A few weeks ago I wrote a post about finding a partner in Japan, but today I’d like to write a little about how to make friends – focussing on doing so whilst in Germany.
Making friends abroad is probably one of the hardest things I have done. In Japan, I felt very lonely; it took me a long time to find people I really connected with and then once I found these people I couldn’t see them until the weekend – often every other weekend. Now in Germany, once I started to see the pangs of loneliness in myself, I knew exactly how to get myself a social circle.
I’d like to point out now that all these methods require effort, patience and a lot of guts. When looking for new friends you will find yourself being forced out of your comfort zone, into a group of people you don’t know, maybe in a language you don’t speak, with people you don’t know you’ll even like and repeating the same conversations over and over and over. “How long have you been here?” “Did you come here for work?” “Do you like it here?” If you go to a meeting and come away with one phone number of one person with whom you meet up with occasionally, you’ve been successful. If you don’t, then don’t worry. If you don’t find someone who meets your friendship requirements to a tee, then that’s ok.
In a certain sense, you need to drop your friendship standards somewhat when you’re abroad. Most of the people I’m closest to here are people I have very very little in common with. But at the end of the day, they are amazing people and I love them very much. You need to let go of the idea that you’ll find your BFF at these meetings and focus instead on finding someone who will go to the cinema with you at the drop of a hat, someone who will try out that new restaurant with you, someone who will sit and listen when your boyfriend has been a wombat yet again. This is what’s important. So, let’s jump right in to finding friends….
Once I knew I was going to be in Germany, I soon found the online forum Toytown Germany. Being a forum, it is of course full of grumpy people, people who only want to argue, people who are mean and unhelpful. However, there are also lots of really good points and pieces of information for living in Germany. (Pro tip, unless you are looking to get shouted at by the long-timers there, you should always do a search of what information you are looking for before you start a new topic of conversation).
Within this forum, you can find people new to the area who want to meet up, and also long standing groups of people who meet more regularly. I joined one women’s dinner group once and met one girl who I became very good friends with, so it was a good success for me. I also go to a few of the meetups when I have time.
A step up from this would be Couchsurfing.org. I joined it after a good friend of mine mentioned how he has made a lot of friends from that site. On the surface it’s a place where you can find somewhere to stay for free when you are traveling. But it is so much more than this – from weekly meetings to random messages from people wanting to meet up, it is a hotbed of people wanting friendship. Within a week of joining, I saw a message from a lovely French couple who wanted to invite people to their house to play boardgames. It sounded right up my street so I went along and managed to befriend not only the lovely couple but also a person I consider to be a close friend. Aside from that time, I have also been to a massive brunch meetup and a handful of Christmas market spontaneous meetups. The thing that makes Couchsurfing different is that all the members are explorers. They are people who have been places and know what it’s like to be on your own in a place away from home. The website has changed for the worst in recent weeks in an effort to make money from the site and now the helpful forums are replaced with Facebook style pages, where one has to almost call out in order to connect with people. I’ve lost the details of the people I was to meet up with in Paris, as well as those in Goa and have to repeatedly write on the pages of these places, asking if anyone will be in those areas at the same time as me. Bewelcome.com seems to be the next Couchsurfing so be sure to check that one out as well.
Though mainly a dating site, Okcupid.com is also a good place to make friends. I like to call it a social network rather than a dating site. I have made one guy friend and one girl friend from this site. It might be a little scary for some people to venture into but I do say it’s well worth at least making a profile and seeing what kind of messages come.
Speaking of social networks, Facebook is the king as usual. Try to see if there are groups for your area – for Frankfurt I am a member of the English Speaking, Neu im Frankfurt, Photography, Friday Night Drinks Club, Drinkstag, International groups and many, many more. With these groups, I can go to a meeting pretty much every single day, meeting new people. The hardest one of these is the German Stammtisch events I go to with Neu im Frankfurt.
Other websites worth a mention are My Language Exchange and Shared Talk which are primarily language exchange partner websites, but I have actually made friends through them as well.
If you have any more links to great friend making websites, please link them in the comments!