Making Friends While Living and Working Abroad

One of the joys of travel is exposing yourself to people whose way of life is a significant departure from your own. Having an open mind to these differences will put you on the path to success

While the newfound freedom of remote work can be intoxicating for some, it remains to be said that for others, it isn’t all sunshine and rainbows in the beginning. Imagine being in a place you’ve never been before, still getting your bearings, stringing some phrases together and barely being understood. For seasoned travelers, it’s a healthy challenge—for the more apprehensive and less experienced, it has its frustrations. 

Such is the life of a remote worker traveling, sometimes, and whether you’ve done it before or not, it always helps to have someone around to help you through things. There’s no shame in needing support—it’s something we’ve encouraged greatly with exchange partners: communication is key, and it can really make a difference in your trip.

After juggling travel documents and work, quality downtime is essential. Having a strong support system away from home permeates all aspects of our lives. Let’s explore some of the ways we can position ourselves best to connect with others while living abroad.

Understanding the Local Culture

One of the joys of travel is exposing yourself to people whose way of life is a significant departure from your own. This can be exciting, rewarding, and insightful. But at the same time, it can be difficult to navigate potential misunderstandings, and you may end up behaving in ways that land differently in your host country. Such challenges are mostly unavoidable, naturally, but taking the time to familiarise yourself with local customs, as well as having an open mind to these differences, can put you on the path to success. Your curiosity can be contagious, and that openness will open conversations, leading to friendships.

Overcoming Language and Communication Barriers

We’ve been clear before that home exchange can be an excellent way to immerse yourself in a country and its people, whether to pick up the local language, expose yourself to its customs, or to just get a breath of fresh air. By making the effort to learn a few basic phrases in the local language, you’re sure to make a great first impression. Remember to be culturally sensitive at all times and your trip to your home away from home should go smoothly! As for practical tips on how to overcome language barriers, we live in a wonderful world of new technology, and translation on your phone is very easily accessible. Applications can allow full-on conversations without needing text input, and it can be quite fun. This can be a great stop-gap for being able to function in a foreign country. Remember: try your best to think in the language of the country you’re in. You’d be surprised what you’re able to express. Try not to worry too much about your pronunciation and grammar, those are the cherries on top. Just look at how babies acquire language—they’re busy soaking things up in the first couple of years, not masculine and feminine nouns!

Engaging in Hobbies and Sports

If you’re new to a country, it goes without saying that having fun is critical to getting a good work-life balance, and what better way than to explore the local variations of any social hobbies that you may have? It could be anything—from particularly outgoing activities such as rock climbing to playing video games on a local server to joining football games on a pitch nearby or yoga sessions at a studio in the neighborhood.

Hanging out with people and just doing your thing can often be all that you’ll need. Just a touch of effort to go out and mingle with people can lead to acquaintances, and you’ll have the option to pursue more meetups.

Joining Local Community Groups and Events

It’s one thing bumping into people, it’s another joining a whole group of peers who love the same thing you do! Participate in events that you may be feeling up to: there are dozens of examples. Walking by a street party near your home exchange? Hear of a local marathon and want to get your sweat on? Worth a shot, maybe, to counteract all that glorious local fare you’ve been scarfing down. Speaking of, when it comes to making friends, nothing beats sharing a meal. Don't pass up the chance to join in, or better yet, share your own culinary traditions for others to savor! Think you’ve got the vocal chops to impress a crowd? Hop on stage at that local open mic night. We promise you won’t embarrass yourself (too much.)

Utilising Social Media and Online Platforms

A similar point to leveraging translation apps: we live in an age of extreme interconnectedness and accessibility. The internet has brought all of us closer together, sometimes to excessive effect, but the benefits are absolutely clear. Remember what we touched on earlier about hobbies and local groups—Facebook is full of communities that might tickle your fancy. Exchange Instagram handles with acquaintances and you’ll soon build a nice little network. 

Most importantly, however; find a community of like-minded individuals who see the value in your way of life—those who want to explore, who are conscientious and kind and supportive, and are happy to help. These are the sort of values that we hope to impart on all of our members here at People Like Us.

Make Friends Abroad with Home Exchange

At People Like Us, we get that hotel lobbies are great, but they’re kind of the same all over the world. If you’re looking for a little bit more charm, something a little bit more personal (with the added benefit of not costing a fortune) then maybe home exchange is for you. Get started today.

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My husband Patrice and myself are experienced home exchangers and we love it. We are dreaming of a time when we will be able to travel the world and home exchange... all year round. We are starting slowly, one exchange at a time
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