This sounds like a thing we shouldn’t have to search for.
But if you just arrive in a new country, as expatriate, student, or simple traveller, you may have difficulties to meet people outside of your based location.
Especially in a country like Japan, where the cultural and social codes don’t allow people to easily communicate, you’ll be likely to face some barriers.
My first surprise in Japan was to notice that people never ever talk out to someone they don’t know! Whether it be in the street, shop or any public place.
So if you want to find opportunities to make friends, Japanese or non-Japanese friends, you have to be proactive and create occasions.
Also, while it helps to speak Japanese when meeting Japanese people, if you don’t, there are many ways to meet Japanese people who do speak a foreign language, as well as a whole international community you can meet in Japan.
Join language exchange events
There are so many language exchange events held everyday!
Especially if you’re in Tokyo, you have the possibility to join several daily events. Some events focus on two languages in particular (for example English-Japanese) and some are opened to any language.
If you’ve never been to a language exchange event before, here what it is like:
- They are generally held in Cafe or Pub, and most of time free(or joinable for a very small fee, between 300 and 500yens).
- Participants are placed according to their speaking skill, level, and talk to each others for a certain amount of time.
- Two hours is the average duration of an event.
- Some event organisers like to include games or such to help the participants to initiate a dialog and find subjects to discuss about. While some like to make you switch place / table so you have the possibility to talk to more people. And, some just let you totally free of actions.
You can find these events simply by googling the relevant terms like “Language exchange Tokyo” or by using interfaces like “Meetup” (see the next section).
Some genius cafes also opened their doors recently, like the English only cafe in Tokyo :
For the price of a cup of coffee, 300 yen, you can join a language exchange event, almost daily! They run it from Tuesday to Saturday.
They also hold board game sessions, as well as various events and workshops.
Join events fitting your interest: “Meetup” application
This is maybe the most popular and used application to inform about events and allowing you create events yourself. So, according to the town where you live, the events choice is quite considerable!
Meetup is an application for all kind of events:
You select your interests / hobbies, the area you live, and it lists up every related events around you.
You can not only find language exchange events, but also events related to cooking, photography, music, museums, yoga, outdoor activities… Pretty much anything!
Sometimes, you just don’t have any idea about what to do of your day?
Then you look at the application and see this super interesting thing-you-never-tried is happening just down your street in a few minutes! That’s what I find great about it, you can even discover new hobbies.
But the most advantageous thing is that people you will meet there share the same interest than you. An awesome way to meet longlife friends.
Join a language school
Naturally, an easy way to meet people is by joining a school.
But when we talk about school, that’s not limited to intensive learning program schools and late night schools.
If you can’t afford it or don’t have time for it there are also fee-less and interesting alternatives. Such as the free school in Shinjuku where you can subscribe to 2 or 3 lessons a week.
See more details in my post here.
The town hall also provide Japanese lessons for a cheaper fee than private schools. Check the official website of your based town.
There are also Community cafes like The 80’s Cafe in Tokyo, where different languages class are given by professional teachers!
For more details check out here: the 80s Cafe.
Use language study applications
I was ashamed to discover this so late, but some very useful applications are here to help you study, and by the same occasion get friends speaking the language you study.
Do you know Hellotalk? This is one of these amazing applications.
What the app allows you to do is, basically ,chatting with fellow speakers from the language you study, and publishing posts on the public ‘wall’.
But the most useful part is in these amazing features:
– Users can correct your text with an easy-to-use corrector tool.
– You can translate directly any contents, and get the furigana reading on Japanese texts. There’s even an audio reader.
Another useful device here is the users’ research option that allows you to search users by location.
You can find people living around you, find partners to practice language exchange.
Join international parties
International parties are held in every big city.
As title of example Tokyo hold parties with a number of participants going generally up to 50~100 persons!
Some are free and when it’s not, you generally pay around 2000 yen or less with drink & food included.
Most of these parties are created and organised by communities for expatriate associations such as Internation, Cultural language associations, as well as various Event organisers.
They frequently publish information on SNS and Meetup application.
Some places are also running parties on a regular basis, like the Speakeasy bar, maybe the most famous international bar. There is one in Tokyo and one in Osaka!
They hold every night different events : French night, English night, Russian night, thematic parties…