Updated: Sep 2, 2017
The ability to find and build a support system when you move somewhere new is one of the major things that can make the difference between feeling at home or feeling lost and isolated.
We have moved home more than some and less than others, but the stories I have shared with friends on the expat trial always seem to have similar themes.
After the busy phase of figuring out all the logistical hurdles and numerous tasks of packing up your life in one place and shipping it across the world (or just ‘down the road’), settling kids into a new school and figuring out where everything is; the most common subject that causes stress is how to find new friends and feeling apart of a community. And this was the case even when moving a couple of hours away or halfway around the world. Friends who have moved more frequently tell me they feel less inclined to make the effort to make new friends because of the emotional upheaval of having to say goodbye. Those who have moved only once or twice can find it intimidating trying to join already established groups.
With more and more people relocating, whether locally (730million) or internationally (244 million), we still want to feel connected and build friendships with people who understand us. My favourite definition of community is:
“a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.” - Naomi Hattaway, I Am A Triangle
Here are 5 tips to help you find your tribe:
1. Join a local group:
Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start and knowing which one will have people that will ‘get’ you. Check out meetup.com for local groups to join around all sorts of interests, from knitting to hillwalking, you are likely to find a group that shares your passion, or encourage you to try something new. Other groups to try could be internations.org, American Women's Association, I am a Triangle and Girls Gone International.
2. Chat to other parents:
Ok this one is more suited to parents (and would be kinda creepy if you didn’t have a kid), but ask them to meet for a coffee, where the best yoga class is or arrange a playdate. As a mum myself, I found that finding a group of mum friends is vital for survival in a new place. From swapping babysitting to swapping tips and stories, to being there when you need them the most and understanding the struggle, having ‘mum’ friends who have your back (and can make an awesome cocktail!) can make or break a move. Online, you can find local groups through The National Childbirth Trust or Mumsnet. There are many more smaller local webistes and facebook groups all over the world. Please feel free to share the best ones you've found over in the facebook post to help out someone else.
3. Sign up for a class:
Whether it’s learning the local language, or learning a new skill from photography to cake decorating, or something more academic like getting your MSc (if you’re crazy like me!), up leveling your skill set is never a bad thing. My favourite this was meeting so many like minded people from all over the world who had similar interests with me, and mature students who were also juggling family life and a degree. Having a shared experience, supporting and learning from each other really helps to develop strong relationships. Don’t forget to socialise with your classmates afterwards! For Aberdeen check out University of Aberdeen, Robert Gordon University, or North East Scotland College.
Find a local charity or cause that you have a passion for or have skills that you can offer. One person told me when they moved she felt really lonely, lost her purpose and wanted to feel apart of her new community, so one day she saw a group of Brownies and followed them to the village hall! Where she presented her Brownie Leader certificate and explained how she was new to the area and asked if they needed any more helpers.
This may have not been the best way to go about it, but there are lots of ways you could help out. From the local village committees, or coaching the kids football club, befriend a disadvantaged child, work in a charity shop, church groups, help out at the local animal shelter etc. You may need to have certain certificates or police checks depending on where you are and the type of work you are doing, but the chances are you’ll find it really rewarding and find a few new friends in the process. If you're in Aberdeen check out Befriend a Child, Project Scotland or Volunteer Aberdeen.
5. Say YES To Everything:
Take advantage of new things on offer in the area. Have a look on the local tourist board websites and head to the local library, village noticeboard and join local Facebook groups to find out everything that is happening in the area. From Jazz Festivals, to wine tasting events, cinema nights to local traditions, get immersed in the local culture. Create a bucket list of all the things you want to try and make great memories and experiences that will last a lifetime. For Aberdeenshire check out VisitABDN, Aberdeen Performing Arts or The List.
Do you have any other tips for finding new friends? In the comments below share your best websites, groups or events for your city, that you would recommend to help someone feel less isolated and alone when they move somewhere new.
RelocateGuru is being created so that everyone can feel like a local and apart of the community anywhere in the world. The website is about to launch soon and will be a place to find, share and organise all the best tips in one place. Sign up today to be one of the first to try it out. It is FREE for users forever!
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