Expat life. Sounds pretty fancy doesn’t it? Laptops, suits and champagne afterworks come to mind. But as rosy as it is, settling in as an expat isn’t the easiest – especially when it comes to finding a new group of friends.
And making friends is one of the building blocks of settling in as an expat.
I’ve moved countries several times but when moving to Stockholm, I went in with no one. As a school kid, you mingle with your class mates, as an exchange student you quickly find fellow lost souls on the first day of orientation week and you immediately become best friends. But as a 24-year-old heading to the office every day, it’s a little different.
So seven months down the road after moving to Stockholm, I find myself actually starting to settle. I just moved into a great apartment shared with lovely people, I’ve found friends and I’m starting to fall in love with Stockholm more and more every day.
Because the people are what turn just a place into a home.
I’ve met my friends in the most random, but pretty freaking awesome ways. So for anyone who’s hitting or currently in the midst of expat life, here’s a little about my experiences and some tips I picked up along the way.
1. Put yourself out there
When you’re in a country where you know no one – this is rule numero uno. I’m a different person than I was when I first moved to Vienna (about 6 years ago), and it took me quite a while to settle in back then.
This time round I decided it would be different. I knew I had to put myself out there, time and time again and heck – it freaking paid off. Aint nobody got time for being shy when you’re an expat.
From going to random house parties with my Couchsurfing host, to posting a blog post into expat groups and receiving amazing messages from girls who have now become great friends. Putting yourself out there pays off – and don’t ever be scared to go somewhere alone.
2. Work colleagues
First place of contact when I hit Swedish turf was work. And I was received with open arms, which is what kept me going. Lunches, afterworks, mingles – do the whole shebang. Making friends is pretty much like dating, you gotta like meet everyone and then filter out the good ones to go on second and third dates with.
3. Live with people
I’ve lived alone, with my parents, overseas, with strangers who became great friends and now I just moved in with a friend and 3 other strangers. Living with people is one of the best ways to get to know people.
Pity that’s not so easy here in Stockholm though; there are very few shared apartments here, the rental market is insane so people rent out rooms and don’t actually want to hang out with you. I got lucky because my friend had an opening, which again shows just how important those friendships are.
When I first arrived in Stockholm, I had arranged to stay with a couch surfer for two weeks until I found a more permanent place. I ended up staying there for an entire month or so and got to know plenty of other locals through him. I also went on to stay with another friend of his. (Yes I have moved way too many times since I moved here.) Couchsurfing is probably the best and cheapest way to get to know locals in any city.
5. Facebook groups
Honestly, I don’t know where the heck I would be today without Facebook groups. Thank you, Mark Zuckerberg and all of you wonderful, lovely people who have offered their help and are open to connect in these groups. Without you, I wouldn’t have a university degree, a roof over my head or friends to talk to. Amen.
6. Volunteer or join a team
One fuck up I had here in Stockholm (but I’m still glad I did it) was going to a hip hop dance class alone. Although I absolutely loved dancing my ass off once a week, the girls were all about 16 years old, not even remotely interested in starting up a convo and the activity simply does not require interaction in most cases.
In Vienna on the other hand, I actually made friends by volunteering for the EBN buddy network, where I made good friends and connections. I’ve also heard of people settling in very well in cities by joining a local soccer or sports team. Also, meetup.com is a thing.
So there you go, that’s how I have met all the lovely souls in my life. It’s been random and amazing all at once.
Would love to hear about your experiences, drop me a comment 🙂
If you are wondering what it’s like to move abroad just for a job? Read my blog post on the great things about moving abroad and the sh*t you go through to get there here.