How to Make Friends as a Digital Nomad Living Abroad

Lisa T.
on Dec 15, 2023 in Nomad Lifestyle
How to Make Friends as a Digital Nomad Living Abroad
Photo by fauxels

Embarking on a digital nomad lifestyle opens up a world of possibilities, but as exciting as it may be, it can also feel a little daunting, particularly when it comes to socializing and establishing friendships.

Loneliness may be a challenge, especially when you're far from home. But don't worry, because there are many ways to connect, mingle, and forge meaningful friendships while on the go.

In this guide, you'll discover some of the best strategies to make friends while living abroad as a digital nomad. Towards the end of this guide, we also share a list of platforms and online communities that are great for digital nomads seeking to make new friends around the world.

Let's dive right in!

1. Explore Local Cafes and Hangout Spots

When you're living abroad as a digital nomad, local cafes and hangout spots become your best bet for making new friends. Why? Simple! These places are usually buzzing with locals and travelers alike. You can strike up conversations, get recommendations, and who knows, make a friend or two while sipping your favorite latte or beer.

Now, you might be thinking, How do I approach people? or I don't know the local language!

Don't worry. Here's a step-by-step process that will help:

  1. Familiarize yourself: Start by choosing cafes or hangout spots in your neighborhood. Go there a few times, get familiar with the ambience, the crowd, and the staff. It's all about getting comfortable.
  2. Get friendly with the staff: The server or barista will know more about the place and people than anyone else. Being friendly with them might introduce you to new people or give you insights about local activities and events.
  3. Socialize: Don't hesitate to initiate a conversation with the person sitting next to you. Talk about anything – the weather, a book you’re reading, their pet – and allow the conversation to flow from there.

A small tip: Try to pick spots that align with your interests. If you're a bookworm, choose a café with a good collection of books. Fitness enthusiast? A local juice bar or health food cafe would be ideal.

This makes conversations easier and could lead to meaningful bonds over shared passions.

2. Participate in Local Activities and Classes

Going local is the new cool while living abroad especially as a digital nomad. Participating in local activities and classes is a fun and practical way to expand your social network and make friends.

Local activities often offer a glimpse into the culture and lifestyle of the area, making it an excellent opportunity for expats to get to know the community better. Examples of such activities could include food festivals, music concerts or neighborhood barbecues.

If you have a knack for something, why not try joining clubs in your city? Chess club, book club, running group, dance troupe, yoga class—these all offer you the possibility to pursue a hobby and make friends simultaneously.

On the other hand, you may want to acquire or master a particular skill, and there's no better time to do that than when you're living abroad. That's where local classes come into play.

Perhaps it's a cooking class to learn about the local cuisine, a language class, or a coding boot camp to level up your tech skills. Not only do you learn something new, but you also get a chance to interact with like-minded individuals.

3. Attend Cultural Festivals and Events

Experiencing local traditions is a fantastic opportunity to meet locals and get introductions to their friend groups. Feeling the excitement in the air, joining the locals in celebration, and experiencing different customs all contribute to enriching your cultural understanding and formulating connections.

You'll find that attending these events will also help combat any feelings of loneliness or homesickness you may have, so it's healthy in more ways than one!

Here's how to go about it:

  1. Familiarize Yourself with Local Events Calendar: You can often find these online or by asking locals. Be proactive in seeking out what’s happening around, and don't be afraid to mark your calendar and participate.
  2. Be Open to Different Types of Events: This could be anything from a music festival, food fair, sport game, or even a religious ceremony. The key is to immerse yourself within these experiences and bond with other attendees.
  3. Don’t Shy Away from Small Talk: Icebreaker conversations can sometimes lead to profound friendships. It might be challenging at first, but remember, every friend you have was once a stranger.
  4. Make a Positive First Impression: People tend to remember the first time they meet someone. So, it's important to show an interest in their culture, be respectful and friendly.

Of course, cultural festivals and events may be a bigger commitment than simply hanging out at cafes or coworking spaces, but the possible social rewards can be quite significant!

4. Volunteer for Local Organizations

Volunteering for local organizations is a tremendous way to meet like-minded individuals and make lasting friendships. Not only do these activities provide an excellent opportunity to give back to the community, but they also allow you to learn more about the local culture and customs.

While researching suitable organizations, consider your interests and skills. You'll get the most out of your volunteer experience if you're passionate about the cause and feel your skills can make a significant impact. It could be anything from teaching English to helping out at a local animal shelter.

Note: Before volunteering, check the requirements and legal aspects in your host country. Some countries have specific rules about work, including unpaid work, which might require permits or visas.

The process is generally straightforward:

  1. Research: Start by browsing through online platforms dedicated to volunteer opportunities in the area. It could be as simple as a Google search or consulting online communities and forums.
  2. Connect: Once you've found potential organizations, reach out to them. They'll appreciate your initiative and will likely provide you with more information on how you can get involved.
  3. Participate: Attend meetings or events organized by the group. Use these occasions not only to offer your service but also to meet locals and other volunteers.

It's worth noting that volunteering doesn't always have to be in person. If your schedule or personal preferences don't allow for regular in-person interactions, consider virtual volunteering opportunities. You can help an organization from the comfort of your home while still connecting with others via video calls and online forums.

5. Join Co-working Spaces

Living the digital nomad life might seem solitary, but joining a co-working space dispels that notion. Besides providing a conducive environment for work, co-working spaces offer a range of additional benefits:

  • An array of networking opportunities: Co-working spaces thrive on industry diversity. You won’t just meet other digital nomads, but professionals across fields, thus providing a mix of people to mingle with.
  • Social events: Many co-working establishments organize socializing events. From routine happy hours to yoga sessions or workshops, these events provide a common ground to strike up conversations and bond with other members.
  • A sense of routine: Humans are creatures of habit. The routine that comes with a co-working space helps you feel more settled and part of the local community.

Naturally, it's important to choose a co-working space that aligns with your needs. Factors to consider include location, atmosphere, amenities, membership fees, and member diversity. Most spaces offer day passes—an excellent opportunity to experience the vibe before making a commitment.

6. Connect with Fellow Digital Nomads at Coworking Retreats

Imagine spending your work hours in an enchanting beach house, where as soon as your laptop closes, you can dive in for a swim and later share a meal with like-minded people. Sounds appealing, doesn't it?

That's what co-working retreats, designed specifically for digital nomads, offer you. They're more than just temporary workstations. These retreats act as melting pots for individuals from diverse cultures.

But how exactly do these retreats help in making friends?

Retreats bring together a bunch of digital nomads in a single location for a defined period. This shared living and working scenario encourages interactions and the building of bonds. Plus, retreats often involve community-based activities for attendees to get to know each other better. These activities can range from brainstorming sessions, skills workshops, networking events, to adventure outings and cultural exposure trips.

To gain the most from these retreats, it is advisable to:

  1. Be Curious and Engaged: Show genuine interest in what others do. Ask questions about their work and passions.
  2. Be Open and Approachable: Don't hesitate to initiate discussions or to participate in them. Share your experiences and be receptive to others'
  3. Respect the Space and Time of Others: Everyone is there to work. Maintain a balance between socializing and focusing on your professional tasks.

Finding the right retreat

Choosing a coworking retreat is more than just picking a place. It's about aligning your personal and professional aspirations with what the retreat offers. Here are some factors to consider when choosing a retreat:

  • Location: Is it in a city or countryside? What's the climate like?
  • Duration: Is it long enough for you to establish relationships and work effectively?
  • Cost: Is it within your budget? Do the amenities justify the cost?
  • Type of Accommodation: Is it a personal or shared space? Does it meet your living standards?
  • Work-Style: Does the retreat cater to your work-style—be it relaxed, strict or flexible?
  • Cultural Activities: Are there activities offered that align with your interests or provide cultural immersion?

With thoughtful consideration and active participation, coworking retreats can open doors to rich life experiences and lasting friendships!

[Resource list] Are there any online platforms or communities specifically for digital nomads looking to connect with others?

There are several online platforms catered specifically towards digital nomads. These platforms provide a virtual meeting spot for like-minded people who are living abroad and working remotely. It's a space to chat, share experiences, ask for advice, and even create connections that could turn into real friendships. Here are a few of them:

  • Nomad List: This is a comprehensive resource for digital nomads, offering countless city guides, financial tips, and more. But perhaps its best feature is its active online community. It facilitates connections through a variety of discussion threads where nomads chat about their experiences, ask and answer questions, and find other nomads in their city.
  • InterNations: As one of the largest global networks for expatriates, InterNations hosts events and activities around the globe. It presents a perfect opportunity for you to connect with other like-minded individuals, share experiences, and establish meaningful relations while living abroad
  • Meetup: This platform allows you to find and join local groups of various interests. It's an easy way to meet locals as well as other digital nomads in the area. You could find anything from technology enthusiasts to hiking groups, providing a range of social opportunities.
  • Couchsurfing: Not only is this a great site for finding free accommodation, it’s also useful for meeting locals who are keen to show outsiders their city and culture. You can join local events or simply meet up for a coffee with a friendly face.
  • Facebook Groups: Facebook offers numerous groups dedicated to different locations and interests. Look for expat or digital nomad groups in your new location or join worldwide communities to connect with people who can offer firsthand advice and companionship
  • Slack Channels: Several digital nomad communities have dedicated channels on Slack. It's a more professional approach, but it can lead to collaborations and friendships with digital nomads from around the globe.

If you find other resources or platforms that would make good additions to this list, feel free to let us know!

Embrace the Digital Nomad Journey

Without question, carving out a social life while living abroad as a digital nomad can seem daunting at first. But with these strategies, you'll find that friendships can bloom in the most unexpected places and circumstances.

Every new person you meet could be the start of a new friendship. Embrace your journey with an open mind and heart!

Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, 'What! You too? I thought I was the only one.'\

*> C.S. Lewis


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