Say “Yes” to Everything

FriendsOne 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!

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4 thoughts on “Say “Yes” to Everything

  1. Pingback: 10 Reasons to Volunteer « ExpatriateLife

  2. Pingback: Repatriation – Two Years On « ExpatriateLife

  3. This was roughly what I told my friend, when she emigrated with her parents. I spent an awful lot of time on the phone to her when she first went out there because she was having a rough time adjusting. And it wasn’t visas or work permits or expatriate health insurance that we were talking about or any of that top-level stuff. It was how she’d make friends.

    And of course, the answer is that you make friends in exactly the same way you would here; by putting yourself out there. But that’s ten times as scary when you’re in another country and a obviously a lot harder if you’re trying to learn the language.

    But as you say, it is a case of taking your courage in both hands and just doing it. I have to admit, I have no experience of being an expatriate myself but I’d imagine that the first time is the worst. After that, it would get a little easier each time.

  4. Thank you for that thoughtful comment, Becky. I think part of the problem for new expats is that many are not used to making new friends, or at least not all at once. If you live in the same place most of your life you acquire friends gradually through school, university, work, etc. To suddenly find yourself in a place without any friends at all is quite disconcerting and having to start from scratch is daunting. However the good news is that if you can locate a group of fellow expats you’ll probably make friends quickly, as everyone is in the same situation. I think it’s a big mistake to say “I only want to make local friends” at first. Of course making local friends is a good idea in order to fully experience your new country, but initially fellow expatriates can be a welcome support system.

    As for it getting easier each time, I’m not sure that it does. A lot depends on where you find yourself. I struggled in my first location just because I was new to the expat game, then quickly made friends in my second posting. Thinking I had it cracked, I was surprised when on my third move I just didn’t seem to “click” with anyone. Fortunately subsequent moves went much better, but repatriation has also been hard. So who knows?

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