How to make friends in a new country when you have no time or energy

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How can you make friends in a new country when you simply have no time or energy for it?

Because alongside all the small practical nightmares that need to be sorted out when we’re trying to settle in in a new country, the last thing we have time for is finding friends.

Creating a routine and establishing a settled life already take up a whoooolleee lot of time and a whoooolleee lot of energy.

The same is true if you already have a routine down but you’re finding your social life a little lacking still.

Going to work, gym, hobbies, staying in touch with friends and family from a distance, running errands, maybe traveling a bit, watching Netflix shows, and hopefully finding some alone time as well. All of it takes time and all of it takes energy.

What’s unique about living in a new country, or even just a new city, is the fact that our social lives take a much longer time to establish than most practicalities.

With practicalities, there’s at least a blueprint to follow.

Making friends in a new country does not work like that.

It’s something that we have little control over. And it’s something that needs our constant attention and care, taking about as much energy as anything else.

Making friends abroad takes so much time

But you don’t need me to tell you that there are only so many hours in a day.

And damn if it isn’t just much nicer to stay in and unwind after a long day of taking care of small nightmares.

So how on earth are you supposed to make friends in a new country if you have no time or energy to do it?

How my friend circle suddenly shrunk and I had no energy to do anything about it

Just recently my friend circle shrunk by several people. All of them decided to move to another country pretty much in the same month. It was nothing short of devastating (ehem, still is).

The few friends I have left in this country lead busy lives. Trying to find the time that works for everyone to get together often feels like trying to force a square peg into a round hole.

Meanwhile I have my own work responsibilities, personal life and future goals to attend to.

By the end of the day, all I want to do is curl up in a blanket and hibernate until March. I don’t want to go out and get to know new people, even if I normally would enjoy it.

Making friends as an expat

What’s more – any time that I could dedicate to making new friends is time that I don’t get to spend on other things.

So basically I have to choose between:

a) prioritizing all the existing nuts and bolts in my life, or

b) not going to gym or work, not taking a shower, not chatting with friends (the very same ones who left!), or never sleeping again

in order to create a social life.

In short, it’s like choosing between eating chocolate-flavored earwax or earwax-flavored chocolate.

Okay, I’m not sure about that metaphor, but I’m going to keep it.

My point is, it’s a pretty sh*tty choice.

How I make new friends in a new country when I have no time or energy

The short answer is – I don’t.

Excuse me… what?

Yes, I don’t try to make new friends when I have neither the time nor the energy.

I’m not encouraging anyone to be anti-social, unless that’s your jam, but in that case I doubt you’d be reading this post.

It’s just that I’ve noticed how life sort of goes through different phases.

There are some phases where I dedicate more of my time to my social and personal life. There are phases where my hobbies or work take center stage. And then there are phases where I’m just trying to survive.

My point is, I can’t have it all. And if I try to have it all I will run myself dry.

When we’re tired, fed up and unmotivated, we won’t really bring our best self out into the world.

We won’t really be present to connect with other people and make new friends if our mind is at home like a broken piece of nacho stuck between the cracks of a sofa.

Again, not sure about that metaphor, but hear me out.

People can sense when we’re half-assing it.

So do yourself, and any potential friends, a favor and take a break.

How to make friends in a new country

Don’t pressure yourself to make friends in a new country – it’s okay to take a break and try again later

Living abroad and working towards feeling settled can really be tiring. It can take up so much headspace that there’s little extra bandwidth left by the end of the day.

There’s no real pressure for you to have a super exciting social life right this very second.

No one is judging you for staying home or taking time for yourself more than usual.

If you think there is someone judging you, it’s most likely just your own internal critic. Tell that bugger to go to hell.

(And if there is an actual person judging you, then please, for the love of all that is good, don’t spend your energy trying to please them. They’re not you.)

Consider this your permission slip to stay in and recuperate.

Give yourself a reasonable deadline (a month, a week, a weekend) to really let your hair down and live a full life in your pyjamas.

Start again when you’ve recharged your batteries.

You’ll be a lot more fun to be around when you’ve taken care of yourself first.

Or you might just be as awkward as you’ve always been, but still find that things work out. Just like in this humorous (but oh-so-real) take on making friends by Taking Route.

Do you struggle to take time off from making friends in a new country?

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It’s a pretty tough call… Indeed! I think it gets easier if you can move with your partner (or someone you can recharge your social bar with), but when I decide to not invest much on the social life… It can get really difficult. My biggest problem is that, regardless how taxing finding these early friends is, when I’m less social or by myself I usually devolve into a version of myself I like less; which can easily spiral into heal. Having people I really like around keeps me motivated to be better, becoming someone I’m proud of. But, of… Read more »

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