One of the toughest things about migrating is arriving in a new place and having to start from scratch with absolutely everything in your life. You have to find a new job, a new home, new schools if you have children and perhaps the hardest thing of all – new friends.
Many people, including myself, arrive in their new home country and have absolutely no support network at all. No friends, no family, no nothing. So how do you build up new friendships as an adult in a new country?
Lots of people who migrate to Australia are families with young children. This can be really helpful in terms of establishing new friendships – kids go to school and make friends with other kids, so you have a way of getting in with their friends’ families. Hopefully your kids pick good friends but hey that’s a risk you have no matter where you live in the world!
- Meeting Other School Parents
If you are a stay at home parent with school age children, especially primary school aged kids, going to coffee mornings or on lunch dates with other parents (mostly mums, let’s not kid ourselves here!) is often the norm so this is a great way to find new friends. Plus when you make friends with people from your children’s school and learn to trust them, you may even be able to call on them for help down the line (if you needed someone to pick up your kids from school one day or watch them for an hour in an emergency). There are lots of stay at home mums here in Perth so if you’re going to be one yourself, you will probably make friends pretty easily!
- After-School & Weekend Sport
Extra-curricular activities for your kids is another way to get to know other families. While the kids play footy (that’s AFL), soccer, hockey or swim, you can chat to other parents and get to know them. Most after school or weekend sport programs are during school term times and run with the term dates for 10 weeks. That’s ten weeks of chatting to the same people for 30-45 minutes – plenty of time to become acquainted and make plans to meet up outside of these sporting slots. There are hundreds of sports groups and activities for kids across Perth and the whole of Australia so no matter what sport your kids are into, I’m sure you will be able to find a club here.
While the kids are at school, you could also use your free time to volunteer. There are plenty of charities in WA that would appreciate an extra pair of hands, so do some Googling and find a charity you identify with and that you would like to support and then get in touch with them to find out what opportunities there are for you to get involved. This will help you meet people with similar values to yourself which is always a good thing.
- Family Support Networks
In terms of support outside of a school network, there is a great website called Buggybuddys which has everything you need to know about living in WA with kids. They regularly post things to do and places to go but they also have a forum where you can post about meeting up with other families with kids a similar age to yours. If your other half is working FIFO, you can get support from FIFO Families as well.
So that’s all well and fine if you have kids, but what if you don’t?
- Facebook Groups
There are a number of local Facebook groups for South Africans in various locations across Australia, and these are a good place to start when you arrive. Proudly South African In Perth & WA is a great group for those coming to WA (I would say that though as I do admin it!) and for the ladies, I highly recommend joining South African Ladies in Australia. Sometimes you just need to chat with other women about anything and if you haven’t got anyone to share it with in person, this group is the place to go. They also arrange meet ups in cities across Australia so definitely one to check out for the girls.
- Merise Magazine
Merise magazine is a fantastic publication which was started by Suzette van der Heijden after she made the move herself and wanted to create a resource for those in the same boat. Their tagline is ‘Your Migration Inspiration’, and they have some interesting articles about migration and life in general. They also host events across Australia, including many in Perth where the Merise head office is based, so you can subscribe to the magazine (print or digital) and follow their Facebook page to keep up to date with when events are happening.
Another regular meet up group for the ladies is Welcome 2 Perth 4 Women. They host monthly coffee mornings at Gloria Jeans at Hillarys Boat Harbour and are always welcoming new people to the group. This one is more for ladies who don’t work, or have kids in full time school so you can go along and have some time to chat to others without having to stress about your kids.
- Meet Up
Meet Up is another great website which actively encourages meet ups (clearly!) but there are so many different groups to choose from, whether its other South Africans, people who like photography or people who like eating out – if you like it, there is probably a meet up group for it!
- Online Forums
SAAustralia is another popular forum and you could try posting on here to try and find some other South Africans nearby who would be happy to meet up with you. If you made the move via the UK, you may have come across the Poms In Oz and Perth Poms forums. These have their fair share of South African members also making the move and often people post about meet ups here too. I met quite a few people via this forum, and am pleased to say we made awesome friends with some people on here so I would highly recommend putting yourself out there and meeting some new people online (although make sure you apply some common sense when arranging to meet people online!).
- Local Newspapers & Libraries
Keep your eye on community newspapers – most have a local events section and are delivered on a weekly basis so you can find out what’s happening in your local area, whether it’s a talk, workshop or course. Libraries are also a great community hub and often have talks and interesting sessions on offer so sign up to your local library and get their email newsletters delivered to your inbox so you don’t miss a thing.
- Sign Up For A Class
Taking a class is another great way to meet people, whether it’s a one off or a series. Always wanted to learn something like pottery, painting or take a cooking class? Now is the time to do it and meet others with the same interests as you!
- Join A Sports Team
Join a local sports club – Aussies are massive on their sport here so you are bound to find a club nearby to join. From cricket to hockey, AFL to archery, we have it all here!
- Put Yourself Out There!
If you can’t find any meet ups or get togethers that interest you, why not initiate one yourself? Post on a Facebook group or a forum and suggest a meet up in your area – you might be surprised how many other people have been wanting to do the same thing but just didn’t have the guts to put themselves out there.
One last word from me – for every 10, 20 or even 100 meet ups you attend, you may meet just one person that you actually get on with. So the golden rule of your first year in a new country (or even two years) is to never turn down an invitation. Even if you aren’t sure about the person inviting you, you may just meet someone else there that turns out to be your new best friend.
How have you made new friends in Australia? What advice would you give to someone who has just arrived and wants to make new friends?
If you are new to Perth, you might want to check out my post about the top 10 free things to do in Perth.