The more we travel, the more we meet different types of people. When we move abroad, we need to learn to start life again. How do you be a sociable person? How do you make friends abroad? Here are 5 proven steps to become a more sociable person.
Just Get Started
- Can speak and smile? Good.
- Speak English? Great!
- Fluent in one or two other languages, and have notions in the local language, even better!
You don’t? Just mime, use your hands, or Google translate. Keep in mind that people you meet are a human being just like you. How would you react if someone coming from halfway across the world comes to you asking for tips, trying is best to speak your mother language? You would probably do your best to help him/her. (Unless if you’re a Parisian asshole, of course.)
Still not convince? Just ask yourself what you have to lose by doing it. The answer is nothing.
Get To Know The Locals
Time to get to know the locals! Many good things will come from locals, probably your best experiences. Ask any travel about their best experiences, it is 99% likely they will involve locals. Here is mine:
About 2 years ago, I was walking around in Habana, Cuba. I had no accommodation booked, looking for a place to stay with my parents. As it was Christmas time, everything was overbooked and overpriced, Americans tourists everywhere, after the sanctions were repealed by Obama. I then decided to talk with locals, and ended up talking with a 75 year old lady smoking a massive cigar. After explaining the situation,Teresita spontaneously invited us to stay over a few nights. We spent Christmas with them, drinking Rum and dancing salsa with her and her family, and we became very good friends. I am writing these lines from Habana, in April 2018, where I am staying with them, again.
You never know who you might meet!
Go One Step Further
If you’re already someone social, go one step further.
- Just talk to random people while travelling on trains, planes, boats or whatever!
- Backpacker hostels lobbies
- While queuing at the airports or wherever else
Because when you trek, you don’t have much to do except enjoy the view and have good conversations. I found a job talking to a random guy in a flight between Montreal and Paris, a room in Seoul Korea while talking with a random guy in a tuk-tuk in Bagan, Myanmar, or a super cool farmer-mountain guide, talking with the Imam of a small mosque, lost in Lombok Island, Indonesia.
Ask For Advice
Ask around, don’t be shy. While you’re travelling, think about your fellow traveller friends, or connection. It’s very likely that some people around you have been or even lived in cities X or Y. Ask for advice. It doesn’t matter if it is your sister’s ex-boyfriend, the new foreign intern in your company or a cute girl you’ve met in Japan two years ago!
You can also write directly to a photographer you’re following on Instagram, you know, the one posting amazing pictures on Instagram every day. They will be happy to give you tips, or even contact of their friends on site. I do that all the time and it’s a very good way to keep in touch with your friends all around, to keep your network alive.
Build Your Network
Why not build your own personal network? I mean not LinkedIn style of course, but something much more informal and personal. Not a professional network, but a friend network. No stress, no bullshit, just be yourself, be genuine, ask questions, don’t overplay, don’t sell yourself as the best friend in the world (I saw that in Asia once in a while…). This is not a job interview! Start by Couchsurfing meetings, taking place in every major big city at least every fortnight. In major World Cities like San Francisco, Paris or Singapore, there are events almost every day.
Check out How To Make Friends When Living Abroad
The number of people attending goes from a few, to hundreds of them, all from Couchsurfing, which give each and every one of them something in common with you: they are interested in travel, or are already travelling. Usually, the organizer is there to break the ice and introduce you to a group.
Tips: never go on time, arrive at least 30min after, when you arrive on time nobody is there and this is always a bit weird!
How To Make Friends
“Friendship is like good wine, it’s getting better and better year after year”.
First, get yourself a drink, then, introduce yourself, shake hands, smile, and most importantly listen to your instinct. Usually, you can feel in 30 seconds if you want to spend time with this or that person, instead of another one. Don’t lose time with people with a bad vibe, because yes, there are a few of them. Avoid your compatriots. You’ve not flown that far to stick with them, have you?
Instead of the boring “where are u from?” or “what are you doing for a living?”, why don’t you steer the conversation toward something more exciting? “Where are you heading to?”. If she/he is a local, reshape the question in “If you have a few thousand dollars to fly anywhere round trip for a month or so, where would you go?”.
There you are, enjoying your evening, making new friends, travel buddies, maybe a future hookup/girlfriend/boyfriend (careful though, Couchsurfing is not Tinder!). You will likely go home with a few Facebook/phone numbers, and maybe plans for later, which is exactly why you came for.
Then, don’t lose them, stay in touch! Ok, you’ve had a great time, you might or might not have plans, but in many cases, time is running and eventually, and you will forget each other. Don’t! When you plan your next trip, think about people you’ve met before, where they live, and where they are heading to. If you don’t have anyone, maybe you guys can plan something together? I met an Italian guy in Paris in 2013, then he came to visit me in Canada, then I visited him in Italy, and since then we’ve been travelling together somewhere at least once a year.
Tips: alternatively, use Facebook, there are often local groups like “Student Cape Town” or “Expat Singapore” or “backpacker Australia”. They work the same way, look for recent posts about gatherings or plans. If there is nothing, create one!
Travelling expensively has changed me, even shaped me in a way. Today, I am very keen to share this experience with people, from all backgrounds: people willing to start travelling, or doing it even more often, wiser or in a more sustainable way. I have received more help, friendships and kindness that I would have expected. For me, this series is a way for me to give back, to help people in return, to inspire beginners.