The thought of letting everything behind you and starting all over may seem overwhelming for some, but with some tips and patience, anyone can find new friends at a new destination.
First of all, in my experience, it takes at least six months to feel at home at a new location. And depending on how exotic or different this location is from your original home town, it might take up to a year. So relax, and don't rush anything. It is normal to have anxiety and bad days, lots of them.
When we moved to Portland, Oregon from Europe, I was in the honeymoon phase for quite a while. We lived in this gorgeous loft in the very hip Pearl District, everything in this really beautiful city was within walking distance for us, the people oh so friendly and I made friends instantly through other expat's partners. Life was great! And I have to say it stayed like this for a while! The rage phase was short, thankfully. And the understanding and acclimation phase followed quickly and I felt home within less than six months. I think I got lucky! I met more great people through my Masters program and by the time our first daughter was born, if not earlier, I felt like a true Portlander.
Now of course, life did not stay this easy. It never does! :) When we moved to Birmingham, Alabama, things changed. The life that we had gotten used to was turned upside down and after arriving in the South, it felt like we had left the country! Also, we chose (deliberately, I must say) a location where the usual expats do not live since it is further away from Alex's employer. So meeting other expat partners was not an option in terms of making friends. The rage phase lasted much longer this time and I felt depressed for a while, even questioning whether our decision to move here had been the right on. Something you should never do, in my opinion.
I remember listening to Creep in my car and the lyrics
"But I'm a creep
I'm a weirdo
What the hell am I doin' here?
I don't belong here."
felt so true to my situation. I felt and very often still feel like I don't belong here. May sound dramatic, but this is how it felt to me. There is nothing wrong with Birmingham (along the lines of this beautiful quote: “When you travel, remember that a foreign country is not designed to make you comfortable. It is designed to make its own people comfortable.” – Clifton Fadiman), but rather I feel that I have been placed somewhere I don't belong.
Still an interesting experience! I think one should not regret anything in life. Some experiences will be great, others not so good. I guess the not so good one's are the most important one's, because they challenge us. And we can only grow, if we are being challenged.
So how did I "survive" (dramatic again, I know ;) and make friends?
There is an abundance of sources online that can help you find friends abroad:
- Auslandsoesterreicher - a website for Austrians who live abroad, you can register and search for other Austrians in your area through a database.
- Meetup - Mom's groups, German speaking Stammtisch, Expat Groups - you name it, you can find a group for anyone on Meetup.
- Facebook Groups - you would be surprised, but if you type in expat/mom group/volleyball fans/whatever works for you+ your city, you will find at least one group that could potentially work for you. No costs, just add yourself to the group and contact people
- Volunteer at your child's preschool/school/sport activities
- Sign up for a yoga/pilates/whatever interests you class
- Sign your kids up for music classes/Gymboree/dance class and talk to the other moms
- If you have little kids and live in the US: take them to story time at your local libray (it's for free and a great way to interact with other moms)
- Chat up other moms or people that look interesting to you! ANYWHERE, really! I made a friend because I chatted her up at Whole Foods! :)
- Your neighbors