Making friends in a new town can be tough. You're new in the area, you don't know anyone yet, you don't know the local geography and landmarks… it can all quickly become overwhelming. This rings true of people who move from, say, Ottawa to Toronto, or Montreal to Calgary – and that's still in the same country. For those who take on international teaching jobs, they're finding themselves in whole new countries, with different cultures, ways of life, languages, and more. Talk about a lot to take in!
But making friends while you're overseas working with teaching abroad programs can make the difference between a good work experience, and a great life experience. Many people make lifelong friends while teaching English in another country, and some people even meet their future spouses! Follow a few simple tips, and making friends at your international teaching job will be a snap.
Some of the first people you'll meet will be other teachers – how many will depend on the country and school you're working in. In some instances, you may even be sharing a house or apartment with them. Whether they're part of the same program, or working with different teaching abroad programs, make a point of getting friendly with them. Some of them may even have valuable experience to share with you!
The next people you will likely meet are your students. As you get comfortable with them, don't be afraid to ask them to share with you information about local culture, or for advice about what to do for fun in your new city.
Different countries host all kinds of different local events. Why not attend a local concert, or check out a food festival? These are great places to meet new people. In some cities, a quick online search will find you groups of English-speaking expats that get together in town – this is another great way to meet new people outside of the school you work at. And if you visit a café or bar regularly, other regulars will become more likely to be friendly with you.
Just because you're part of a teaching abroad program doesn't mean you can't also be a student. If you enroll in a class, you'll learn new things and make friends. Consider learning the local language, or taking an art class.
Remember, you are a guest in your new town or city. Bring a positive attitude, be willing to learn, and remember to smile. While there are cultural differences across every country in the world (and often within a single country too), one thing always remains true: the best way to make friends is to be a friendly person. Remember this, and your international teaching job might just bring you lifelong friendships!