One of the big problems of being the new family in town is how to make friends in another country. We get comfortable in our lives, we have our friends from maybe as far back as high school and never need to make new ones, we already have all the friends we need. Then, bam! we move countries and need to make friends in another country. How do we even begin to do this?
I’ve had to do this, from scratch, 3 times in my life. For some this sounds like a lot, for others it’s nothing. Some families move every two years on the dot and make friends in every country they go to. But usually if you are in one of these families, it’s likely you or your spouse have the type of job that takes you all over the world, and when this is the case, it’s also likely you arrive at your destination with a ready made group of friends, be it from work or your kids’ school. But what do you do if you arrive in Florence, don’t need/want to work and want to build a life here, one rich with friends and lots of wonderful things to do with your time?
There’s no easy answer, it all takes time and effort, but it’s so worth it in the end. Making friends later in life, as a fully grown adult, is so different from when we’re children or teens, this time we’re old enough to know who is right or wrong for us. We can choose our friends and enjoy the quality of relationships we never thought possible.
A good way to start is to ask yourself what you enjoy doing. Have a list of a few things you love, preferably that you do in a group, once you figure it out, find groups in your new town who you can do it with. Be it a running club, walking, a religious group, it’s likely if you find several people with whom you share a similar interest, at least one will turn out to be friend material. Do your homework, Google can be extremely helpful, search for your activities, for your favourite places, keep trying until you find at least one thing that you can do where there are people you will meet. Once you find it, make sure you turn up, go not matter how scary or awkward it may feel, keep your goal in mind, you’re finding your new best friends, they are worth the search!
Be aware that one dangerous trap to fall into is to only have expat friends, sharing a language is wonderful, especially when you’re homesick, but how about fitting in with the locals? Try to find people who only speak and understand the local language, join that group! Be brave.
On the other hand, how wonderful is it to have many expat friends? Friends who share the same experience as you. It’s really not easy being brand new somewhere, we go through an emotional roller coaster, having support from those who are maybe further along in the process, who you can express yourself with in your own language, that is also a wonderful idea. You can do both, local friends and expat friends! Remember, you’re choosing your brand new people, those who will become precious in your life, you can have local friends and ones who are also struggling to find out how to make friends in another country.
Let’s do this!
Here in Florence we have some wonderful choices of some amazing groups (all tried and tested by me ; ) where you can for sure make new expat and local friends. Remember, expat friends does not mean friends from your home country. It usually means people from all corners of the world, who have settled in the same place as you, who will not only share your experience, but will also teach you about their own amazing culture, and widen your world view even more.
Speakeasy Multilingual- this is my number one choice because you not only meet lots of expats, you also meet lots of Italians who are trying to improve their English, French, German… The idea behind this group is to be a language exchange group, foreigners learn Italian and Italians learn your language, whatever it might be! When you get there, they ask you what languages you speak, you wear a badge and Italians magically come to you to exchange! It’s the perfect group for any new arrival who wants a shortcut into having a cool social life and local friends. Check out their website for information on how to join.
Cultural Salon – Cultural Salon is wonderful. In the time before Covid (remember?), they used to hold at least one event a week, which was not only interesting, but informative, educational, unique. Their events were well attended by a variety of people, mainly expats, who loved to know more about Florence, Italy and the local History, all while enjoying prosecco in great company.
Ladies Adventures Florence – again a group mainly attended by expats, but also by some Italians (it’s not like they’re not allowed in…). This group is a bit different, it’s for ladies only, and it’s for walks around Florence and the country side. The walks are really well organised, there’s a full itinerary and all the information you need before you go. You can choose to join any walk, there’s no obligation, you can turn up on your own safe in the knowledge that you will be made to feel welcome.
These 3 are just a snapshot of what Florence has to offer, there is so much more. There are religious groups, paid groups, ladies only, dating opportunities… Whatever you choose, do or find, know that the city of Florence has an amazing structure to give you the best and most fun social life you’ve had since college times. Just be brave.