How to Make Friends in Thailand
Deciding to live overseas in a foreign country is no small decision. You will be giving up familiar foods, comforts, and people. Over time you will adjust to the food and find your own new comforts, but will you be able to find new people? That is the question. But don’t worry, you can make new friends in Thailand.
The most immediate way to make friends is by going with an organization like CIEE. When you first arrive in Thailand, you will participate in a week-long orientation. You and 60 other teachers will be learning the ropes of living and teaching in Thailand. Amidst this training, you will also go on field trips and have time to hang out at night. Many teachers develop friendships that will last their whole time in Thailand during orientation week. It’s by far one of the quickest and easiest ways to meet people and get connected.
Other than orientation, you will likely make new friends through your fellow foreign teachers. Whether they are from America, the UK, Europe, Africa, or the Philippines, you will be united by a common bond, English. You also will be connected day in and day out through school. Once you get over the initial shock of being in a different country and hanging with new international coworkers, you will realize it isn’t all that different from working somewhere at home. You will still complain about your boss and celebrate birthday parties, in fact, the same things that bonded coworkers at your last job will probably still be true here. As you grow closer to your coworkers, you can gradually develop a friendship that extends beyond school.
In the first few months, I specifically began talking with one of my Filipino co-workers. We bonded over our similar class and a love of food. After talking for a month or two at work, he invited me over one weekend to a party he was having. I was sure to accept and now am regularly invited over to his house. Through him, I’ve met quite a few other Filipino teachers who I’ve become friends with. I even spent Christmas celebrating with them!
While not all of your Thai co-workers will speak English, some may. And those who do will likely want to hang out with you. They love being able to practice their English and show a foreigner their way of life. These friendships can really help you get a real Thai experience. Again, these friendships develop over time, but being open and friendly at work will help facilitate them. Never say no if you get invited somewhere, it can close a door that may not reopen.
This option is definitely more hit or miss, but it can be helpful. There are a ton of online traveler communities on different blogs, forums, and Facebook groups. Follow and interact with these groups. You will regularly see travelers trying to orchestrate meetups, which can be a great way to see new faces.
Finally, living life is one of the best ways to meet people. Don’t stay cooped up in your apartment. Get out there and explore your city. Find a coffee shop or bar you like and go there regularly. You will feel accomplished and begin to be a regular, opening the opportunity to meet other like-minded people. The more rhythms you put in place around your city, the more likely you are to meet or get to know the people around you.
For example, I regularly frequent a coffee shop every Saturday afternoon. After months of visiting, they have memorized my order and I regularly talk with the staff. It’s a place that feels like home now because I’ve become friends with the staff. Or, while riding around the city, I ran into a parent of one of my students. He invited me in for dinner. We got to sit and talk about his son and my time in Thailand.
Making new friends is always scary, but just because you are in a different culture doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Some friendship will pass away as I leave the city, but others will keep going. For example, my Filipino co-workers regularly travel to where I’m moving next year, and we are already planning times to see each other when they visit.