Expats Unite – New Friends in Florence
It has been almost eight years now that I have lived in Florence and in the beginning it was so easy to meet new people. I would sit in the Edison bookstore in town, pull out a book and a few hours later I would have pocketed several phone numbers and would be going out to dinner with a new friend. No mom, they weren’t (all) sketchy Italian men trying to pick up foreign women, ha ha… just kidding!
It was seriously a myriad of international people eager to make new friends. It felt a lot like freshmen year of college, so easy to meet people because everyone else was new and wanted to meet as many people as they could. I would (and still) get the same questions – what’s your name, where are you from, how long have you been in Italy and why. These ice breaker questions easily brought people together, I think friendships were created just through the fact that you were both living abroad in another country and you were doing it together.
Now that I am married and have a child, it is harder to find the time to go sit in a bookstore and not as easy to meet new people at the drop of a hat (not to mention, Edison bookstore no longer exists boo!). But, the one thing that hasn’t changed over the years, is the fact that Florence is seriously still bursting at the seams with expats. I still feel like one of my favorite things about living in Florence is the constant flux of international people that come into town and the fact that they always want to connect with each other. Maybe it’s because living abroad for whatever time frame is hard when you don’t have your family & friends nearby – so, when you are abroad, you want to find a support system. I know I do.
When I was a newbie expat, I would meet other people who would give me advice and help me out in the beginning while trying to live in Florence… and now, years later with a bit more abroad experience in my belt, I like to think I am able to help others. It is kind of funny, I feel like every time I meet a newbie expat, I want to take them under my wing and tell them all the ins and outs of the Italian system, spewing out facts and trying to help them figure things out. If you ever meet me and you don’t want my tips… just hold up your hand and say STOP! ha ha. I think this stems from the fact that everyone whose lived here for a period of time knows that making it and surviving in Florence can have its difficult moments – I would like to think that we all try to support one another as best as we can, promoting other expats as we move along our own paths.
Okay I digress, as I was saying before, it is not as easy to meet people than when I was a single student, but there are a few tricks to meeting new people in Florence and one of these tips is as simple as joining an online expat group. Yes, just join a group! If you do a quick search online, you can find several expat groups on Facebook or other online communities like InterNations. I believe strongly that if you’re living abroad, you need to create a good network of friends, people who will become your surrogate family – your support system. So, even if you’re shy, join a few expat groups and push yourself to get out there, I promise we expats don’t bite!
InterNations Expat Community
I personally, just joined the InterNations community and after attending their January aperitivo event held at Cabiria in Piazza Santo Spirito, I can report that it was fantastic. There was a really warm and open atmosphere with friendly people, it felt easy for first timers to mingle freely and make new connections. Yes, you’re thinking, but Jackie you’re extroverted, you made new connections because you talk so much! ha. I will say to you, true, but think if you are the shy one at one of these meet-ups, there will certainly be people like me sitting next to you, chatting you up! So, get your game face on and get out the door.
I was pleasantly surprised that the people I was fortunate enough to meet that night came from all around the world, not only Americans. I have been to my share of expat events over the years and this was really a global group, I made new friends from Israel, New Zealand, Brazil, Venezuela, France and some good ol’ Italians! I even met someone who spoke seven languages (Hi, Veronica!)… yea pretty freaking cool.
International Melting Pot
Everyone had an interesting story to share, from a traveler on a two week sojourn looking to reconnect with that special someone, an aspiring artist studying Italian sculpture to even people like me, working and living a new life abroad.
Join an Expat Group
So, if you are new in town and want to meet some new friends in Florence, my advice… go join some expat groups like InterNations (or go sit in a bookstore)! Hope to see you at the next event.
Would love to hear what you do to meet new friends in Florence, leave me a comment!