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Navigating Friendship Challenges Abroad: 10 Practical Ways to Build Connections

Moving abroad is an exciting adventure, but forging new friendships can feel daunting, especially when faced with language barriers and cultural differences. If you're craving connection in your new Italian home, you're not alone. 


Here are 10 practical ideas to help you build meaningful connections in your new home.


Embrace Language Exchanges

Language exchanges are a free way to learn a new language through structured conversation with native speakers. The structure of starting in one language then switching to the other creates an enriching dynamic fostered in shared growth. It’s a win-win opportunity to practice the local language and build a friendship at the same time.


Take a Language Course

While language exchanges are informal, enrolling in a language course provides a structured learning environment. Beyond the linguistic benefits, language classes bring together diverse individuals with a common goal, offering an easy way to connect outside of class and setting the stage for friendships to flourish. 


Join Expat Communities

In most major cities, virtual expat groups on platforms like Facebook help people connect while living abroad. These groups foster empathy and understanding, making it easier to bond over unique challenges and joys of living abroad. The shared experience creates a foundation for lasting friendships.


Create Daily Routine

Establishing a routine in your new city can yield unexpected friendship opportunities. Frequenting the same coffee shop or weekly yoga class can introduce you to people who live nearby and share a similar lifestyle. These familiar faces will enhance your sense of belonging. You might meet locals who are more than willing to introduce you to others, helping you create a network that enriches your entire experience.


Attend Cultural Events

Immersing yourself in local cultural events offers a chance to connect with both locals and fellow expats who share your enthusiasm for cultural exploration. From festivals to art exhibitions, these occasions provide natural settings to initiate conversations and cultivate friendships.


Use Co-Working Spaces

If you’re a remote worker or freelancer, co-working spaces can be an excellent avenue to meet both locals and expats. These spaces often host events, seminars, and social gathering that foster networking opportunities.


Volunteer for Social Causes

Volunteering not only allows you to give back to your new community, but also introduces you to like-minded individuals. Working alongside others who share your values creates an environment conducive to forging deep connections, rooted in a common purpose.


Enroll in Classes

Whether it’s cooking, painting, dancing or mastering a new skill, signing up for classes and workshops helps you connect with people who share your interests. As an added bonus, these shared interests easily help transition a friendship from class to the real-world - attend a new restaurant with a buddy from cooking class or a museum with your friend from paint class.


Utilize Social Media Apps

Apps like Meetup and Bumble BFF are a great resource. Specifically designed for people seeking new friendships, these platforms facilitate connections based on share interests, making the process of building relationships smoother and more accessible.


Italian Gym, working out, getting fit

Attend a Gym or Fitness Group

Joining a gym, yoga class or intramural sports team not only promotes a healthy lifestyle, but also creates opportunities for a fun environment to make new friends.


Navigating the landscape of making friends in a foreign country requires perseverance, open-mindedness, and a willingness to step out of your comfort zone. The above straggles are just a starting point, but they underscore the importance of proactive engagement in building connections. 


What other approaches have worked for you? 

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