Monday, 27 July 2015

Where to Meet People When You Are The New Expat on the Block

There's no getting away from it - this is moving season. The time of year when expats leave and expat arrive. A time for hellos and goodbyes.

Moving to a new country, away from family and friends, away from a life you have built up takes a lot of courage. It can be thrilling, there is no doubt about that; meeting new people, creating a new career, experiencing new cultures and learning a new language. It can also be extremely daunting. And very lonely.

Making new friends when you arrive in a new place is usually first on the to do list after unpacking, scouting the area and getting the children settled. But how? 

There are a number of ways to meet new people who are in the same boat and they all involve getting 'out there'. Think outside the box and you are likely to meet people with the same interests.

One expat friend of mine combined one of her passions with the desire to get to know new people - she joined a book club.  Another friend, not long after becoming a mother, set up a toddler group in her host country Belgium.

I have personally found other English speaking mothers where I live using expatriate forums and even a Dutch site for 'stay at home' mums - so looking in unexpected places can yield unexpected results.

Author, Jo Parfitt, swears by networking. She told me once in an interview that one of the first thing she does when she moves to a new country is join a professional network, like Connecting Women, which is a Hague based organisation.

Here are a few more ideas for expanding that social or business network when you land on new shores (with Dutch specific links):
  • Join a Parent & Toddler group, and if you cannot find one then start up your own 
  • Join a parenting group - like Amsterdam Mamas which is an amazing group for advice, activities and information or seek out parenting events (like those hosted by Passionate Parenting)
  • Women's Professional Networks
  • Spouse networks (like the Global Outpost services of Shell)
  • Voluntary work (Access is a good place to start in The Hague or Amsterdam)
  • Book clubs, reading groups or writer's circles (Check out The American Book Center in the Hague and Amsterdam)
  • Maternity classes (Access offer English language prenatal courses)
  • Sports clubs
  • Expat forums
  • Expat groups (see the list of clubs and groups on Expatica)
  • Take a language course
  • Get involved at your children's school with after school activities
  • Indulge your hobby - join a choir, writing group or a photography or art group
  • Sign up for an evening class 
  • Local libraries have ''story time'' sessions for the children - a win win. Junior is happy and you meet other parents in the area
To close, there's a chapter on making friends as an expat in the Netherlands in the book Dutched Up!: Rocking the Clogs Expat Style including my take on making friends as an expat which is namely this: it takes time to make good friends and it usually happens when you stop trying.

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