So, you’re a South African expat; now what?! Having spent a large majority of your life in the same country, growing up with – and spending time with – the same people, the concept of moving to an entirely new environment with no familiar faces might seem a little (okay, a lot!) daunting.
Gone are the days where your mum could arrange a playdate for you with another kid that she thinks you’d “get along with”. Now are the days of going it alone, putting yourself out there, and having to make friends with all the cautiousness and awkwardness of an adult who apparently knows better (than that shy awkward kid you once were, that is).
By now you’ve probably guessed it; we’re gearing up to tackle the difficult topic of finding your place in expat communities, when emigrating from South Africa.
How to make friends: A South African expat guide on connecting
If you think the above title is a little patronising; don’t! “Making friends” is essentially what it’s all about if you want to enjoy your new life abroad. Luckily you will find many South Africans living abroad and by know where to look or what to do; you can find some of the best expat communities in your new home country.
There are many reasons why you should seek out other South Africans living abroad. For starters, having a support network of people who understand your background and culture can really make you feel less isolated and alone. You will also find a general feeling of togetherness in some of the best expat communities, with members being more than happy to help you with understanding local norms and settling in.
It’s a good idea to find at least one other South African expat to connect with. It’s an even better idea to make a mix of expat and local friends, so that you have a decent social life and support system. If you want a few tips on how to find your tribe (both South African expats and locals) in your new country, here are a few to consider:
- Join online communities
This may seem like an obvious one, but sometimes people go about it wrong. You don’t want to join the local community group or buy and sell group on social media. You actually want to join South African expat groups on various platforms. Search on Facebook for things like “South African expats UK”, if you are living in the UK, for example. Also, join dedicated online expat services sites to be informed of local meet ups and be put in touch with other expats in the same area as you. There are various websites you can reach out such as Expat.com and Internations.org. You can sign up to these online services and connect with other expats in your specific community.
- Join a fitness or exercise group
This one isn’t specifically about meeting expats, but more about making friends in your local community. When you are exercising in a class or a group, there’s opportunity to meet people. Make sure that you mention that you are new to the area early on in any introductions, so that people take their cue to ask you out, invite you to an event, or share their contact details with you. One particular world-wide group fitness activity that you can join is Parkrun. There’s a Parkrun event, where participants can run or walk 5km (with their kids and pets in most instances) every week, in just about every country in the world.
If there is a local charity or animal shelter in your area and you really do want to help, offer to give them some of your time. It’s a great way to meet people who are actively involved in your immediate community. And these people will probably introduce you to other people. You won’t struggle to make friends if you actively get involved in community projects and efforts.
- Opt for shared accommodation
In South Africa, shared accommodation isn’t a big thing, but in some foreign countries, it is. Take England for instance. Many people reduce their monthly expenses by sharing homes. Many expats decide to do this for the first few months they are in a new country, which gives them time to find a place to live and to connect with a few people along the way. By house-sharing in your first few months, you will undoubtedly make friends with your new housemate and will meet other people through them or through your adventures together. You can search the local community groups for flat and house shares being advertised as well as discuss your needs with a local estate agent in the area you are moving to.
- Take a hobby class
Learning a new hobby or developing an existing one is a great way to meet people who have similar interests to you. You may be surprised to find that many other expats also take hobby classes to meet new people. Popular classes could be painting, photography, pottery, cooking, arts and craft, and many others.
Let Finglobal get your expat financial responsibilities in order while you get out there & make friends
As an expat, you already have so much on your plate. You have to find a home, a new job, and new friends. Sometimes the last thing on your mind is the paperwork required for ensuring your tax and financial emigration from the country goes seamlessly. At FinGlobal, we may not be able to introduce you to new friends, but we can ensure that your financial emigration and tax emigration from South Africa is handled with meticulous, professional care. Whether you just need advice or dedicated hands-on assistance, our team of knowledgeable and skilled consultants can assist you further. We provide premier advice and guidance to thousands of South African expats across the globe and look forward to assisting you too.
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