Moving or traveling to another country for a long time can be a titanic challenge, not least because you are leaving your familiar environment where everyone speaks your native language, your family, friends, and social circle. Adapting to a new life without "your people" can seem difficult and sometimes even frightening.
The ability to express ourselves, feel understood and be part of a community is a significant need for us to feel satisfied in our daily lives. Long-distance support from family and friends, the Internet, and social media can help with feelings of loneliness, but nothing can replace personal contact and communication in the real world. Therefore, it is important to stay open to new opportunities, meet new people, join local communities and seek your community and engage in activities that interest you. This will help you create a new social circle, find friends, and deepen your sense of comfort in a new country.
When you find yourself in a situation like this — a new country, no friends or at least no acquaintances. The first thing that may come to mind is to look for your people among those who live in the country you have moved to the most: the locals. And it's not a bad idea! But it is worth noting that not in all countries they are willing to contact foreigners. This is sometimes due to differences in language, sometimes also in culture, but mostly since they already have enough friends and a familiar environment that has been formed over the years (like your own in the country you moved from). Although, the people here are extremely friendly and welcoming, and it is not uncommon to find friends even in the person of your new Portuguese housemates.
However, a more common option is to get closer to people who find themselves in the same situation as you: that is, foreigners who, for whatever reason, have decided to start life in a new country, or, in other words, expats.
When you move to Portugal, especially to a big city, you immediately feel that it is a cosmopolitan country that is friendly and open to representatives of any culture and religion. Here you can meet people in various interesting clothes, and they often communicate with each other in a language we do not understand. This proves that it is quite possible to find your own in another country, even if you do not know Portuguese, or at least English. Of course, Portugal attracts migrants from its former Portuguese-speaking colonies. But especially recently, this country has also begun to attract so-called nomads, nomads, people from all over the world who are attracted by the opportunity to live and work in this warm and hospitable environment. So, if you are one of these people, you have almost certainly asked yourself: where to start, whom to contact, how to find "yours"?
In this article, we've decided to give you some tips on how to make friends with similar interests, expand your network, and simply find someone to have coffee with on a late Portuguese morning. Or arrange to meet in the evening for a glass of green. So, let's get started.
Even though the objective of this process is to find people for live communication, we still recommend that you first resort to the main resource for finding anything: the Internet.
Yes, there are numerous groups and networks whose purpose is to communicate with foreigners, and this applies to any issue: entertainment, life, advice, questions, help. Through such networks, expats can find a community of people who are in the same country as them and share their interests. Some of them have more narrowed areas of activity, some can be used to meet a broader set of goals and needs, so let's take a closer look at them.
Search for events and communities
If you are just interested in finding new friends or groups with common interests, one of the best options is the website or app Meetup. It is a popular platform that provides meeting and event opportunities for people with similar interests and hobbies, and has become especially useful for expats. Here you can find groups and events that match your interests and requires: for example, groups for language learning, cultural exchange, sports, travel, and much more.
Meetup allows users to create their own groups or join existing ones. There are many active groups, especially in large cities with many expats. Many of them use Meetup to find new friends and make acquaintances based on their interests.
Of course, to participate in most meetings of this format, it would be helpful to know English at a level that allows you to carry on a conversation with the participants. However, this is not necessary: some organizations or meetings are aimed specifically at language learning and cultural exchange. For example, Lisbon BlaBla Language Exchange in Lisbon, which organizes events every week. Here you can find not only people who speak English but also people from your country. Members of the following groups meet in a similar way SPEAK Porto - Language and Culture Exchange in Porto.
A similar platform is InterNations. This is a similar platform, in particular because it was created specifically for expats, and provides a wide range of resources and opportunities to support and connect with other people living and working in different countries.
In addition to the opportunity to build new connections and make valuable acquaintances, you can also get useful information about different countries, including practical advice on moving, cultural assimilation, and living and working in a new environment.
Like Meetup, Internations organizes various events and meetings where expats can find new friends, establish professional contacts, and expand their horizons. These can be themed parties, cultural events, sports activities, and much more.
For the same purposes, you can use services for finding short-term housing: the most famous are Airbnb. The site also has special pages for organizing meetings as well as events. These can be joined by both tourists and those who have been living in the country for a long time but are searching for new experiences, activities, hobbies, or just interesting acquaintances. And, of course, excursions. Conveniently, you can filter the events you are interested in according to the language you know. And, of course, there are many other filters by destination, number of people, etc.
Furthermore, various kinds of meetings are organized on a platform used by those who prefer an inexpensive format of traveling and meeting local people by staying in their homes and sharing their everyday life for a short amount of time, namely Couchsurfing. The Couchsurfing community organizes 1-2 meetings per week, the main one is on Wednesday, has a comfortable format and often attracts people (expats and locals) who live in the city and not just visit it.
You can also use the Couchsurfing app to find people who would like to meet and spend time together, but this option is mostly used by tourists.
Another equally popular way to find such communities is Facebook. Specifically, groups which name begins with Expats in... [city name]. Such groups are especially useful for finding answers to various questions about life in a new country. You can post a question and get an answer from foreigners like you who have also decided to move to, say, Portugal, and have already had the opportunity to face the situations you just found yourself in. It's also a good opportunity to help others by answering questions and providing information on a particular subject when you have the relevant knowledge or experience. Such groups in Lisbon include, for example, International Friends Lisbon or Expats in Lisbon.
In this way, you can feel involved in the new environment, meet locals and other expats, and get support during your adaptation in a new country.
Organizations for women
It is worth noting that there are also closed groups for women on Facebook, such as Girl Gone International (GGI), Ladies Expats Lisbon or Host A Sister. In addition to these groups, there is a whole non-profit organization International Women in Portugal which was established in 1991 to give English-speaking women the opportunity to express their ideas, utilize their talents, and enrich their lives through contribution to the Portuguese community.
Search by interests and needs
Hobbies and sports
Another way to find new people is to search within your circle of interests. For example, if you are fond of Latin American dancing, you can simply enter a query into the Google search engine and find schools that offer dance lessons in your city or events that are held for dance enthusiasts.
The same applies to sports: there are many clubs that are joined by those who do not like to play sports alone. Others are simply searching for people who lead a similar lifestyle and with whom they can spend interesting time and talk about common interests, which in this case are quite obvious. Among such organizations are various running clubs, clubs for crossfit, yoga, yachting (for example, there is Lisbon International Sailing Club), and, of course, surfing, since we are in Portugal!
Surfing should be given a special place because due to the territorial peculiarity of Portugal, surf camps are very common here: these are mostly multinational groups aimed at learning to surf and building short-term communities that often turn into long-term acquaintances, communication, and friendships. Such camps (or camps in English) usually have a cohousing format, during which numerous hours are devoted to surfing, and they are organized not only in Portugal or not only by Portuguese people. In many countries, there are people who organize such camps in Portugal (especially if it is a European country). They take care of the organizational aspects, and you just have to enjoy the process and spend time with pleasure, benefit yourself and meet new people.
Offline Portuguese language courses can also be a great way to make new friends. Most likely, if you decide to join one of the many schools in the country, you will receive more than one bonus: knowledge of the language, exchange of cultural experience, and, of course, new acquaintances.
There is also an opportunity to volunteer at one of the non-profit organizations (such as Lisbon Project or Re-Food), where you can make new friends while doing a useful job and helping those in need.
Moreover, please remember that in Portugal they love life, they love to enjoy it and celebrate it. Especially in the summer, there are many activities and events all over the country to celebrate the holidays of a street, neighborhood, city, country, or a saint: you will notice that the streets are decorated with flags, and some viewpoints have stalls with cold sangria and sandwiches and tables for those who want to have a nice outdoor rest.
Or you can simply go to a local bar and meet new people over a drink or a dance (in Lisbon, Bairro Alto is a great place to do this). Portuguese people are friendly, helpful, and pleasant, so it's almost always a great option to have a good evening and make new friends.
Although the first steps can be difficult, being open-minded, patient and actively involved in the life of your new community can help you find your place and feel comfortable in Portugal. Gradually, over time, you will be able to find new friends and support in this country, adapt to the new environment and even learn the language, which will be an important step in your integration.
We wish you good new acquaintances :)
Translated from Ukrainian by Rodion Shkurko