Most people imagine the life of a digital nomad as one of constant excitement as you are free to roam the world and call new exotic cities your home every few months.
But the reality is that the life of a digital nomad can also be a lonely one.
Making new friends as an adult is hard because most people already have established friendship groups and routines. When you move to a new city, the workplace is one of the best places to build new friendships.
But as a digital nomad your workplace is probably just you and your laptop.
Loneliness for some digital nomads has become particularly acute over the last year as COVID and social distancing measures close even more doors for developing new friendships.
This basically means that as a digital nomad, new friendships don’t just happen. You have to make them happen!
Here are our top tips for meeting new people and making new friends when you arrive in a new city as a digital nomad.
1. Choose Social Accommodation
While you will certainly feel more productive if you have your own space, shared accommodation can be an effective way to meet new people in a new city. You will see other people regularly and have lots of common things to complain about (probably starting with the speed of the Wi-Fi).
There are lots of different options. There are hostels (preferably with private rooms), Airbnb where you choose to stay with the host or other guests, and even just shared flats and co-living spaces. The ideal option will offer you quiet, private, personal and work spaces, but with shared communal areas for meeting new people.
If you are planning to stay somewhere long-term and really do prefer to live on your own, maybe consider staying in shared accommodation for the first few weeks. You can meet new people and also take the time to find the perfect place to live.
2. Use Co-Working Spaces
The chances are that as a digital nomad you could work from home. But you should still consider spending at least some of your working week in co-working spaces.
There are lots of very good reasons that you should look at co-working spaces. You can find a complete article on some of the benefits and how to choose a good coworking space here. But for what we are thinking about right now, it offers a great opportunity to meet new people.
You are likely to meet other people in a similar independent working situation who might also be interested in striking up a friendship, not to mention make professional connections that could open new doors.
3. Join a Fitness Class or Sports Team
The key to making friends is being able to see the same people on a regular basis and to have a shared interest. A fitness class or a sports team ticks both these boxes.
If you are a yoga fanatic or a CrossFit fan, no doubt you will be drawn to these activities. Even if you are experienced and have your own practice, still consider joining a class, just to meet new people who share your interests.
If you are looking for something new, consider a sports team. Working together as a team helps build camaraderie, and time together on away games in invaluable.
4. Join a Local Interest Group
In order to tap into the local community, join a local community group! These will usually be based around a shared area of interest, whether that be improving the local area through charity work, a faith-based group, or even a book club.
They are usually pretty easy to find as they will be advertised within the local community and probably have a Facebook group. Meetup.com can also be a good place to track these down.
You’ll have plenty of things in common to discuss with your potential new friends, and these groups often organize social events, which are the perfect opportunity to get to know people in a relaxed environment.
5. Visit Local Shops & Cafes
If you want to meet locals that live near you, you need to get out and about in the local community, visiting shops, cafes, and restaurants.
Cafes can also be great coworking spaces, and will probably be full of other remote workers if they offer decent Wi-Fi. Between the staff and the other patrons, there are lots of new people to meet.
It is a good idea to “shop around” for the café that you like the most. Try each café in your area, perhaps two or three times if the coffee is good. You can then choose the ones that you like the most and make them your regular haunts.
When you do fall into a routine, you will probably find yourself encountering the same people on a regular basis, which enhances the opportunity to make a connection.
6. Do Volunteer Work
Just because you aren’t working as part of a physical team doesn’t mean that you can’t adopt a workplace. Create a collegial workspace for yourself by volunteering for local organizations, many of which could benefit from the skills of a digital nomad.
If you aren’t working full-time, look for a regular volunteering opportunity and a workplace to visit maybe once a week or every other week.
Living in a foreign country where you speak the local language? Consider volunteering at a museum. They will often have material that they need translated or proofread in order to serve international audiences, and maybe even an English language tour guide.
7. Ask Your Acquaintances
These days, we all have friends from back in the day that are living in far flung corners of the world. It is likely that at least some people within your social network have spent time wherever it is that you are planning to go, and they may already have some great friends there.
Ask your social network for help. Tell people where you are going and ask them to introduce you to their friends, or recommend where to go to meet new and interesting people.
8. Seek Out Other People Like You
It can be hard to break into local circles, especially if you don’t speak the language. So, you can start making friends by looking for other people like you, newcomers or foreigners in the area who are just as keen to meet new people and make new friends.
There are loads of online groups and applications that are aimed at exactly that, bringing together digital nomads, expats, or travelers.
Get on Facebook and seek out groups that are active in your local area. You can “social stalk” people and get chatting before meeting up. Couchsurfing offers similar social networking functionality. You can put your travel dates in well before you arrive and start chatting and organizing meetups with potential new friends before you arrive.
9. Share Your Native Tongue
If you are living in a foreign country, the chances are that there are thousands of people in the city where you live that are learning your language. They would love to practice with a fluent speaker.
Search for ads for local groups that meet up to practice their language skills together. Meetup is a good place to start.
You can also advertise your services as a language teacher available for conversation.
10. Learn Something New
As well as sharing your expertise, consider learning something new. Classes are another great way to have an excuse to meet the same people on a regular basis, and ensure that you have shared interests to talk about.
Look online, or actually ready those fliers that people put up in the local coffee shop to find opportunities.
Take a one-off class like a cooking class or a wine tasting both to meet new people and become better acquainted with local delicacies. Sign up for weekly classes that are popular in the local community, maybe a local dance (Tango in Argentina), sport (Capoeira in Brazil), or art (Talavera in Mexico).
11. Join Trips and Tours
If you have moved to a new place in the world, the chances are that there are lots of interesting tourist destinations and natural wonders in the vicinity to see. While you could probably tackle these yourself, join a tour group instead.
This is an opportunity to meet other travelers, and also locals such as the guides and the organizers. Spending the day together doing something that you will never forget is a great way to forge new bonds.
12. Use Friendship Apps
While the technology may have been developed to help people find love, there are now plenty of apps out there that can help you meet new friends.
Simply create a profile with your general location and the things that interest you, and the app AI will show you people also looking for new friends who it thinks are compatible with you. If you are both interested in getting to know each other better, the app lets you start chatting.
You will want to research which of these applications is most popular wherever you are living, but check out REALU, Friender, Yubo, Skout, Atleto (for fitness fans), Hey VINA and Bumble BFF (for women), Pawdates (for pet parents), and Peanut (for child parents).
13. Put in the Effort
All of the above advice is about putting yourself in situations where you are likely to have the opportunity to meet new people that have the potential to be new friends.
But it is not enough to just be there, you need to be present, open, and actively put yourself out there to make new friends.
You need to strike up conversations with people, ask them for their contact details so that you can keep talking, and invite them for a chat over coffee or to check out the latest new bar at the weekend.
Taking the initiative and putting yourself forward like this can be scary. Most of us have a grain of fear inside ourselves that makes us scared that other people won’t like us, that we won’t be accepted for who we are, and that we will be rejected.
But if you want to take charge of making friends in a new city, these are fears that you will have to embrace and overcome.
If you need help with this:
- Start by engaging on social media. Comment on their posts of potential friends and ask questions about local venues to get a safe conversation flowing.
- Ask for recommendations in person, such as where to get the best coffee or where they may have bought something.
- When inviting someone to spend time together, make it less stressful by being specific. Ask them to get a coffee to discuss something specific, or to come with you when checking out a new bar or restaurant.
- Ensure that you make the other person feel interesting by listening and really paying attention to what they say. Ask follow-up questions to show your interest. Never try to carry on a conversation while also scrolling on your phone.
- Be open. You might be tempted to say little about yourself so that you don’t fall into the trap of just talking about yourself. But you need to open up if you want to encourage others to open up.
- Don’t take it personally if someone isn’t keen to spend time together. Everyone has their own lives and their own challenges, it probably isn’t about you personally.
Making friends as an adult can be hard, so it is often lonely when moving to a new city and leaving behind all of your existing friends.
It can be especially hard for digital nomads to make local friends as we tend to move often, and our work tends to be solitary and doesn’t open doors to new acquaintances.
But all this means is that meeting new people is not going to happen on its own, you are going to have to put in the work. Hopefully, our tips above give you an idea of where to start.