially being the introvert I am, I prefer to say no, and if I say yes, I want 6 different exit options. Yet, surrendering to whatever might happen and being open to that adventure is liberating.
2. Common Interests
When I say to be interesting, I don’t mean that you have to entertain people. Expressing your interests and sharing it openly with others is enough.
I am so excited to learn about someone’s unique lifestyle. Skydiver, diver, bookworm, rock climber, and writer. Whatever.
I am a rock climber and hang out at rock climbing gyms, el rocódromo, here in Spain. You can also find me at the crag, which is where rock climbers climb outside.
With little Spanish, I made quite a few friends in Santiago de Compostela. And even learned some Galician because of it.
3. Don’t Be Negative
The final trick is to not complain and not be negative. Not that you are a negative person, but the day-to-day struggle of the expat life can make you hyperfocus on the struggles.
Once you make your friends, you can let your guard down and share your struggles, sure. But that initial impression, if you lead with your complaints about the bureaucracy, might make it harder to make friends abroad.
Bonus: A Sense of Humor to Make New Friends
Besides being unbelievably handsome, I’m also funny as shit. I know, what a combo.
A smile on your face, a couple of funny comments, and laughing along with others are the universal ticket to people’s hearts.
When I’m at a cafe, that’s usually how I make friends. Something funny happens, I smile or laugh along, which often opens up the portal to a good conversation.
Making Friends Abroad with Business Owners
You can make friends abroad by becoming friendly with cafe owners. Or strike up conversations with the grocery store owner. Ask them something or tell them why you liked their food.
I have asked if I can write a nice review for them online or what they’d like me to highlight in the review.
Frequenting the same bar, cafe, or brothel is a good way to get to know the owner. Once they know you and are friendly, others will kindly take kindly to you.
I might comment on how busy the cafe seems today on a busy day. On a calmer day, I might ask them what they do on their days off.
Asking for Favors of New People
When you first move into a new apartment or neighborhood, asking someone for a favor is a great trick to developing friendships.
Once a person does you a favor, they will feel a bond and expect a favor in return. But that requires friendship. It’s a way to fast-track relationships.
This is huge; I want to reiterate it: let people help you. Let them do you favors. That’s how you make friends. I couldn’t have made a life for myself here in Spain if it wasn’t for my friends.
Solving Problems for Others
The opposite of the above is true – if you do someone else a favor without expecting anything in return, they will also feel indebted to you.
The key is to be genuine and solve their problem or do them a favor. There should be no expectation that they are your friend. Great, if that’s the outcome, of course.
In smaller cities, words get around quickly that you are amicable and a jolly good fellow to know.
As a digital nomad physician, I want to enjoy and meet wonderful people where I live. I am building my virtual medical practice online, but that doesn’t mean I must be head-down and lonely.