How to make new friends as a TEFL teacher abroad

A big part of what makes an incredible TEFL adventure is the people you meet along the way. Making new friends as a first-time TEFL teacher abroad can, for many, feel a little daunting. After all, you already have a new job, new culture, and a whole new way of living to adapt to! But it’s all made easier when you have people to turn to for support, advice and to share the new experiences with. 

If the thought of meeting new people abroad and forging new relationships makes you feel a little nervous then keep reading, because we have some great tips to help you out. 

Get to know your colleagues 

Work is the ideal place to start looking for new friends considering that’s where you’ll spend most of your time each week. Your colleagues might be local teachers, foreign ESL teachers like yourself, or a mix of both. They can be a big help when settling in, providing advice and support on the job, as well as giving you tips for navigating life outside of work. 

Join a sports club

If you’re a sporty person then consider joining a club or attending classes. Join an amateur football team. Start your mornings off with a yoga class. Look out for parkruns nearby you can join at the weekend. Or try something new! Sports are a great way to meet people with similar interests and a lot of clubs will put on social events as well. 

Learn the language

You’re employed as a TEFL teacher for your English-language abilities – you don’t need to speak your students’ language. But teaching English abroad is the greatest opportunity you’ll likely ever have to pick up another language, and there are several reasons why you should take advantage of it! Not only will it help you navigate day-to-day life (grocery shopping, ordering in restaurants, etc.), but it’s a great way of connecting with others. You’ll meet all sorts of people if you sign up for a language class, or get to know locals through a language exchange. 

Four male friends sitting on a hill and laughing

Use Meetup 

Meetup is an app created to help people make connections. Through Meetup you can find groups and events relevant to your interests, or even start your own! Whether you’re interested in hiking, philosophy, art, tech, or want to join a book club, you can find groups on Meetup to connect you with likeminded people. As we mentioned above, language exchanges can be one of the best ways of meeting new people, and you’ll usually find lots of language exchange events listed on Meetup. Just search your location and see what events come up! 

Say yes 

Don’t turn down chances to get out there and socialise – say yes! If you’re invited by someone to do something, whether it’s grabbing a drink after work or tagging along to an event, take them up on it. Making new friends and meeting new people is tough to do if you’re just sitting about at home all the time, so – particularly in the early days of your teaching abroad adventure – try to say yes a whole lot more than you’re saying no. 

Follow up 

Did you have a fun time hanging out with someone? Meet a friend of a friend you thought was interesting? Be proactive and follow up! Send them a message to say you enjoyed their company and ask if they’d like to go for a coffee sometime. Studies have shown that it takes around 50 hours of time spent with someone before they transition from acquaintance to casual friend, and nearly double that before you become proper friends. This means that you do need to put in the effort and create opportunities to spend time with others in order to make new friends. Don’t just wait around hoping for other people to get in touch with you!

Put yourself out there!

Some people are more outgoing than others and can walk into any room and easily strike up a conversation. But if you’re a bit on the shy and introverted side, making new friends as an adult can feel daunting. As all of our tips above demonstrate, though, it’s important to put yourself out there and create the opportunities to get to know others. Just remember, most people would love to have more friends! 

See our previous post for even more tips about how to get the most out of your TEFL adventure

And be sure to check out The TEFL Org Guide to the World and discover 70+ teaching destinations worldwide! 

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