How to make friends as an expat in Sydney
Moving to a new country is a big deal, and one of the hardest things is the feeling that you have to ‘start over’, in terms of making new friends and connections, and building up your social circle. If you’re moving to Australia for work, a working holiday, or even with a partner, you still might find yourself in a situation where you’re moving to a new country and hardly knowing anyone there, which can be a bit overwhelming.
I bring it up because I think it’s something things that new expats don’t always think of- you’re so excited about moving to a new country and all that that entails, but you also don’t want to find yourself alone on a Friday night. There’s only so much Netflix one can handle.
I’ve put together a list of a few things I have found helpful over the years to help meet new people. It often seems in Sydney, so many people already have groups of friends, going back to school or university, so it can seem tricky at first to build up your own friendship groups. However, if you make an effort to step out of your comfort zone and put yourself out there, you’ll meet new people in no time, and you’ll probably find that there are many people in the same boat as you.
Volunteering is a double win. You get to help a good cause and give back to the community, and also meet new people at the same time. Even if you can only give a few hours now and again, there are plenty of worth organisations that need both one-off volunteers for events, or need people on a regular basis. If you’re interested in getting involved, I’d recommend contacting NSW Volunteering, or The Centre for Volunteering, based in the Rocks. They can help match you up with organisations that will suit your schedule and qualifications. Or, if you have a charity that is close to your heart, reach out to them and see if they need any help. Volunteering experience can also be a great asset to your resume.
I have met some great friends through the Sydney Americans group (you can tag along to their events, even if you’re not American). They organise fantastic social events, especially for Halloween, 4th of July, and Thanksgiving, and also have weekly bootcamp sessions in Hyde Park. The bootcamps can be pretty brutal, but definitely have a social focus. The organisers make sure newcomers are introduced to everyone, which is really nice.
In addition the American group, there are literally dozens and dozens of other social groups you can join in on through Meetup.com. It’s a website where anyone can start their own club or group, and then organise events. They range from everything including social drinks, sports, niche clubs, and bushwalking, and are usually free or low cost to join in on. It’s a great way to see more of Sydney and meet new people also. If you head along to a group and find you don’t really get on with them (this has happened to me), don’t fret, just try another group until you find your people.
Always say yes to work drinks! Some of my best friends in Sydney have been made through work. I know some workplaces are more social than others, but definitely get involved in work lunches or drinks, or even eat lunch in the break room instead of at your desk. It’s an awesome way to find out more about the people you’re forced to spend all day with.
Friday afternoon drinks seem more common in Australia, compared to the US, so make the most of it and stick around after-hours.
Intramural sports teams
Social sports teams- play kickball or softball (or a range of other activities), with like-minded people who generally enjoy a bit of sport, mixed with some beer. Check out Urban Rec to find a team to join.
Similar to social sports team, joining a gym or yoga studio is a fun way to stay fit and meet more people- same with joining an outdoor fitness club or bootcamp, as they often have social events as well as group training sessions.
Put yourself out there
If you’re a bit more introverted, I know it can be nerve-wracking to show up to a Meetup or event where you don’t know anyone, but it’s worth trying. Most likely you’ll find lots of other people in a similar situation, and if you don’t try, you don’t get.
Consider a house share
A house share can be an awesome way to make new friends and save money on rent as well. House shares can be found all over Sydney, but popular areas with new arrivals include the Inner West, Bondi, and Manly. Check out Gumtree or Flatmates.com.au to find a place.
Sign up for a community college course
Learning new things is always a good thing, and a community college class can be a lot of fun. I’ve done a few, including dragon boating and rock climbing, through Sydney Community College. They are affordably priced, and can be a lot of fun. Both courses I did were mainly full of people in the 20’s and 30’s, who were new to Sydney or looking for something different to try.
For more tips for new expats, check out our other articles here.
Have you ever moved overseas? If so, how did you meet new people?