How to Make Friends in a Foreign Country

A topic that inevitably rises in the context of international careers and entrepreneurship is developing strong social circles abroad. We’d like to briefly play devil’s advocate and recommend that you tread carefully when looking to build a social circle abroad. It’s incredibly important that you do your proper due diligence on people and get to know them before you entrust them with your personal information or even your Facebook or LinkedIn account.

Choose Your Friends Wisely

Internationalists, expatriates, travelers…..whatever they call themselves, they can be an unpredictable group of people. If you dive into a relationship too soon or divulge too much information about yourself too early, you could live to regret it. Thus, building the right circle can positively or negatively affect your life in ways you can’t possibly even begin to imagine. This is particularly true when you venture abroad for the first time. In a place such as Dubai or China, the company you keep can end up in lucrative long term business contracts or have you being imprisoned or deported.

You can be especially vulnerable when you show up for the first time. This is because you lack a set of informal standards for social expectations and are generally at your most impressionable. While we don’t want you to run away from everyone you see, there are certainly opportunistic and two-faced snakes out there who are looking to take advantage of naive and fresh-faced people.

A personal friend of mine entered into an expensive business partnership with someone he met in South East Asia. The partnership went sour and the situation has become incredibly tense and sticky. Learn from the experience of others and make sure that you don’t ultimately end up in this situation – or at least, if you do end up in this situation, you can at least say that you took all the precautions you could have to have avoided the situation.

Ultimately, you are the average of the five people you see and interact with most. Make sure that you build your social circle on a solid foundation, because this core group will likely dictate the path and future of regional social circles you meet in the near and medium term future.

One thing we suggest is that you create a totally separate Facebook profile specific to people that you meet on your travels. Once you determine that you trust these people enough, you can accept them to your “real” profile.

Avoid Toxic People

It’s particularly important to avoid toxic people – whether you are abroad or at home. The process and dynamics of building a social network abroad are dramatically different when you are an expatriate or traveler. Relationships created abroad tend to be more transient in nature and sometimes polarized to be particularly beneficial or particularly harmful – although the majority of them will be meaningless. It’s important to recognize when a new connection can lead you down a positive path or a dark path and avoid making bad decisions.

The environment in which you live is probably more important than anything else. It’s crucial to recognize and acknowledge this when you are getting settled for the first time. Are you hanging out at low-class clubs every night and getting obliterated? Or are you attending trade conferences, toastmasters meetings, TED x meetups, and startup events? The physical locations and events that you choose to attend will have a dramatic impact on your life.

We suggest that, in order to not constantly worry about individuals, you place yourself in environments and events that are statistically more likely to surround you with positive, fun, and upstanding individuals. These apparently insignificant decisions that you make now will have far reaching and unpredictable consequences later in your life.