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One of the most daunting aspects of relocating to Italy for a short period of time or as a long term expat is the thought of making friends once you arrive. You’ll be plunging yourself into an exciting new situation, relatively late in your life in some cases, but will have to start making new networks and friendships from scratch.
First and foremost, you should move to Italy with a positive mindset. Instead of worrying about how you will make friends you should try to embrace the unknown and be prepared to completely immerse yourself in your new life in Italy.
Don’t forget that when you relocate to Italy, you have a one in a lifetime chance to reinvent yourself, meet amazing people, take up interesting hobbies and try out new activities.
The following are some of the important things to know when it comes to making friends in Italy:
Start Making Connections Before You Arrive In Italy.
As a result of the fantastic connectivity that the internet has enabled you can actually start to make new connections before you even arrive in Italy! Social media is one of the most powerful tools at your disposal to start meeting new friends in Italy, even while you’re still in the United States.
Start by searching on Facebook, or other social media platforms, for Expat groups in the area where you are planning to move to. As you begin to explore the possibilities you’ll probably be quite surprised by how many groups there are. After you’ve found a few groups that are local to the area that you’re moving to you can join them and start to introduce yourself.
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You should also look for community orientated groups in the town or city where you’re moving to. For example, if you’re a keen gardener then try to find a gardening group in the area. Not only will you start to meet people in Italy but you’ll already share a common interest that you can talk about. You could ask about what flowers are the best to plant in Italy or what members of the group would suggest to use as a hedgerow! Essentially, if you share a common interest the possibilities for conversations and making long term bonds are endless.
Don’t be shy about making an introduction to the whole group. You don’t have to go into too much detail so just say that you’re moving to Italy and want advice on settling in or the best places to have dinner. People in the group will be more than happy to give you their insights and in no time at all you’ll see new friendships begin to blossom.
As you get to know people in the groups you can start to have private message chats with them and if you are getting along well you can even arrange to meet up once you arrive! Don’t forget that every Expat retiree who has moved to Italy understands that making new friends can be a challenge so they’ll be pleased to show you around and help you settle in.
Remember There Are Different Types Of Friendships.
In the ideal world everyone you meet would grow into a meaningful friendship; however, in reality there are different types of friends that you will make. For instance, some of the people that you meet will only be acquaintances while others you might meet for a weekly coffee. Only in a few cases will your friendships grow into becoming deep and meaningful relationships.
Therefore, when you are meeting new people in Italy don’t be put off or disappointed if you don’t hit it off straight away with everyone you meet! In fact, you may not even particularly like some of the other Expats that you meet in Italy. This is only natural though so don’t allow yourself to become depressed if you don’t instantly meet a new best friend as you step off the plane.
So try to be open to all different types of friendships; this might include casual acquaintances with the local barista at the cafe or the hairdresser you visit as well as a few people who become lifelong friends.
Keep An Open Mind, Wherever You Go In Italy.
When you first move to Italy, before you’ve established a friendship circle of your own, try to be open minded wherever you go. If you drop by a cafe then don’t be afraid of saying hello to a stranger – this is quite common in Italy! Similarly, if you find yourself on the bus next to an Expat why not introduce yourself?
As well as being open to meeting people wherever you go you should also be prepared to make friends with new types of people. This means that you shouldn’t simply try to replace your friends at home in Italy with similar types of people but instead you should be open to getting to know all kinds of different people!
This includes people of different ages so even if most of your friends back home were of a similar age to you in Italy you might find that you have a much wider range of age groups in your friendship circles.
Great Places To Meet New Friends In Italy.
You could meet a new friend anywhere by chance but there are also places that you can go where you will be more likely to meet other Expats who have similar interests to you. If you meet someone in an art gallery, for example, you can be fairly sure that they are also interested in art!
Expats love to visit the farmers markets in Italy to browse the amazing selection of fresh organic produce and ingredients to use in their own home cooking. Farmers markets often have cafes and restaurants nearby that serve customers who have already bought their food at the market and want a quick coffee or refreshment before they head home.
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This makes farmers markets a great place to meet new friends. You could strike up a conversation by asking if they had any advice about the tomatoes on offer or which stall they prefer to shop at. If you feel like things are going well you could invite them to have a coffee with you after they’ve finished their shopping.
Cafes And Bars.
One of the best places to meet new friends in Italy is in the many cafes and bars. Some of the cafes and bars cater mostly to locals while others cater almost entirely to the Expat community. If you don’t speak Italian it’ll be a lot easier to meet other Expats so you should try to drop by these establishments on a fairly regular basis.
The Expat communities in Italy are quite close knit so if the other Expats see that you’re new they’ll probably make the first move and introduce themselves to you and offer to join their group at the table!
Health Spas, Gyms And Fitness Centers.
Gyms and health spas are a wonderful place to meet new people. So if you fancy keeping in shape then why not get yourself a membership and set aside a regular time each week to go to the gym or, if you’re not a ‘gym person’, pop down to the local spa.
Many gyms and spas also run a wide range of classes that include activities such as yoga, pilates, swimming lessons and much more besides. These classes are another great way to meet people with similar interests to you.
Do You Have A Dog?
If you have a dog then it’s super easy to meet other dog walkers and get chatting with them. This is a good way to find new friends, particularly if you’re a bit shy! The dogs will naturally introduce themselves to each other and then you and the other owner can start to exchange a little small talk about your dogs. You can take this opportunity to tell the other dog owner that you’re new in the area and maybe ask about other places they like to walk their dog or where they get their pet food from.
Another nice thing about meeting other dog walkers is that you’ll probably see them most days when you’re out walking your dog; this is especially true if you take your dog walking at the same time each morning.
Consider Joining A Lunch Club.
One of the most popular social activities for retiree Expats in Italy are lunch clubs. Lunch clubs are usually held once a week at a local restaurant and gives members the chance to catch up on the week’s gossip while sharing a meal together.
Some lunch clubs choose a different restaurant each week whereas others have a regular establishment that they visit each time. This will be somewhat dependent on where you’re living though. For instance, if you’re living in Florence then there’s enough restaurants to try a new one each week whereas if you’re living in a smaller town there may only be a couple to choose from.
Making friends over a meal is one of the most relaxing ways to get to know each other and since there’s a group of people there you won’t feel under pressure to do all the talking.
Volunteer In The Local Community.
Another way to meet new friends is to volunteer in the community. Not only will you be able to branch out and make new connections but you’ll also be helping others in need. There’s a whole range of ways that you can volunteer as an Expat in Italy although you’ll have to accept that different places will have different programs in operation.
Examples of the ways you can volunteer include, but are by no means limited to:
- Help children and students to practice their conversational English and reading skills.
- Volunteer with a soup kitchen that provides food for the homeless and others in need.
- Work as a volunteer tour guide in a local museum or art gallery.
- Pick up litter in the public parks.
- Help out at an animal shelter or rescue center.
There are many other ways that you might find you can volunteer as an Expat in Italy. Check on social media and ask the community groups if they know of any opportunities that you can join in with.
Sign Up For Workshops.
If there are any new hobbies or skills that you’d like to learn more about then you can sign up for a workshop to meet new people with similar interests. Expat communities often run their own English speaking workshops in subjects that range from photography to gardening, from arts and crafts to cooking.
Workshops are a fun, hands-on way to learn a skill while meeting new friends as an Expat in Italy.
Join A Language Exchange Program.
If you’d like to make friends with local Italians as well as Expats, which is certainly a good idea, then you might want to join a language exchange program. In these programs you meet in an informal setting and help each other with your respective languages.
For example, you would help your Italian partner with their conversational English and they will help you with your Italian. There’s different ways that you can arrange your meetings. One way to do this is to take it in turns to speak either English or Italian while going on excursions together. Sometimes you could arrange to go to a museum and only speak Italian and then another day you could have a picnic at the beach and only speak English together.
This way you will really get to know each other while both benefiting from each other’s native linguistic skills and knowledge. Taking part in this type of language exchange program is not only free but it’s much more fun than sitting in a classroom learning vocabulary and grammar!
Make Use Of Apps Such As Meetup.
Meetup is a specially designed platform that facilities people to meet up with each other. The app is full of different groups that you can join to meet people with similar interests, ages and nationalities.
Meetup is a great way for Expats to explore new hobbies, attend community events and get involved with upcoming gatherings. When you get onto the app you can browse through the different groups in your area or set up your own community group.
To start exploring this app you can check out the directory of Italian locations here.
Once you get onto the page you simply find your province and then click through to your town or city. Once you find your location you’ll see a list of the groups in your community that you can join.
Throw Yourself A Welcoming Party!
Last but not least, why not throw yourself a welcoming party when you arrive in Italy? All you need to do is to get some flyers printed up and deliver them through your neighbors’ letter boxes. Your flyers should introduce yourself and invite them over to your house to meet you and have a few drinks and snacks together.
This is the perfect way to quickly meet your neighbors in a relaxed setting. Alternatively, if you don’t want to get flyers printed, you can advertise the event on community social media groups.
Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone And Make New Friends In Italy.
Moving to Italy to enjoy your retirement will be the beginning of an exciting new chapter in your life. It’s important that you approach the whole experience as a fun adventure and keep a positive mindset as you make friends and find your feet abroad.
Once you arrive in Italy you can completely reinvent yourself, meet new people and immerse yourself in new hobbies. As a retiree you’ll have more time on your hands than ever before so you can easily fit in a weekly lunch group, a language exchange, visits to the local museums and excursions to the beach!
Life for Expat retirees in Italy is wonderful. There’s a great Expat community who will welcome you with open arms and many fantastic opportunities just waiting for you to discover.