Making friends in Germany as an international student
Have you struggled with finding friends as someone freshly arrived in Germany? Then, you are not alone!
Our last survey on international students' experiences when relocating to Germany showed that making new friends in the country became one of the top challenges for them.
At the end of 2021, Expatrio, in partnership with Deutsche Gesellschaft Internationaler Studierender (DEGIS), ran a survey with almost 2,000 international students in Germany from 93 nationalities. This survey aimed at learning more about students' experiences before and after moving to the country.
Read on to know more about the challenges of relocating to Germany as an international student, and stay tuned for ten tips on making new friends in the country.
What were the biggest challenges faced by international students in Germany in 2021?
The biggest challenge for 29% of survey respondents when relocating to Germany was the language barrier. This difficulty was followed by making new friends and finding accommodation, both with 25%.
These results show that the second year of the pandemic posed a real challenge for international students who managed to relocate to Germany. As opposed to the survey conducted in 2020, which placed dealing with the German bureaucracy among the top three challenges international students face when moving to the country, in 2021, the challenge ranking higher than the German bureaucracy was finding or making new friends amid the pandemic.
Other difficulties were also mentioned: German bureaucracy (12%), opening a European current bank account (5%), and cultural differences (3%).
Is it easy to find friends in Germany?
Finding new friends can be a challenge, especially as we grow older. This aspect added to the covid-19 pandemic, which forced us to change how we socialize, made the entire finding-new-friends-experience more challenging. Studies discussed the effects of social distancing on our experiences and mental health. And indeed, international students who have just arrived in Germany would also suffer from the restrictions posed by social distancing rules and online learning.
However, fear not! Making new friends in Germany can be tough at times, but it is entirely manageable. We have gathered ten tips on how to find friends in Germany for you to succeed in your new life in the country!
10 tips for making friends in Germany
#1. Start conversations
Moving to a new country can be an overwhelming experience. For those who are not so extroverted, making new friends can be extra challenging. To connect with new people, you must be open to it and perhaps step out of your comfort zone. And this is probably our most valuable tip: you will probably have to make some effort to make new friends, such as starting conversations or texting people you have just met.
Don't be afraid to start conversations with your new classmates or people you met for the first time. Remember that most of your classmates will also be in the same position as you and will probably enjoy you reaching out to them. If you find it difficult to maintain a conversation, try to ask open questions and make sure to follow up on those questions. For example, you could ask your potential new friend what they are doing to enjoy their time in Germany and build up the conversation based on your shared interests.
#2. Join DEGIS
There are many ways to meet new people. One great way to connect with like-minded students from your city is by joining DEGIS. This non-profit organization allows you to meet other internationals and provides you with tools to grow in your career. And if you did not find a DEGIS chapter in the town you're studying in, you could embrace the experience and start a DEGIS community in your city. Check out the DEGIS website for more details on being a part of this great initiative.
#3. Attend student events organized by your university
With the current pandemic's situation allowing more in-person gatherings, you should also expect your university to resume its educational events. Take advantage of that to connect with classmates and other people from your program and even students from other study courses. It's always a positive experience to have a diverse group of friends from different backgrounds.
#4. Join social media groups for expats
Browse through social media groups, especially on Facebook, and try to connect with internationals living in Germany. You can find a myriad of groups for international students, expats living in Germany, and even groups with people from a given nationality or ethnicity living in Germany or a city in Germany. Of course, if you are based in major cities, like Berlin, Hamburg, and Munich, it will be easier to find more people to connect with. The expatriate community in the country is very welcoming. And it can really help you with valuable information, tips, recommendations, and other stuff you might need along your journey in the country.
#5. Make friends at your workplace
Apart from finding new friends at your university, you can also make friends at your workplace. However, this task could be a bit more complex than connecting with people from your university. In Germany, workspaces tend to be fairly formal, so you may think that there is no space to have a more personal conversation with a colleague. If that is the case, we recommend you always keep the formality, especially when dealing with superiors. But you can connect with fellow working students or interns either in the same area as you or throughout the company. In addition, if you happen to work at a startup, the work environment will probably be way more relaxed and informal than a big company, giving you more opportunities to make new friends at the workplace. Always make sure to respect your colleagues' boundaries and also focus on your tasks. Colleagues who are open to being friends will also respond to your conversations, and you can even bond with them over coffee.
#6. Reach out to other students in your German class
If you are attending a German language course, then your class is filled with internationals from around the globe who might also be interested in forming a friendship with you. Being friends with your German course classmates may also keep you invested in the language. You can support each other and practice German together. In addition, your new friend may have other friends, and connecting with them can be extra beneficial for your social circle.
#7. Download mobile apps to connect with people
There are quite a number of mobile apps mainly focused on people who want to meet new people. And we are not talking about dating apps, even though Bumble and Hinge also give you the opportunity to connect with peers interested in friendship. Rund and MeetUp are a few app possibilities allowing you to find new friends around Germany.
If you are interested in a specific topic, such as running, you could also join Nike Run Club App, Adidas Running app, or any other running app with a social connection to exercise and make new friends at the same time.
#8. Ask your friends if they know someone from the city you moved in
In today's well-connected world, it is very probable that your friends have already been on an exchange program abroad or even met with international students in your home country. Reach out to that friend who has already traveled a lot and ask if they might know someone in Germany or the city you are living in. It is easier to connect with people who are friends with friends as you may share similar interests. Don't be afraid to ask for help. The worse that could happen is getting a no or being ignored, but at least you have tried it!
#9. Stay positive
We know that being new in a country or even in a city is challenging. And sometimes, you might feel a bit helpless, alone, or even homesick. But all these feelings are also part of embarking on a new journey. There will be ups and downs along the way, but it is essential to remain positive. There are so many people out there. Eventually, you will find a group of friends with whom you connect and care a lot about you.
#10. Connect on socials
After joining university events, social media groups, DEGIS, and following our other tips on finding new friends in Germany, make sure to connect with the people you have just met via social media or get their number. It is vital that you reach out to them more often in the beginning to build a friendship. Don't be afraid to put yourself out there and ask if they want to join you on a walk or grab coffee with you now and then.
We hope that our tips have helped you with new ideas and maybe some extra encouragement and energy to meet new people and find friends in Germany.
If you want to check out other results from our survey, download the report here!