One of the most daunting things facing an expat is arriving in a new country and not knowing a soul. At first you’re busy settling in, finding a place to live, opening bank accounts, buying a car – but at some point you’ll find yourself sitting on the couch and wondering “now what?” Or maybe your child’s school asks you for an emergency contact and you suddenly realize your sister or your best friend is no longer around the corner.
The best advice given to me by a fellow expat was “say yes to everything.” Coffee with the mums at the school gate? Tennis after work? A neighbourhood party? You may cringe at coffee mornings, hate exercise or freeze at the thought of a room full of strangers, but push yourself to go anyway. The activity isn’t important, but the opportunity to meet people is essential and, most importantly, you may not get invited a second time.
As a non-working trailing spouse I’ve been to countless coffee mornings, bridge parties, and craft groups, despite the fact that caffeine gives me hot flashes, I’m a lousy bridge player and I’m barely capable of sewing on a button. But I quickly discovered that the real purpose behind all these events is to get people together and that like me, other expats, were friendly and keen to make friends as well.
It’s unlikely that anyone will come knocking on your door, so it’s up to you to make the first move. Do your research, check out local websites, magazines and notice boards. Maybe you need to join a club or sign up for a class. Take up a new sport or volunteer for a good cause. One of the joys of moving to a new country, in fact one of the things you owe yourself, is the chance to try something you’ve never done before. So take your courage in both hands and get out there!