Updated: Aug 18, 2021
Making friends as an adult is hard, making friends as an expat is even harder!
Building authentic and deep friendships as an expat is possible, below I share my story how I found a good friend during my time in Istanbul Turkey, in 2020.
“The secret ingredients of making authentic friendships as an expat are shared shared values, hobbies, and mindset"
Making friends through shared values & hobbies
There are many different expat lifestyles a woman can live. Single, married, widowed, retired, mother, "pet parent," daughter-in-law, professional, teacher, entrepreneur, investor, diplomat, military service woman are a few categories expat women fall under. Each city, political system, and level of income plays a role in deterring the level of comfort one has. But the desire for friendship is universal and being in a foreign land, people are more likely so socially mix and open to meeting new people. The secret ingredients of making authentic friendships as an expat are shared values, hobbies, and mindset. No matter where you are, can be Madrid, Kigali, Auckland, London, Istanbul, or Shanghai if you value living a healthy lifestyle, like running, and have positive mindset (or skeptical) you can make a friend and build on that friendship based on these ingredients.
Mindset or energy are tricky ingredients to pick up from others, even yourself, because they can change over time, it can evolve, and it takes time to discover from others. In my experience, as an expat you automatically appear to have an open-minded positive mindset, given that you're living and/or working in a foreign land. However, it's important that your friends and social circles have people that are positive, open-minded, and authentic.
My Friendships: Love of Afternoon Tea & Entrepreneurship
I'm a girly girl, I love pink, I love dresses, and it wasn't until I moved to Bangkok, Thailand, where I discovered that I love afternoon tea parties. Yes, as a child I had pretend tea parties, but as a teen and young adult I never been to a formal tea party. Why? The price point was never in my budget, plus my friends at the time were not interested in tea parties. Instead I just did activities like going to the ballet and symphony (university student discount), alone.
All this changed when I started my own business and met with another expat who invited me and another female founder to an afternoon tea. To say I was excited, was an understatement! I was so happy to dress up, drink tea, and eat all the lovely sweets, in good company! The scones, the little sandwiches, and good conversation sparked an idea that I should meet with other female founders over an afternoon tea. Why should networking with entrepreneurs be done over pizza and beers?
Not all women are girly girls that like to dress up and have tea, but what I learned that female founders, at least expats and women living in Asia, really enjoy meeting over afternoon tea. Culturally, an afternoon tea is not limited to women, but a formal way some people engage in business and socializing with friends. Plus, it's done in the afternoon, so no pressure to drink (though some sets come with champagne), and flexible for people that may have responsibilities in the evening. As for entrepreneurship and business, women I've built friendships with love the idea and tradition of networking over afternoon and high tea parties.
3 Cities, 3 Friends, 3 Key Ingredients
Bangkok, Almaty, and Istanbul, are 3 cities that I've hosted successful afternoon and high tea parties. Each of those cities, I've built 3 friends, on Korean, Kazakh, and American based on our shared love of afternoon tea. And the 3 ingredients: values, hobbies, and mindset are the foundations of these friendships. Oh, and we're all entrepreneurs, which really adds depth to our friendships.
This type of friendship, as an expat women doesn't come easily. People are busy, have responsibilities, and overall once you settle into your new city the mundanity of life sets in. It's easy to get lazy with your friends, but I'm glad that I found friends based on these ingredients and being an entrepreneur.
Comment if you have met an authentic friend abroad, I would love to learn the story of your friendship!