Making Friends While Teaching Abroad

A Guide To Making (And Keeping) Friends Abroad

You are halfway around the world. It’s just you and your suitcase, maybe a few photos on your phone of friends and loved ones. You took that brave leap into the unknown. You wake up, and for a split second, you have no idea where you are. You come back to your senses. You’re teaching English abroad in China.



The first two weeks are busy with onboarding, training, and getting to know others as well as the city that you’re now going to call home. First, there’s an icebreaker; it’s a good way to bond with others in your group. Open up and let others get to know the real you! There are also training sessions about the company and to get you prepared for your new job. Here, you find out (amongst other things) that EF employees get a 10% discount from Apple stores.



After two weeks of training, exploring, questions, and hotel living – you’re ready for stage two: moving into your apartment. This is where it gets real; settling in and making China your home-away-from-home. Some of us from the same onboarding group opted to move in together to save on rent costs. It was less daunting to go to IKEA with some friends to get bedding and a few extra furnishings. Thankfully, most apartments come fully furnished with various amenities like a washing machine and a fridge.



The third phase is working in your centre. This is what you came to China for! Regardless if you’re at a Kids & Teens centre, Adults school, or the online centre – you get to meet all sorts of people in your centre. Everybody is very welcoming and want to get to know the new face in the office!  I work with some of the most amazing people in the world. Some of my most meaningful friendships were made in my centre with both local and international staff.


Making Friends Abroad


There are some great benefits to having local BFFs…home cooked meals, amazing tours around the city help when need make insurance claims because your and fight delayed for 6 hours! The list is endless. Having international friends creates a sense of a reminder of where you come from. You have someone who can empathize with you. You can talk about things that you miss from your countries. Get lost together. Share many first encounters in this beautiful city!



There’s a saying that says “if you want friends, show yourself friendly”. However, with that said I am well aware that the older we get, the more making friends might be a little more difficult than when we were in kindergarten.

  • Basically, give what you want.
  • Something as little as a smile.
  • A hello. Goes a mighty long way.
  • Be authentic. That’s what those around you need.


Friends Abroad



There is so much to do at EF. Branch out and meet teachers from other centres and products:

  • FREE Chinese lessons for EF employees.
  • FREE monthly teacher events.
    • For example: massage day, foodie nights, sports days, and also visiting tourist attractions in your particular city.
  • You can join life clubs within your school such as planning parties or flower arrangements.



You can also join clubs OUTSIDE EF.

  • I have friends who go to dance classes.
  • Others join gyms or fitness classes and meet people there.
  • There’s also Bon-App where you can find other expats at meet up bars or restaurants


Whilst making friends with people when living abroad might be daunting, once you’re here, it’s easy to do. Take it one day at a time. Just be open, be yourself, go on adventures. If the thought of making new friends abroad is scary and holding you back from applying, don’t let it! There’s a team of trainers, recruiters, ambassadors and other teachers to welcome you on the other side of the world.


Are you ready to make life-long friendships?

Apply to teach English in China with EF English First.


Post by Nomhla Mahalia Macingwane  EF English First Shanghai

MahaliaFrom Mthatha (Nelson Mandela’s hometown), Eastern Cape, South Africa.
I’m all about loving, living and taking each day as it comes! Always up for an adventure. There’s so much more to see and experience out there. Currently teaching English in beautiful Shanghai.

Click here to learn more about Mahalia