|The Viet Celts Hanoi GAA during last weekend's invitational. Teams from all around Southeast Asia travelled to Hà Nội for the event. Photo courtesy of Hoàng Đât|
HÀ NỘI - The best advice I ever received came from an unlikely source — my school history teacher, Mr Larkin, during one of our final lessons.
"At university, make sure you join a sports team. It doesn't matter what sport, doesn't matter if you're any good at it. Whatever it is, you'll make friends for life."
And you know what? He was right.
I joined Tarannau Aberystwyth, the university's American football team and the main destination for rugby exiles like myself, and made friends that I still keep in touch with today.
So, when I moved to Hà Nội, I knew what to do.
I joined a Muay Thai club, and again, Mr Larkin's words rang true.
Last weekend, I went to Bangkok with some friends from the gym to watch the ONE Championship. On the plane, we ran into the Hanoi Dragons rugby team, who were on their way to a regional tournament that sounded like it would be equal parts socialising and competing.
Back home in Hà Nội, The Viet Celts Hanoi, a Gaelic Games Association club, hosted an invitational in the capital, Crossfit Tay Ho held the second round of the 2023 CrossFit Open (complete with fancy dress), and countless football teams pitted their wits against each other before sinking a few cold ones after the final whistle.
What's the point of all this, you ask?
Well, finding new friends can be tough for a lonely expat far from home. You're in a new place, surrounded by unfamiliar faces, and the prospect of meeting new people can be daunting.
Joining a sports club can be a fantastic antidote.
You'll find yourself in a group of like-minded people who have all gone through the experience of moving to a new country and trying to make a home there.
The shared experience of living in a foreign land can create an instant bond between teammates, and you'll find yourself with a group of people who are more than happy to show you the ropes and introduce you to their favourite spots in town.
Furthermore, sports teams can offer stability and routine in what can be an unpredictable expat life.
Having a regular training schedule and competition to look forward to can be a source of comfort that establishes a routine and a sense of purpose.
All in all, joining a sports team is a great way to improve your social life, meet new people, and establish a sense of belonging in your new community.
So if you're looking to make new friends, stay active, or want to be a part of a community, find a sports club and join up. You never know who you'll meet or what adventures you'll have.
And who knows, maybe you'll be the next Muay Thai champion or rugby star. Or maybe, just maybe, you'll make some friends for life. VNS