If you're moving somewhere new, and want to meet other expats, then we've got a great question on how to meet other expats when you move to a new country. Alongside that though, you might want to meet and make friends with some local people too! Whether that's to learn more about the country you've moved to, practice your language skills, have a wider pool of friends, or maybe just sometimes escape the "expat bubble" which certain places can encourage, you might well want to make some local friends. To do that, you'll need to meet and socialise with some local people!

Clearly language can be an issue here. If you don't speak much / any of the language where you're moving to, then your interactions with locals is likely to be pretty restricted, at least initially.

Assuming you can speak at least some of the local language, as a new arrival in town, how do you go about meeting + socialising with locals?

  • 3
    I'm afraid this would be too broad but it is definitively an interesting topic.
    – Vince
    Commented Mar 23, 2014 at 15:50
  • 1
    I'm hoping it won't actually be as broad as "meeting locals in X", since we're after strategies not specifics, but we'll have to see!
    – Gagravarr
    Commented Mar 23, 2014 at 16:01
  • 1
    The part that is too broad is that there are literally thousands of ways to meet locals, which include everything from yoga class, to door-to-door evangelizing to craigslist. This is the epitome of a "list question." Just as the "how to meet expatriates" question.
    – Flimzy
    Commented Mar 23, 2014 at 19:49
  • 1
    @Flimzy Any ideas on how to tighten up the question then? I don't want one answer per possible activity, though my hunch is there's only a small number of possible general strategies (of which "pursue some activity you already practiced back home" is one)
    – Gagravarr
    Commented Mar 24, 2014 at 15:54
  • 1
    @Flimzy These thousands of ways might be usefully summarized (e.g. “practice sports” covers a great many of them, no need to list yoga, pilates or aerobics), a bit like “contact a French consulate” covers hundreds of different ways to get a French visa. Lists and details is specifically not what the questions is about, it's about strategy.
    – Gala
    Commented Mar 25, 2014 at 5:22

6 Answers 6


I have gone now through 10 relocations from 6 months to 4 years stay and gathered some methods to improve chances to meet people. My realization is that it is finally almost never a single item but rather a combination of all things that will help you. I will leave out the obvious clubs, sports and work-related topics and focus on your everyday life.

  1. Where to live: In most cases, you have a choice where to get an apartment/house. It is more important where you live for the first 2-4 years. In this time you will need to build up a social network, you can later move somewhere else. You will later also have a better idea where to invest into buying a place or renting something larger. Ideally, you get your first place in an urban environment where people walk from their apartments to shops and restaurants nearby. If you live there, you will have higher chances at meeting the same people at the same time again, be it in front of your door, at the baker in the morning or the newspaper stand. Also, if you do not know people, you will want to pop out for dinner in the pizzeria next door rather than taking a car to drive downtown or sitting by yourself at home, alone.

  2. Have a regular lifestyle around your home: Try to find as soon as possible a hairdresser, dentist, bar, restaurant, coffee shop, baker, butcher, supermarket etc possibly near your place and keep going there. You will start to meet the same people. Use the shop owners and staff as an anchor point and talk to them about the area you live in etc. Tell them you live next door now and want to get to know the neighborhood. When you pay, leave a tip and say you will be back. Once you know them, you will start to know the other regular clients in their shop, and your network will expand. These will not necessarily all be people you want to spend your Sunday night with, but through them you will meet other people, and like this you will spread your network. Be loyal to your neighborhood, and it will support you.

  3. Find restaurants and bars with a counter so you can talk to the barkeep/chef and speak with other people: This is the most effective one. Bar keepers are social networkers. On top of that, at a bar it's the easiest to talk to other people. Sushi restaurants and the like are also great. You need to go to the same places at least once a week, better twice. You will be recognized and people feel more at ease to talk to you. It's maybe a bit more expensive to eat out often, but see it as an investment into your life.

  4. Learn the language. As much as you can as soon as possible. Specially if you do not look like the other people around you. The more different you look, and the better you know the local language, the more people will remember you. A Japanese guy, speaking Japanese in Japan in a Sushi restaurant is just one of the thousands that walk by every day. A Caucasian speaking Japanese in Japan in a Sushi restaurant will be remembered months after eating there. Ask people how to pronounce stuff form the menu. Ask them if you said something correctly. Show an interest in the language, the culture, try to remember what to say as greetings and what for holidays ("Merry Christmas!" etc). Learn the phrases like "I moved into an apartment very nearby and try to find a [shop]".

  5. Find a local sports bar and go there for the big games. Make sure you cheer for the local team, as hard as that might be. Irish pubs seem to be good all around the world for that. Common interests always make good friends. Throw in a beer and a TV and you are almost there.

  6. Try to avoid places where tourists or commuters hang out. You will disappear in a crowd and everyone is just a passer-by. Find shops & restaurants that are small and have fewer staff so you do not have someone else in front of you each time you visit.

  7. If you moved there with your partner, be careful not to fall into the "homely home" trap. While it may be great and comfy at home in front of the TV with your partner, remember that the earlier you build up a social network, the better your life will be in the long run. I recommend that you try to go for a drink sometimes by yourself to meet people. I found it often easier to talk to strangers when I am by myself than when I am with my wife.

  • 3
    #7 is very important. Especially couples who have not been living together before moving are at a high risk of falling into that trap.
    – Jonas
    Commented Mar 26, 2014 at 9:35
  • #7 can also be stressfull. As I experienced many violent situations and some embarrassing. People do not necessarily know you are foreign and can be oblivious to culture differences. This also may cause severe culture shock for your self. Better to go out with a known friend, even work colleagues at firs, and pick up on the do's and dont's. You are then protected by a social ring that can make others or yourself aware of any misunderstanding.
    – Piotr Kula
    Commented Mar 28, 2014 at 12:32
  • 4
    #8: have children, take them to school yourself, take them to the play area. Guaranteed contacts with locals.
    – Benjol
    Commented Apr 1, 2014 at 5:39
  • I was just about to post a very similar question about moving to Akita (you apparently lived in Japan and probably have some idea about Tohoku), but then I saw this question and answer. I'll try to put most of this into practice. Concerning #6, now I see why it was so hard to meet people in the Starbucks locations in and around the main train station. Commented Sep 24, 2018 at 12:31

One strategy is to pursue some activity you already practiced back home (sport, music, dance, volunteering…) or pick up a new one. If you live in an area with a lot of expats or work for a large international company, a university or an international organization, avoid going only to the sports facility offered by your employer but seek a local club.

Making friends always takes time, though (there are even some sociological/psychological theories as to why it should take time) and unlike expats, most locals will already have a network of local friends so it's always more difficult and you have to take the initiative.

  • Agree with this. I go rock climbing at the local gym and have met quite a few expats and locals there, all very friendly and nice people
    – Adam Heath
    Commented Mar 24, 2014 at 8:09

I prefer dating sites.

Granted that narrows the selection to mostly people who're looking for romantic relationships, but it still is a great way to find a large pool of locals who are actively interested in meeting new people. And dating can just as often lead to lifelong friendship as it can to romantic relationship.

There's been much written about the new norm of having a permanent OkCupid profile, and I think it's especially valid for travellers. It's a good way of showing that you're always open to meeting new people.

  • Yea dating sites are a nice way to meet a matched person, which usually means their friends are a better match to your clique - So you can ease into social rings easier that way, and possibly find love :)
    – Piotr Kula
    Commented Mar 28, 2014 at 12:35

Couchsurfing - not only hosting, but attending the weekly meetings - helped me a lot: I found not only travelers, but also expats living in the city, and locals too. Especially if you live in a bigger city, you might always find smaller or bigger events (a hike, a potluck, movie night or party), or just try to organize one - there are always some couchsurfers to come.

Other was, as mentioned above, joining clubs/groups whose interests I share: in my case it was a choir and also volunteering.

One more: if you are in a bigger city/capital, try to find the embassy or consulate of your home country - you can surely find expats, but also other people (locals) who are interested in your home country, or just join the events of the cultural center, for example.

And last, but not least: get on a language course - learn how to speak with the locals, and that would automatically connect you with at least one local (the teacher) and other non-locals (your colleagues). Finding someone to have language exchange class is also a good way: I teach you my language, you teach me yours, it's a win-win :)

  • Couchsurfing is good, but I've found that you can stick out a little at the meetings if you're over 40 (like me!)
    – TrojanName
    Commented Mar 28, 2014 at 14:52

We’ve talked about “how” as in methods, resources, but there’s another factor that one might want to know how to overcome: http://www.fluentin3months.com/shy-solution/

A lame attempt at a summary:

5 crazy ways to get over shyness immediately, no drink/drugs required

  1. HOST Couchsurfers (i.e., be a host)

  2. Become an amateur photographer (use a camera or some unusual item to get people to approach you)

  3. Clink first, ask questions later (don’t plan what to say, just blurt something out)

  4. Embrace your inner Klingon (find a group interested in something you are interested in)

  5. Aim to fail (quantity, not quality)

    There’s more, but the rest is more specific to language learning.

A summary can’t do justice to the guy’s style—have to read it for the headings to really make sense.  But I tried to explain them a bit in the parentheses.

Example for #2: I recently bought a Brompton folding bicycle. I've used it in Perú on eight or nine different days, and at least eleven people (one of them a police officer) have approached me to talk about it.

  • Link-only answers aren't great, not least because links can rot. Any chance you could summarise a little bit of what that site has to say on the topic?
    – Gagravarr
    Commented Mar 25, 2014 at 22:06
  • It’s a popular blog, so likely to last a while, and probably archived at archive.org - but I'll try. I’ll have to compose and paste, because every time I consult the blog for the next line, when I come back here, the previous line has been erased.
    – WGroleau
    Commented Mar 26, 2014 at 2:39

Couchsurfing.org, Servas.org, Hospitalityclub.net, and the like.

You don’t have to offer or receive lodging to contact other members. Most users search for a place they plan to go to. You would search for the place you are already at.

Also one of the many sites for meeting people who want to practice a language.

Italki, babelyou, mylanguageexchange, etc.

Some of these are online only, but some of them have you specify whether you’re looking for chat, e-mail, Skype, or face-to-face.

Here’s one I forgot to mention the first posting: meetup.com

  • 1
    Sounds like your first suggestions rather help to find other foreigners. Those language websites specialize in meeting people online, not really to meet people who live around you.
    – uncovery
    Commented Mar 24, 2014 at 5:06
  • Sounds like? You don’t have to join them to find out what they are about. Anyway, if you don’t have time to look, I’ve added more explanation to my answer.
    – WGroleau
    Commented Mar 24, 2014 at 5:25
  • I was simply wondering how you meet locals on a travel site. So you suggest contacting other people who offer lodging and ask if they want to go for a beer since you live in the same town?
    – uncovery
    Commented Mar 24, 2014 at 5:29
  • Except that I hate beer :-) yes. In fact, I gave seen profiles that say, “I can’t host, but I’d love to meet.” The purpose of most such sites is not to get free lodging, but to meet people.
    – WGroleau
    Commented Mar 24, 2014 at 14:33
  • 2
    There are plenty of locals in coach surfing: many of those who host will be based around the place. They organize plenty of events to gather. Also add Internations, which is mostly for residents. Commented Mar 24, 2014 at 16:13

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.