An important aspect of becoming an expat is the ability – and desire – to reach out and try to make new friends. A great way to do that is the wonderful world of the Internet! This past weekend was filled with making new friends and connecting with old ones, highlighting just how small this world is and how invaluable the Internet can be in keeping us connected.
On Saturday, we spent the afternoon chatting away with a lovely couple whose story is not unlike our own. She is Swedish-Panamanian and he is Swedish-Australian, so their instant connection with my Irish-Colombian was natural.
She and my Irish-Colombian had done a research trip to Indonesia together while both were studying Marine Biology at the University of Essex. For the record, that trip was 10 years ago and they haven’t seen each other since!
When we send that friend request to a new acquaintance, it’s easy to keep a thread attached to someone you would otherwise not keep in touch with!
While the two hadn’t chatted in years, her photo in Malta last week popped up on the Irish-Colombian’s timeline. And then the conversation went like this:
So, of course, immediate plans were made to hang out!
They came over to our place where we enjoyed a few beers on the rooftop until our patio umbrella no longer shaded us from the sun, so then we carried on with beers on the shaded balcony instead.
Yes, we have both a massive rooftop and a balcony. Another major win for sunny climates!
Through the magic of the Internet, we were able to share those few hours with some really fascinating people. I just love the fact that we can reconnect with old friends on a whim because we all happen to be in the same random country at the same time.
Hurray for travel and for the Internet!
Making New Friends as an Expat
So that’s how we reconnected with old friends (I say “we” but these were actually new friends for me!). But those friends were only passing through, unfortunately.
If we want to hang out with them again – which we would love to – we would need to go to Sweden (oh, sure, twist my arm why don’t you?!) or they need to come back to Malta.
That’s a sad aspect of moving around a lot and having friends in various countries. But at least we have that connection going for wherever we happen to cross paths again.
It wasn’t just the random path-crossing friends that we spent time with this weekend though.
After connecting and chatting with some fellow bloggers here in Malta, we met up this past Sunday at the In Guardia Parade in Valletta.
The good thing about meeting up with other bloggers is that you feel like you already know them since you’ve read all about their lives and interacted on social media.
The bad thing about meeting up with other bloggers is that you might have an idea of who they are and then reality is entirely different.
That’s something I always wonder when I meet up with readers: am I who they thought I was? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. But that’s our own perspectives and experiences that we project onto others.
So, sure, it could’ve been a super awkward afternoon with random people that we needed an excuse to escape from (or who wanted to escape from us!), but, luckily, reality was kind to us all!
When meeting up with someone you’ve only chatted with online, it’s usually a good idea to have an event to attend together. That way, if you just don’t click in real life, at least you have something to distract yourselves and to still enjoy despite the awkward meet-up.
So off we went to Neptune’s Courtyard in the Grandmaster’s Palace in Valletta to meet these online friends in real life!
Taking Online Friends into Real Life
Using an event as a backdrop for meeting up with online friends is a great way to break the ice, just in case anyone is completely weird. Luckily for us, our new online friends turned out to be totally normal and great fun!
After the In Guardia Parade (which I’ll share more about this week), we spent the rest of the day wandering Valletta.
We had lunch at Caffe Cordina (a must while visiting Valletta), scoured the streets for open bars on a Sunday (no easy feat in a deeply religious country), and even bumped into their other friends since this is a rather small island and these coincidences are not at all uncommon.
The empty streets of Valletta on a Sunday – even in June!
We popped into The Pub, which is tragically where actor Oliver Reed died while in Malta filming Gladiator.
We watched the 4pm firing of the Saluting Battery from the Upper Barrakka Gardens after doting on the cafe cats who strategically place themselves near food and fawning tourists.
“Hey, buddy, you gonna share your snack or what?” -Impatient Pigeon (who was still too smart/scared to get any closer). I love that stray cats are so beloved in #Malta. There are cat villages where sleeping boxes and food containers are cared for by the local community. On many street corners, you’ll find little containers of kibbles or leftover scraps for the neighborhood felines. While seeing strays is usually heartbreaking, I haven’t seen many here who seem to be struggling at all! They’re well fed, loved, and have the freedom to roam. The cats of the Upper Barrakka Gardens know to loiter around the cafe for treats and to lounge adorably on the walls for extra cuddles from passersby. Well played, Kitty Colony, well played.
And then we headed to Sliema by ferry to move in the direction of home, while opting for a refreshing drink en route. It is summertime after all! Afternoon heat requires a cool beverage to balance out your body temperature (it’s science, I’m sure of it). I always believe in balance.
To cap off a fun-filled day, we grabbed an al fresco dinner at U Bistro in St. Julian’s.
We haven’t explored that area much at all, despite its popularity among expats, tourists, and locals alike. So it was nice to learn about a new place right on the water!
Here’s the Moral of the Story
Moral of this story of daily life as an expat: don’t be afraid! It’s okay to meet up with random people who contact you online.
The world is huge but the Internet helps us reach so many more people within it. Before the Internet, we likely never would have met these new friends because our physical paths simply wouldn’t have crossed – despite being on a small island.
When you move to a new country, it is so important to put yourself out there and try to make new friends.
You might meet people you hang out with only once or twice before realizing the only thing you have in common is a home country.
You might meet people who make you want to claim different citizenship so as not to be associated at all…those are unfortunate.
But, most likely, you will meet other people who have similar stories to your own.
You will meet other expats who have chosen this new home for reasons that mirror yours, helping you to feel an instant connection. And you will make new friends easily in a place where you can explore and learn and share insights together.
How We’re Making New Friends in Malta
We have been in Malta for two months and can already say that we have a really nice network of friends around us.
Some are through the scuba industry – an eclectic and fun bunch anywhere in the world!
Others are through an Internations event we attended specifically to meet other expats. Groups like Internations, Meet Up, Travel Massive, and Expat.com are a great way to get connected immediately upon arrival in a new country.
And then some of our new friendships have been through our own dumb luck in finding like-minded people online and then getting to meet up in person. Those are my favorites because of their random nature and the higher likelihood of being just awesome!
The trick to making new friends as an expat is to just put yourself out there and see what happens.
You’ll never know what wonderful people you might be missing unless you expand your circles and make an effort. After all, aren’t strangers just friends we haven’t met yet?
While that should be the norm everywhere, all too often we fall into routines and patterns at home where we see the same people all the time and rarely meet anyone new.
Maybe that’s what attracts us to this serial expat and travel life: the idea of constantly making new friends and meeting people whose stories differ from our own.
In weaving all these stories together, we create a unique life filled with colors and experiences and laughter and joy.
The only common thread we all share is that of wanting to connect and making the effort to share this purposely created pattern together.
Here’s to making new friends all around the world!
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