Living abroad and making friends as an expat
I’ve lived abroad in two different countries for more than 7 years now and often can’t believe that it’s been that long. I don’t think I ever really intended to live abroad permanently, in fact, right before I met Tim I was concretely planning to return to the Midwest. I had been in Europe for 2.5 years and many of my expat friends had left, leaving which I still find to be a difficult part of making friends abroad, often expats do a rotation to another location with their employer for 1-3 years, so if you stay longer you might find yourself having to start over again and build up your network over and over. In order to meet people at all, you often need to take initiative and approach others and introduce yourself. Depending on the country where you are living, it might not be a cultural norm to chat up strangers (as many Americans are used to!) but my best advice is to be open and friendly to just about anyone you meet and don't be afraid to ask them for their contact details or make a date for coffee, etc. Living abroad is so much more fun when you connect with other expats and locals and build up a solid community in your new home. I've listed some general tips and Amsterdam specific meetups below as ideas on how to start adjusting to your new life as an expat!
Adjusting to life abroad - where to start?
• Start learning the language immediately - you don’t have to become fluent but it’s the best way to become self-sufficient and gain respect from local people.
• Immerse yourself in the local culture - read the news (you can usually find an English translation online), learn about the history of your city and the country (this influences so many aspects of a culture and is important to understand!), and finally learn about the local pop culture - music, celebrities and the royal family if they have one!
*If you live in NL - buy a bicycle and ride it often! Also with your kids!! There’s nothing more Dutch than mastering the skill of riding a bike!*
• Fight the urge to travel every weekend and explore your new city/ country instead - make sure you know different neighborhoods than your own, visit local museums and festivals and participate in cultural celebrations AND spend time meeting new people and building up your network in your new home!
• Find things you love about where you live now and focus on those! Homesickness will never really go away but if you can find things you truly enjoy about your new location and maybe even some things you love which you didn’t have in your home country you’ll see that mindset is really the key to living happily abroad (and the occasional care package from home helps too)!
Making friends as an expat:
1. Try to build a relationship with your co-workers (or their spouses)
2. Find local meet up groups which match your interest
3. Start your own meetup group
4. Join a sports team or gym
5. Pick up a hobby
6. Take a class to learn the local language
Amsterdam meetups for Moms:
- Join Amsterdam Mamas Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/ams.mamas/
This is a large facebook community (with over 15.000 members) where you can ask or search within the group for answers on just about any parenting or non-parenting related topic
- Find your seasonal & neighborhood sub-group to meet people with kids the same age as yours and living in your neighbourhood:
Seasonal means the season and year when one of your children were born:
**For example search for: Spring/Summer Mamas Amsterdam 2017 or Autumn/Winter Mamas Amsterdam 2018
- Moments with Mothers is a community I have started in Amsterdam to connect (expat) Moms and encourage them to take time for self-care. I host multiple events per month which often feature a special guest who provides resources for parents in the area. Learn more at:
Follow MwM on Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/momentswithmothers/
Read more on our website:https://www.momentswithmothers.com
- Join a social group with members from your home country - search on your foreign consulates websites to see if they have local groups who meet up
- Join Meetup.com and search for interesting meetups in the area
What are your best tips for adapting to life in a new country? xx Anna