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Insight, wisdom, lessons learned and everything in between to help you find the information you need for smoother transition between diplomatic assignments.

The 3 Biggest Mistakes When Making Friends

Updated: Sep 28, 2023

It's Guest Blog Time!

When my spouse and I were talking about what life might be like if he was accepted into the foreign service, we didn't talk about all of the challenges we might face finding friends. We knew we would meet lots of interesting people but we didn't really think much beyond that.

Each assignment we have had has been different when it came to making friends and building our community. Some places were easier but our lives change so much from one move to the next that I am sure it plays a part too. While I think that people are more supported today as they transition the globe, one area you aren't likely to find a course through FSI on is How to Make Friends. This is where our latest Guest Blogger Sarah Siegert comes in! Sarah is a friendship coach (who knew, but wow I love this!) and an Expat herself.

Young professionals socializing.
Making acquaintances is easy but making friends takes effort.

Guest Blog by Sarah Siegert

Making friends as adults can be a daunting and uncomfortable experience. When we were younger, making friends seemed so much easier - we connected with people so easily and naturally. Now, making new friends isn’t as easy anymore. We and our lives have changed and so has the process of making friends, it isn’t as organic and natural anymore. Instead it is something we need to consciously work on - similar to losing weight.

It is not meant to be an easy and organic process, it’s meant to be a process you dedicate your time and heart to.

Mistake #1

Most people don’t realize that making friends requires effort. They believe that making friends should (still) come naturally and easily. If it doesn’t, they take it as a sign that something is wrong with them/others, that it is impossible to make friends or that it just doesn’t work for them. When in fact all that has gone wrong is that they have not consciously dedicated themselves to going out, meeting new people and making new connections.

Solution #1

The best way to solve this is to understand and accept that the process of making friends has changed as much as we have and that this is a normal process. It is not meant to be an easy and organic process, it’s meant to be a process you dedicate your time and heart to. Reflect on the expectations you have towards yourself, other people and the process and check in with yourself and decide if these expectations are realistic and helpful to have, or if they are unrealistic and put you under pressure.

Mistake #2

Once you have dedicated yourself to meeting new people and creating new connections, the next thing that you stand up against is your human brain. It will come up with lots of different ways of trying to manipulate you, hindering you from meeting new people, in the attempt to keep you safe. Unfortunately, parts of our brain don't realize that we’re not cavemen anymore who need to be afraid of wild animals and that we are indeed safe to step out of our comfort zone. Of course, it’s hard to resist our brain and oftentimes we don’t - we give in to our brain so easily and end up procrastinating. What our brain really does is preventing us from achieving our goals of creating meaningful friendships.

Solution #2

Unfortunately we won’t be able to change our brains nor what excuses/ beliefs our brain offers - but what we can change is how we respond to it! Here’s what I would like to encourage you to do:

  1. Make a list of all the excuses your brain usually comes up with when it’s time to do something new/ uncomfortable.

  2. Make a list of reasons why you want to do the uncomfortable thing, why is it important, what value it has to you.

  3. Whenever your brain comes up with an excuse (1), you counter argue with a reason (2) and don’t give in to your brain but do the thing you planned to do.


  1. It’s more comfortable to watch Netflix on your couch

  2. I want to go out and make new friends because I feel lonely in my new neighborhood

  3. Go out and meet new people

If you repeat this over a period of time, you will teach your brain that you’re safe to step out of your comfort zone. Your brain will also either stop those thoughts completely or at least offer them less frequently.

Making friends doesn’t have to be a dreadful chore, it can be a fun experience including huge amounts of self love, patience, commitment and empathy.

Mistake #3

Now as you’re out and about meeting new people, you will soon find that you will make some new connections - congratulations! One of the biggest mistakes I see people make is that they become too impatient and give up way before a friendship could even possibly develop. The world we live in with all its technology and developments has made us prone to desire instant gratification - therefore we have learnt to become impatient in lots of areas of our lives. Unfortunately friendships don’t develop overnight, it can take up to 200 hours of high quality time spent with someone for us to call them a ‘good friend’.

Solution #3

When you meet someone new, remind yourself that it takes time to build a deep connection and decide that you’re willing to do it anyway. When you think it isn’t working, ask yourself ‘how can I increase the quality of the time we spend together to ensure that we will grow closer and build a deeper connection?’. When you feel impatient, think about the process you’re in as something exciting - someone is allowing you to be part of their (emotional) world, what an honor. Making it a fun process with lots of activities you enjoy, laughs and adrenaline might also be a practical way of improving the journey for you.

Making friends doesn’t have to be a dreadful chore, it can be a fun experience including huge amounts of self love, patience, commitment and empathy. The only thing that will determine how the journey pans out for you is you and your mindset - choose your opinion about yourself, others and the process of making friends wisely because it has a huge impact.


Sarah's Bio

Sarah Siegert helps expats living abroad navigate the challenge of making friends as a grown up.
Sarah Siegert, Friendships Abroad

Sarah Siegert is a friendship coach for expats and founder of Friendships Abroad. She helps people who moved abroad, to feel at peace with themselves and end their loneliness by building deep, and meaningful friendships.

As an expat herself, Sarah knows that living abroad without family and friends can be a very lonely experience. She has dealt with social isolation, homesickness and negative self beliefs. She has witnessed the negative consequences that a lack of friends and a support network has on physical and mental health.

When Sarah found coaching, she finally discovered a solution to all of her problems. She was able to overcome them all and build the (social) life of her dreams. Now Sarah's fighting every day for her mission to reduce social isolation and loneliness for expats so they can live a happy and healthy life.

Friendships Abroad helps expats learn to make and keep friends

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