“I just don’t know if I’m up to meeting all new friends. Again.”
“There was so much drama at our last post. This time I’m going to just focus on myself.”
“I’m feeling (insert negative self-talk here) and I just can’t imagine anyone is going to want to get to know me.”
“I’m too shy.”
“My last post was so much fun. I can tell already this place is going to suck.”
Do you recognize yourself in any of those statements?
Yet another move, your children’s feelings of grief and resentment, living out of a suitcase for months at a time, and having to figure out a new environment are very wearying to your spirit. Add to that the knowledge that you need to get out there, meet some people, and be “fun” so that you’re not stuck at home alone for the next 2-3 years. So I would not blame you for wanting to hunker down and give yourself some time to acclimate to your new surroundings before being social.
You and I both know that if left to your own devices, before you know it 6 months have gone by and it’s almost time to go home for R&R. At this point you might as well wait until you get back and make the second half of your posting where you’ll shine!
This time, vow that it will be different. It may be true that some people are naturally more gregarious than others. However, each of us has a tribe and you won’t find your tribe if you stay home alone. I can’t guarantee that this new post is going to be the best experience ever, but I CAN guarantee that you’ll never find out from your couch!
5 Ways to Find and Meet New Friends
- Be A Joiner – You may not want to hear this, but it’s sadly true. The quickest way to meet new people is to be a joiner. (I can feel you shudder from here.) Hear me out. This doesn’t mean you have to say yes to every opportunity that presents itself, but you should make an honest assessment of what your interests are and keep your ears open for groups that support them. Church, crafting groups, book clubs, hiking clubs, running clubs, ‘we aren’t joiners’ clubs – these are all great places to meet people. It is entirely possible that you will stumble into a room full of cliquey, mean-spirited people. But it is also true that you may stumble into a room full of people just like you – a bit weary of moving, anxious to have someone they can meet up with for coffee, and hoping that the next person who walks through that door is someone they could see hanging out with. Don’t forget that an invitation for coffee at YOUR house might be the start of a wonderful friendship.
- Volunteer – There truly is no faster way to get to know people than volunteering. Almost every organization and event at your new location has recently lost volunteers and will be grateful for your help. Hanging out with people while engaged in a task is way less intimidating than trying to make small talk in a room where everyone knows each other. (Don’t forget – those women who seem like they have known each other forever probably only met at most a year or so before you got there!) I had some of my most interesting experiences volunteering. Hosting a Czech boys’ baseball team led to a close friendship with a woman in the Czech Republic for over 20 years and counting. Volunteering on a fundraising board in Guatemala led to being mistaken as the wife of the ambassador by school children who put on quite an elaborate performance for “my” benefit. Lending a hand at children’s activities allowed me to get to know the other mothers and kids very quickly without feeling like I was on the spot.
- Don’t turn down any invitations during the first month you’re there. It isn’t like your household goods have arrived and you can unpack anyway! People are anxious to welcome new people at first, but once they have been turned down a few times they tend to move on. I know you are tired. And jetlagged. And not completely convinced that you even want to be there. Say YES anyway.
- Smile. Simply smile and include your eyes. Whatever you might be going through with your car not arriving or the job you were expecting falling through, it’s likely not the person in front of you’s fault and there is a good chance that they are the perfect person to understand what you’re going through. If nothing else, you brighten THEIR day and they will remember that.
- Dig a little deeper. What if there are no invitations to turn down, no clubs to join and no events needing your volunteering hands? You may want to start looking outside the American community. There are almost always cultural exchange clubs, community theater, craft classes, and local NGOs that would love to have your participation. I volunteered with the Royal Flying Doctor Service Ladies’ Auxiliary in the Outback of Australia and took some fascinating members-only tours with the AWARE Center in Kuwait. Participated in a book club with women from 17 other countries in Sarajevo and volunteered in a preschool at the city dump in Guatemala City. There is a lot of life being lived away from post. (As always, make sure that you know what the security concerns are in your particular area.)
I truly hope that every move and every new location is a blessing to your family and to you. During my 30 years of trailing from place to place I experienced everything a community has to offer: friendships, rejection, joys of a fun group, exclusion. Ultimately I found my way and have friendships that have stood the test of time and place.
Please keep in touch and share your experiences in a new place! You can contact me here.
And learn more about my experiences during 30 Years Abroad here.