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Making friends abroad can be intimidating in the best of times. Fortunately friends Jessica Pan and Rachel have experienced all the highs and lows of living abroad – after moving to Beijing and Paris respectively – and here they share their top friend-making tips with you. Jessica’s latest book, ‘Sorry I’m Late, I Didn’t Want To Come’ is out now!

1 | Get Online

Forget the swiping and pouting of online dating and focus instead on using the internet to make friends overseas! There are a tonne of apps but they can be either awkward or online ghost towns. We recommend therefore to use the internet to find out about in real life meetups.

Check out different platforms that are available where you are to find people with common interests.  When Jess moved to London, she messaged two women who lived in her neighborhood from a group she joined. They happened to like the same cafes. Now, these two women are her go-to coffee friends, and she can’t imagine the city without them.

Start today by joining one of GGI’s city groups via Facebook! We have 250+ local Facebook groups and the fastest way to find them to join them is here on our Girl Gone International Map!

2 | Use Your Existing Friends

The simplest way to make friends is to send out a mass e-mail to all of your friends back home titled, ‘You Can Stay in My Apartment in Paris If You Set Me Up with Friends Here.’ I guarantee everyone will reply and you’ll get responses from people you haven’t heard from in YEARS. Rachel did this when living in Paris and spent the next two years exploring everything the city had to offer via new friends her old friends set her up with!

3 | Find a Common Cause

Remember how easy it was to make friends in college? That’s because you all had similar goals. Working on a project with someone, whether at work or outside of it, can serve as an excellent bonding experience. Rachel met a new friends while organizing a film conference shortly after beginning her graduate studies, and immediately found an ally to bond with by accomplishing common goal.

4 | You Can Bond Over the Bad Stuff, Too

One of the quickest ways to make friends is to have a common enemy. Sounds weird, we know, but sometimes loathing the same thing can make you a new friend. When Rachel felt frightened by an intimidating French professor, a girl named Marie approached her afterwards to commiserate. They then had fun sharing their experiences of the professor over coffee. Voila! New friend! So sharing the lows with others can be a way to bond and build a meaningful connection which can blossom into a friendship.

5 | Be Open to sharing

Share a home space with others if you are arriving on your own, at least for the first few months. Also share you knowledge, your passions, your hobbies, your timely generously and as long as you set boundaries, you are bound to meet new people who could be your next good friend.  

6 | Reach out to Alumni Networks

When Jess decided to move to Beijing, she emailed the president of her college’s alumni club in Beijing. Within days of arriving, they met up and his friends had become hers. It was easy to bond, because they’d all gone to the same college and were living in a foreign place.

7 | Find a Partner for your Favorite Activity

Jess loves running in London and really wanted to find someone to run races with her. She posted on a local online message board looking for women who lived in her neighborhood who also wanted running partners. Now, she’s run three races with the most amazing Swiss woman whom she never would have met otherwise. Make a post in your local Girl Gone International Group and you will have new likeminded mates in no time! No Girl Gone International group where you are? You could open one!

8 | Be Bold

Rachel was always a little bit passive, but that wouldn’t fly in London. Waiting in line for tickets to a play, she heard two American girls chatting behind her, so she turned around to introduce herself. Today, one of these girls has turned out to be one of her longest-standing friends in the city. Jess met one of her good friends standing in line for the bathroom at a music festival in Melbourne. Use your common foreign status as a means to strike up a conversation.

9 | Follow your Passion

Going to events and venues is the best way to find like-minded people. Book clubs, knitting circles, film events and intimate music gigs will lead you to people who share the same passions.

10 | Become a Local

One of our favorite friends in London was the barista at a café we frequented several times a week. Though we initially began by making light conversation, Michael’s friendly goofiness eventually turned him into a good friend who invites us to lots of good parties in London (and as a bonus, he makes excellent coffee!)

This article was first published in Issue 7 of our magazine GGI. It was written by Jessica Pan and Rachel Kapelke-Dale, the co-authors of GRADUATES IN WONDERLAND (Gotham, Penguin Group USA), which documents their post-college years round the world through their letters. They blog at graduatesinwonderland.com.

Jessica’s latest book, ‘Sorry I’m Late, I Didn’t Want To Come’ is out now!

By Jessica Pan & Rachel Kapelke-Dale

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