I get a lot of emails and Facebook messages from readers asking how to find friends in Australia. I get it – you’re leaving behind an established network of friends and family and, quite often, you’re starting a new life in Australia where you know nobody at all. It’s totally natural to worry about how to make friends in a new country.
(This is an expanded version of an article that originally appeared in Australia and New Zealand magazine)
When we moved to Australia, one of the things that worried me the most was not knowing many people. We knew one family who had moved over here a few years earlier, and we’d linked up with another family online who were moving to the same place around the same time as us, but that was it! With three young kids, and a husband doing shift work an hour away, it was scary being the only one in charge when emergencies happened (as they always inevitably do when you have small kids!) And it was a worry not having somebody around to share the ups and downs with – by that I mean someone outside the immediate family unit!
Back to the emergencies: There was that time when our youngest (aged two) fell off her brother’s cabin bed and landed head first on a wooden toy box (she was OK, thankfully), or the time I got ready to pick up the kids from school and I found my car had a flat battery and I had no way of getting there, or the time it was raining so hard that I was worried our rental was going to flood because of a blocked drain at the side of the house or during another storm when our pool was about to overflow and I couldn’t work out how to start the drain function. Typically, emergencies always seem to happen when my husband is at work!
Having a support network gives you a safety net. It means you have someone to help watch the kids if you need to do a quick stop at the emergency room, or if you need someone to give you a jump start or to collect the kids for you from school, or you need someone to come over for a cuppa on a stormy day to assure you that the drain is working even though it was overwhelmed with the deluge of rainwater. Or you need help to drain the pool at 7am on a Sunday morning (yes, all of those are true stories!)
In the UK, it’s normal to feel guilty asking for help. You tend to rely on your family, but don’t want to put others out. When you land in your new country, you need to get over that. You need to get comfortable calling out when you need help. And here you’ll find that people genuinely are very happy to help you.
Why it’s important that you find friends in Australia
Having people to call on in emergencies is handy, but you need to find friends in Australia for other reasons too. For your own mental health, you need to find your people. People you can share your wins with, and people who you can moan to on days when it’s hard, or call on when you’re feeling homesick. There will be tough days and challenges as you get settled, so you need to find some people you can have fun with as it makes everything so much easier when you aren’t going through it all alone.
You need friends, and your friends in Australia will soon start to feel like family so that it stops feeling weird if you have to ring them at 6am in an emergency or if they have to call you at 11pm to drop one of their kids over while they take their other child to the hospital (friendship works both ways!).
Where to find friends in Australia as an adult?
The question is, where do you meet these new friends when you arrive in Australia and don’t know anybody?
Every day you will find opportunities to meet new people. At the park with the kids, at work, at the school drop off, at toddler groups, by volunteering at the school tuck shop, from business networking events, you can make online friends who turn into real friends through suburb Facebook groups too or from Facebook groups like my Move to Australia group or my Thrive in Australia group… Then there are after-school activities where you can chat to other parents, or clubs where you can volunteer to get involved like the surf club or athletics club, if you are religious there are lots of churches…friends can come from all sorts of places.
The Meetup Australia website is also very useful as a friendship site – you can search for meet ups in your area of interest whether that is food, hiking, surfing or business and it’s a great way to meet friends that have shared interests or values.
There are even different friend-finding apps you can use! Think of the concept of a dating app but where you can meet like-minded people to hang out with for coffee! It’s all worth a try as you start to build your network here.
My friends now are a mix of school mums, business mums I’ve met through blogging and freelancing, and friends I’ve met through Facebook groups and migration forums. It’s a real mix of people and the best part is that I keep meeting new people all the time – I haven’t reached my quota of friends – I’m open to meeting new people every day!
The thing I’ve learnt most about making friends in Australia is to always make an effort. Every friend you meet doesn’t have to become your bestie but having new people in your life keeps you growing, changing and evolving. You never know where friendships can lead but you need to make an effort to chat to people and to go for that coffee or say yes to that meet up at the park. It does take effort and I know this can be exhausting after you’ve moved halfway across the world, but the way you get settled here is to create a new network of friends and that takes some work.
Where can your kids make new friends?
Kids will make friends easily at school so it’s much easier for them than it is for the grown ups. But it’s still worth encouraging them to make new friends at the park or at after school activities too. If they had a favourite sport or activity back home, try to find a club or group for them to join here. If they didn’t do anything before you moved, use this as a chance to explore different activities to try to find something they love doing (we’ve tried being members of Nippers at the surf club, done running club, acting classes, guitar lessons and musical theatre – it has all helped them gain confidence and make new friends!)
You will need to support friendships by swapping mobile numbers with parents so you can organise play dates, or agreeing to let them have some extra time to play together after soccer or whatever it might be. Your kids learn so much from you, so when they see you chatting to new people and making an effort, that positive attitude will rub off onto them too.
How to meet new people?
Just make the effort – that is all there is to it! You don’t have to go everywhere or do everything or accept every single invitation, but you do have to put yourself out there, be open and willing to get to know new people. You can meet new people easily, every single day if you’re open to it. Good friends are hard to come by, but it all starts somewhere.
Someone once said to me that they can’t be bothered making small talk at toddler groups and school drop off as they’ve already got a core group of friends they’ve known since childhood and they aren’t looking to expand that group. I see that as being hugely restrictive. Who knows what awesome connections they are missing by staying closed off to new friendship opportunities. An incredible thing about moving to a new country is it takes you out of your comfort zone so you HAVE to make the effort to meet new people. And in doing so you gradually get more confident and start to grow and change. Meeting new, different people has been such a positive influence on my life. Not knowing people here can be a positive thing because it makes you get out there and try hard!
How to make new friends online
If you put yourself out there, you’ll find that soon you have a small network, and before you know it, that network will have grown wider. You will never forget or replace your old friends but when you meet new friends it adds something extra to your life.
Moving to the opposite side of the world is exciting and life-changing. It gives you a chance to expand your horizons and develop new friendships. Friends really do help you get settled in your new home and having some support can make your new life a whole lot more fun.