Four reasons why living abroad is great for making lifelong friends

Have you ever noticed how some people seem to stop making close friends after a certain point?  They may have occasional outings with co-workers or friends who share specific interests, but most of the friends they’re really close to are people they met during their school years?  It definitely gets harder once you’re busy with career and family concerns.  Fortunately for people like us, living abroad can be an absolutely golden opportunity.

It can be easier to make friends living abroad because

  • New expats arrive regularly looking to meet people!
  • You’re automatically a bit more interesting to everyone since you’re foreign.
  • People face difficulties in a foreign country.  Giving and receiving help are a great way to cement a friendship.
  • You’ll share more interesting experiences.  Horseback riding in Mongolia with someone is a more memorable story than hanging out with someone in your home country.
  • Far away from home, you’ll have the opportunity to reinvent yourself.


I’ve made some of my best friends after turning 30 and seen many others do the same.  Here are some suggestions to help you make the most of it:

Start learning the local language if you don’t know it!  Language learning itself can be a great source of friendships.  Depending on where you are in life this could mean conversation partners or even learning from your children’s friends!

Living in an “expat bubble” can be limiting in the long run, but you don’t want to go too far in the other direction either.  Get to know other foreigners from work, near where you live or from foreign community centered message boards.  Ask them for help when you’re struggling in your new home and try to pay it forward and help out the newcomers!  You can help each other navigate the challenges of your new home.  You’ll be best served knowing a mix of other foreigners and locals.

It can be hard to fit it in with full work schedules, but your social network can completely change your career trajectory.  In my own case, it sure did.

I was co-owner of a language teaching school for four years due to one such connection.  After leaving a job, one co-worker made a real attempt to stay in touch.  We kept meeting up now and then, sometimes going jogging together and other times staying up late drinking, talking about life and wandering the beautiful city of Taipei.  As my own language teaching reputation grew, I started receiving occasional business offers.  One such offer was for 30% equity in a new language school with no investment, in exchange for building and managing the academic side of it.  There are a lot of ways in which such agreements can go wrong, but I had a great reason to trust this one.  My partner was the friend of my best friend.


Actions for a friend-filled life abroad:

1. Start learning the language

2. Spend time with both locals and expats

3. Ask for help when you need it and pay it forward

4. Make the time for personal relationships



This is a guest post by Mark Wilbur .

Mark Wilbur is a serial entrepreneur focused on education and technology.  He spent a decade in Asia, living in Taiwan as a student, English teacher and language school owner.  Later in Beijing, he joined SmarTots  a platform for educational children’s apps.  Now he consults from San Francisco and teaches people how to teach and learn languages.



I dare you to make more friends this week. Which action step are you going to take to make more connections? Share your thoughts and plans in the comments box below. Mark and I will be more than happy to help you get connected. 

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  • Jessica

    Though I currently live in my home country, I still really cherish the friendships I’ve made when I didn’t. I think living abroad is a lot like school, actually, feeling a bit out of your element, and there being that feeling of being in a bit of a bubble (especially in a country that speaks a language other than your native one) and finding other people who can relate to that feeling can be a real bonding experience. Really enjoyed reading about your experiences with this, Mark!

  • Mark

    Thanks, Jessica! I really agree with you about it being like school. It’s almost like there’s always a steady stream of new “freshmen” showing up looking for friends and looking for help navigating the new place.