As kids, making friends was easy. You played in the sandpit together, talked to anyone, and a game of tag made for immediate bonding. Now being a little older, making new mates can be hard, wherever you are in the world.
If you’re heading to Australia for a year or more of adventure, and you’d like a friend or two when you’re over there, then you’ve got to think of Oz as your giant sandpit. Perhaps don’t chase people round poking them, screaming ‘tag’ in their ear, but chatting away to everyone you meet, at least at the start, and suggesting meeting up, like a playdate of sorts, will really help.
If that sounds like your idea of hell, read on and we’ll guide you through.
Step 1: Prepare before you go
Before your backpack is even on the plane join a few Facebook groups and forums filled with people in the same position. Try the gapyear.com message boards, or Pomsinoz.com or Ready4Australia.com – they’re filled with people who’ve either done, are doing or are about to do exactly what you are.
More local Facebook groups like Perth Poms also show you which other Brits are in your area and give you a way to reach out. Try introducing yourself and ask if a few people fancy meeting to help you get your bearings. Make sure to go back and reply when people do get in touch though, otherwise it just ruins the platform for everyone.
Step 2: Choose accommodation wisely
Accommodation is critical when it comes to first-day buddy-building. You don’t want to be shut away in a private hotel room. Instead, choose a hostel that has a strong social element with shared dorms. Preferably go for one offering lots of activities, and possibly a bar, so that there are plenty of opportunities for you to bond with fellow travellers.
Opt to stay somewhere like Sydney’s Home Backpackers Hostel, which has two TV lounges and an outside terrace as well as free city tours and nightly parties. Blue Galah Backpackers Hostel in Adelaide even has its own nightclub and steam room. By joining in the pizza nights and chilling in the social spaces you’ll soon meet new people naturally without feeling that pressure.
Step 3: Be a joiner
Keep putting yourself out there and sign up to all sorts of activities and you’re bound to come back with some besties. Doing a free walking tour on your first day helps you to get to know your surroundings as well as other potential city newbies while keeping the costs down. Check out Imfree.com for the free tours of Sydney and Melbourne.
Step 4: Push your boundaries
After all that walking and talking you may just want to hit the bunkbed, but give yourself a bit of a boost by doing your hostel’s bar crawl. You may feel shy at first but everyone is in the same position wanting to find the best drink prices and bond over them – what better way to do so than with a beer in a cool bar?
Perth’s Hive Hostel is well-known for their lively crawls, while Bunk Brisbane Hostel runs one every Friday night. Bizarrely, it also hosts a reptile meet and greet so you’re guaranteed to make at least one friend.
Step 5: Find the app for that
As cringe as it may sound, signing up to dating apps can be a great way to make friends. Not always about the hook up, the likes of Tinder and Bumble have loads of people who are also just looking to meet people in a new place. If you’re not single though, perhaps make your intentions clear to avoid awkward first encounters or download ‘Party with a Local’. It’s an app that hooks you up with those who live in the area and are available to show you a good time in their hometown and your new neighbourhood.
Step 6: Follow your heart
Get some gigs in the diary. If there’s a band you like or a genre you’re into and a concert happening, get yourself there. Forget the fear of looking like a loner, grab yourself a beer and enjoy the music with other people who appreciate the same songs. You’ll soon find yourself chatting to fellow fans and come away with a new crew. Cherry Bar and the Corner Hotel in Melbourne have live music most nights and are institutions when it comes to the Australian music scene while Brisbane’s The Zoo has been nurturing breakthrough acts since 1992.
Step 7: Just do it
Push yourself to do things you perhaps wouldn’t at home – after all that’s what the next few years in Oz are about, and what better day to get pushing than day one? See what’s on offer with the local tour operators and sign yourself up for some adrenaline-pumping activities over the coming days. Dive the Great Barrier Reef, jump out of a plane in Perth’s Jurien Bay or go jet boating in Cairns. The ‘I’m going to die’ moments you'll have on said activities are bound to bind you with your fellow thrill-seekers.
Step 8 – If at first you don’t succeed…
Don’t be disheartened. If day one doesn’t go as planned and you don’t find your new best friend then hit pause on the panic. You have another 364 days to find the lucky people who don’t yet know you’re on your way. Get some rest, recuperate from the jetlag and head on to day two with energy and enthusiasm for making Australia your new home and the people in it your new friends.