How to make friends in Brazil (and everywhere else)

When moving to a new place, some people find it easier to make friends than others. This guest post from Lindsay Muller is full of helpful tips to help you start building that all important social network. It’s written specifically about Florianópolis, Brazil, but most of these points can be applied to any new country or city. 

When my husband and I decided to move from Canada to Florianópolis, Brazil, I knew that my number one priority for the first year would be to make friends. For me it was even more important than learning Portuguese. Moving to a country with a new language and culture can be exciting, but it can also be very lonely if you don’t have a good support network/circle of friends.

So how does one go about making friends in a new country/culture/language? Here’s what worked for me:

  • Facebook Groups: Even before we arrived in Brazil, I searched for Expat groups on Facebook. I found one called “Gringos Floripa” and posted a message saying I was moving to Floripa soon and would anyone be interested in meeting for coffee? I made two wonderful friends thanks to that approach.
  • In researching for this blog post I discovered another Facebook group called English Hour that meets at a bar every Friday night. I went for the first time recently and had a great time. It was a great place to meet other international people and Brazilians as well.
  • I signed up for a three month trial with Internations but didn’t continue because I couldn’t find anyone in Florianópolis, although I did speak with a Canadian expat who was very helpful answering my questions about living abroad.
  • When a friend of mine visited us for a month and a half, she used the dating site OkCupid to meet someone who just wanted to hang out as friends. She met an awesome local who showed her around the island, and I know they had a lot of fun together!
  • Meetup.com is another website where you can find people in your city who are doing things you want to get involved in.
First friend in Florianópolis

My first friend in Floripa, thanks to the Gringos Floripa Facebook page

  • Playground: This is obviously pointed at parents, but I met another great friend at a playground! She was there with her two kids, and my son ran up to me, saying, “Mommy, they speak English!” We exchanged numbers and that was that. I have also met a lot of lovely Brazilian moms and dads at playgrounds.
  • Church: Don’t skip this one! When my atheist friend and I moved to a new town in Canada together, we both attended church regularly, and I didn’t even have to force her to go with me! She wanted to go because she knew she’d meet a lot of awesome people and get to know the community. Here in Brazil I attend the Florianópolis House of Prayer (FHOP) which has a LOT of English speaking Brazilians and foreigners. Most of the service is bilingual, so it’s also an awesome way to learn the language. It’s the place I have made the highest number of friends in Floripa (and I meet new people there almost every week).
  • Meeting friends of friends: Floripa is my husband’s hometown so I already had lots of people to hang out with before I started meeting people on my own.
  • Quiz Night (in English) at the Black Swan Pub in Lagoa: So much fun, even if you’re not a trivia buff. I really enjoyed being in an atmosphere where I felt like I “belonged”.
  • Language Classes: This is one I haven’t done, but I’m sure it would be helpful!

After being here for a year, I’m happy to say I’ve made a lot of friends, both Brazilian and international. Admittedly I am a very social person who loves meeting people, so it wasn’t too hard for me. If you are someone who struggles with this, I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and meet as many people as you can at the beginning of your time in a new place. It will keep the loneliness at bay and you will feel much more “at home” in your new home.

Have you lived abroad? What did you do to meet people and make friends? Tell us in the comments below!

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  • Thank you for sharing your great experience! I’m not sure I’d give the same kind of advice though, but we’ve had different experiences and maybe expectations.

    Since we’re talking about Brazil here and not about moving in whichever country, I don’t believe making friends is going to be a big challenge for anyone. I’ve lived in 4 different countries and I swear it was easier for me to make friends in Brazil despite still being learning Portuguese than in my own country after moving from one city to another.

    This is big no big news for anyone here, Brazilian people are really friendly and welcoming (as a culture, with individual exceptions of course). The main obstacle at first I think is the language barrier, and running to expat groups is not going to help with that… on the contrary. I think Internet can be if great help in big cities indeed, and I’ve used it to find friends sharing interests with me. Because if all the Brazilian people you meet are always friends of friends, it might take a while until you find someone for whom you’ll have a real “friendship crush”. Acquaintances are always welcome, but for the more reserved and shy people it’s good to meet people you feel quickly close to. They can share a hobby with you, or artistic taste, or anything specific enough that will give you more reasons to hang out together than just “he’s a very friendly Brazilian dude”. I used to like board games a lot and completely stopped when I started backpacking (for obvious reasons) and never played again then. Once I settled down in Brazil, I looked for groups of players on Facebook (but meetup.com, etc, would work too) and made really good friends that way. It helped a lot for my Portuguese as well, since it gave me plenty of opportunities to speak when it wasn’t just to socialize (like in parties). That would be true also for crochet or samba I believe.

    Anyhow I think Lindsay’s advice is a good option as well, but I wanted to add that in Brazil I find that making friends won’t be the toughest challenge, so it’s good also to think about which kind of friends we’re going to make.

  • Olá, moro no Brasil e gostei muito do seu site. Gostei tanto que continuarei acompanhando :P.. Peço que se precisar de qualquer dica dos costumes brasileiros , a língua ou qualquer outro assunto relacionado entre em contato. Será um imenso prazer!

  • Hi Lindsay,
    Thanks for this post! It’s very helpful!
    We (my husband and I) are moving to Florianopolis at the end of September from Ottawa. I thought it was interesting as you are a Canadian married with a Brazilian, like myself! 😉
    I just wanted to connect with people living in Floripa. If you have an email address, facebook or whatsup that would be great. 😉 We will be going to BH (my husbands hometown) first, for the month of August, then heading to Floripa. We were studying the island quite a bit, if you have any tips about renting or neighborhoods as well that would be great!

    Thanks,
    Andrea

  • A US citizen that is a permanent resident of Brasil, your persistence will pay off. Florianopolis as well as Santa Catarina are such wonderful places to live. I advise people to just watch novelas to learn portugues fast. And if you are reading this outside of Brasil, then subscribe to O Globo television in your country. It is $22 a month in the USA and my continuing portugues lesson. May God smile upon your adjustment to Brasil.

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