How To Make Friends in Foreign Lands

This post is written specifically about Florianópolis, Brazil, but most points can be applied to any new country or city.

floripa friends

When my husband and I decided to move from Canada to Florianópolis, Brazil, I knew that my number one priority for the first year would be to make friends.  For me it was even more important than learning Portuguese.  Moving to a country with a new language and culture can be exciting, but it can also be very lonely if you don’t have a good support network/circle of friends.

So how does one go about making friends in a new country/culture/language?  Here’s what worked for me:

  •  Facebook Groups: Even before we arrived in Brazil, I searched for Expat groups on Facebook.  I found one called “Gringos Floripa” and posted a message saying I was moving to Floripa soon and would anyone be interested in meeting for coffee?  I made two wonderful friends thanks to that approach.

My first friend in Floripa, thanks to the Gringos Floripa Facebook page!

  • In researching for this blog post I discovered another Facebook group called “English Hour” that meets at a bar every Friday night.  I went for the first time recently and thoroughly enjoyed myself.  It was a great place to meet other international people and Brazilians as well.

english hour

I signed up for a three month trial with Internations but didn’t continue because I couldn’t find anyone in Florianópolis, although I did speak with a Canadian expat who was very helpful answering my questions about living abroad.

When a friend of mine visited us for a month and a half, she used the dating site OkCupid to meet someone who just wanted to hang out as friends.  She met an awesome local who showed her around the island, and I know they had a lot of fun together! is another website where you can find people in your city who are doing things you want to get involved in.

  • Language Classes: This is one I haven’t done, but I’m sure it would be helpful!
  • Playground: This is obviously pointed at parents, but I met another great friend at a playground!  She was there with her two kids, and my son ran up to me, saying, “Mommy, they speak English!”  We exchanged numbers and that was that.  I have also met a lot of lovely Brazilian moms and dads at playgrounds.
My awesome foreigner mommy friend

My awesome foreigner mommy friend

  •  Church: Don’t skip this one!  When my atheist friend and I moved to a new town in Canada together, we both attended church regularly, and I didn’t even have to force her to go with me!  She wanted to go because she knew she’d meet a lot of awesome people and get to know the community.  Here in Brazil I attend the Florianopolis House of Prayer(FHOP) which has a LOT of English speaking Brazilians and foreigners.  Most of the service is bilingual, so it’s also an awesome way to learn the language.  It’s the place I have made the highest number of friends in Floripa(and I meet new people there almost every week).
  • Meeting friends of friends.  Floripa is my husband’s hometown so I already had lots of people to hang out with before I started meeting people on my own.


  •  Quiz Night (in English) at the Black Swan Pub in Lagoa: So much fun, even if you’re not a trivia buff.  I really enjoyed being in an atmosphere where I felt like I “belonged”.


After being here for a year, I’m happy to say I’ve made a lot of friends, both Brazilian and international.  Admittedly I am a very social person who loves meeting people, so it wasn’t too hard for me.  If you are someone who struggles with this, I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and meet as many people as you can at the beginning of your time in a new place.  It will keep the loneliness at bay and you will feel much more “at home” in your new home.

friends quote

Have you lived abroad?  What did you do to meet people and make friends?

3 thoughts on “How To Make Friends in Foreign Lands

  1. eldonhay says:

    I vividly remember visiting a small Anglican service in corner of a huge Basle (Switzerland) cathedral years ago.. When I stepped in the room I immediately felt at home. Why? Everyone was speaking English!
    We affirm your awareness of needs, and choosing paths to bring gratifying results
    Blessings prayers love Grampa and Anne.


  2. Mary says:

    I’ve never lived abroad for as long a stretch of time as you, Lins, but I remember that time I lived in Spain for three months, joining things was super important. My roommate’s boyfriend told me about a weekly poetry meet-up, and I found out that my office building had a choir that met at lunchtimes. Both of those were extremely positive things I did. The best, though, was when I had a mix-up with my keys, and my downstairs neighbours, a big, warm family from Ecuador, invited me in for supper. They started inviting me twice a week to watch Mexican soap operas. I was pretty shy back then, but by the time I left (ironically!) I was starting to feel like I belonged.


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