I’ve lived abroad twice this year- hectic. Cape Town for three months from January until April, and now Dubai for a month. Sorry skin, hello tan. Part of moving abroad is the inevitability that you won’t know anyone there. Exciting or scary? Or both?
The thrill of meeting new people and forming new connections is the stuff of life. There’s probably a quote somewhere along the lines of, ‘you can have a group of friends, but it’s only until you make a hundred that you can turn around and see the qualities you want in one.’ If no one’s said it I will. I’m pulling that quote baby.
Below is a list of methods I’ve tried and tested to make friends abroad. It can get super lonely at first, or even midway so it’s important to make the effort.
Friendships are formed on shared experiences, and some of your best friendships will be made with others who have also departed from their native country.
1. Use Tinder
When I was in Cape Town, all my French friends were using Tinder to find people to hang out with. My mind was blown. A friend from Germany who was finishing her internship just as I was starting mine, spent her last week meeting up with a different guy from Tinder each day. We were all at work so she made use of the dating app to pass the time during working hours.
They went on hikes up Devil’s Peak, sunbathed on Camps Bay…one guy even took her on his motorbike to a beautiful, shimmering waterfall. Be warned, however: Like most guys, these guys in Cape Town couldn’t completely cross off the possibility of a romantic ending and only a few were genuinely on the same page as her.
I’m in Dubai now and staying with a best mate who works a nine to five. Though I’m here to primarily write, tan, and ‘go gym’ in the week it can still get lonely. Ergo, I have downloaded Tinder to see what happens. I’ve already had some very interesting propositions though they’re not very friendship-y. I’ve found a French guy who I think wants to meet up JUST to practice French though I’ll be seeing what happens. He is cute. Literally can’t help myself.
The jury is still out on whether this could genuinely be a friendship making tool, but you get to pick friends who are easy on the eyes- bonus. Try it out and see what happens.
2. Live in Shared Accommodation
This tip cannot be emphasized enough. Whilst in Cape Town, the interning agency I used gave me three options for my living situation. 1) Live in my own flat 2) Live with a local family for free 3) Live in shared accommodation.
Always go for number 3. Though number 2 sounded quite cool and cultural, and number 1 just plain boring, number 3 turned out to be crucial to my Cape Town experience. It is always better to live with other people your age who are undergoing similar experiences. I met over twenty people who I would call my friends, a few of whom are now close ones. We went clubbing together, on hikes together, to meals and the beach… everything you do is with the same 10 or so people. We went to festivals together and dressed up, hell we even went on a weekend road trip! Of course, you kiss the same people too… it’s all very conducive to warm, long-lasting friendships.
3. Get Recommendations from Friends
So living in shared accommodation is best for when you don’t know anyone. If you are living with a really good mate but they’re gone during long periods of time for whatever reason, you want to get local recommendations. That could be a bar where people your age hang out or another specific place.
I’ve found Dubai to be quite…skyscrapery. Especially where we’re living. There’s a communal pool where to be fair I got talking to quite a fit Geordie, but people only go up to tan for an hour at a time in heat like this. (Obviously, I’m racking up 3 hours a day, sorrrryyyy skin.)
However, there’s a sports bar called Kickers a 10-minute walk away from our apartment which I can go to if I want to work. Last night we met a guy from Stockport who proceeded to give our mate boy advice for half an hour. We listened intently and cheered on the random good looking boys who were sweating it out on the football pitch. An evening well spent.
4. Go to Bars
Or any place that encourages social gatherings. Bars can be hard because there can be connotations that people are looking to get laid, especially, for some reason in Dubai where sex outside of marriage is illegal. However, once you establish a conversation with someone that doesn’t involve sweetly telling them to fuck off, just get those details! Arrange to meet up on other nights out. There are usually bars of all different types, and I’ve found the ones that offer pool tables and an eclectic playlist work the best for conversation.
5. Make Friends with Friends.
When you’re abroad there’s no time for jealousy. “Oh no, I made friends with him first I can’t believe you’re texting him” Suck it up; when you’re out in the flats of Australia or new to a bustling town in Delhi a friendly face is friendly for all. Don’t be afraid to text that person just because you didn’t meet them first. They’re probably just as eager to hang out and explore new places, so send out those WhatsApps to all those friends of friends and see who replies first. It may not be who you wanted at first but we all need some form of social interaction.
6. Make Friends.
The most obvious, and I’m sorry to be pratty, is just to go out and make friends. There is no more straightforward way. Be proactive on nights out- in a very fun club called Atelier over Eid I got the contact details of three people who we were dancing and playing pool with. One was even a writer- fun, fun, fun! One, unfortunately, was a model who was only here for a week, but now I get to see piff pictures of her and weep on Instagram. (Yay)
When we got back from the club, we got chatting to a man feeding cats outside the building. It only struck us as odd later that he was doing so at 4 am. It turned out he lived in the building, and we ended up having an awesome time bringing in the sunrise from the rooftop running track and listening to UK rap. We have since been on a night out. Just chatting to people and offering to exchange details is a welcome phenomenon in a world where people are so engaged in the online one. I promise you chatting and asking for details is easier than you think.
So there are my tips! Stay safe and vet who you go out with, but if you trust your inner creep-o-meter you should be fine. Socialising is one of the great joys of living, and whether it turns into something hotter or remains fun and tepid you can explore the world best through the people you meet.
“It’s only until you make a hundred friends that you can turn around and see the qualities you want in one“