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Building Relationships Abroad




When the relocation is done, how do you find your people?

After almost 20 years in Toronto, my partner’s job took us to Prague and then (16 months later) to Uppsala, Sweden. It goes without say that the years it took to cultivate solid friendships in Canada were not available to me and I had to get creative! Here are my top 10 tips on how to make friends fast…

MEETUP.COM – The world’s largest network of local groups. Totally easy for anyone to organize a gathering of like-minds, or join one of the thousands already meeting face-to-face. www.meetup.com.

IMPACT HUB – A really well run entrepreneurial centre that has outposts in several major cities. My experience with them in Prague was very good as the staff really made an effort to help me feel comfortable and they facilitated worthy connections. At present there are 66 Hubs across five continents.  www.impacthub.net

INTERNATIONS – An international organization that offers professional and social connections via events and workshops. Or as they say: 190 different nations unite and meet in more than 300  Local Communities all over the globe. The membership is tiered, but you can attend events by simply registering and paying a small fee at the door, which usually includes a drink. Highly recommend for the high caliber of people. www.internations.org.

FACEBOOK GROUPS – Search by city, country and/or nationality.


TOURS – Go on every city tour that interests you. In a place like Prague there is so much history, art and architecture to take in. Even the beer tours offer interesting insight. This is a great way to meet people too. Albeit they’ll likely be tourists, but you can still exercise your chatty muscles.

LANGUAGE COURSES – Worth taking because you are bound to meet others in the same boat.

TEACH OR TUTOR – If you have a talent for music, competency with a particular language, or some other certified skill, then find the best way to share it. It may be possible to volunteer at a local community centre, or perhaps post an ad directed at the expat community (Facebook and other forums) for free group lessons.

MAKE SWEET MUSIC – By taking guitar lessons, Mario had a nice little micro group going in Toronto.

EVENTS – Expats[dot][country] is a super resource for the latest and greatest festivals and social events happening near you. City-specific sites like HKExpats.com exist so you can find the forum that you feel comfortable using.


WORK IT OUT – Whether you join a running club, or sign up for weekly entrepreneurial brainstorms, you need to go where your people are. As a yoga teacher I know the yoga community is the best place for me to start and build out so that was my first ‘target market’, so to speak. All I had to do was find a yoga studio that offered the sort of yoga I like to practice and, second, enquire whether I could teach there. Miraculously, all of this can be done before taking off so apply this to your own situation and set yourself up for success!

Note: I knew I could work as soon as I arrived in Sweden but, even if your work permit is not sorted out, there’s no harm in connecting with business owners and start establishing relationships.

Sara Graham is an international entrepreneur, travel writer and yoga teacher currently based in Sweden.

This Q&A is an excerpt from her guidebook How To Make Big Moves: Relocate Without Losing Your Mind. You can download a free chapter from this essential resource when you visit www.howtomakebigmoves.com.



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