Doha is the fifth city I’ve lived in across three countries over the last six years. I never set out to live such a nomadic life, but that’s where fate has taken me. There are so many advantages to expat life, but those first six months in a new country can be lonely too.
Here are some tried and tested ways I’ve used to make friends:
Join a sports club: Just a few weeks ago, I joined a sports club here in Doha – something I never would have had the confidence to do not so long ago. I chose a sport I like, and made contact with the guys that run it over Facebook. I told them that I’m totally unfit, but keen to meet new people. The club couldn’t have been more welcoming, and there are plenty of other newbies there to keep me company, so I don’t feel too embarrassed that I can’t kick a ball straight. There’s a certain camaraderie that you find on a sports team that’s slightly different from other hobbies (more below)
MeetUp: If you land in a city where you know literally no one, meetup.com is a valuable tool. It’s a tool for bringing people with similar interests together, and in most cities you can find a really diverse bunch of groups, from runners to gamers, hikers to socialites, footballers to toastmasters. No matter how obscure your interest is, there are bound to be other people in your new city who are into it too. If you haven’t got any hobbies you’re particularly passionate about, this is the ideal time to try something new.
If you can’t find a group for your particular interest, it’s really easy to set up your own. While I was in Dubai, I set up a book club this way, and it was a huge success.
Do some volunteer work: Since Doha is smaller than Dubai, where I lived previously, I had to think outside the box a little to find things to do. Volunteering at the Qatar Animal Welfare Society has been a really fulfilling way of spending my spare time. There are double benefits here, I get to spend time with the animals which makes me happy in any case, and I also get to meet super friendly people out there who share at least one interest in common with me!
Friends of friends: In today’s hyper-connected world, the chances are you know someone who knows someone in your new city. Your cousin’s friend, your colleague’s brother, your old housemate’s ex… Be brazen, get in touch, ask to be introduced or just add them on Facebook. Every expat knows what it’s like to be starting out in a new city, so more than likely you’ll find someone who’s happy to show you around.
Do things alone: No matter how successful you are at making friends, there will be times, especially in the beginning, when no one’s free. Never think you can’t go out for steak, see a movie or go to a concert because you don’t have someone to go with – In fact, it’s when you go do stuff like that solo that you end up meeting new people! My second week in Doha Ed Sheeran played the QNCC – I didn’t know anyone well enough to invite them to come with me, but there was no way I was missing that.
- Befriend a local ASAP to get insider knowledge on the city
- Don’t turn down any invite
- Taking up a completely new hobby opens you up to a completely new set of people
- Remember that if you get out there, in six short months you’ll have friends from everywhere from New Zealand to Zimbabwe