This post has been brewing around in my head for a while. I guess because of the circles I travel in on the internet it comes up a bit. Since becoming a featured blog on Expats Blog I figured the universe was telling me I should chip in my two cents worth as well. Post something that would be easy to find, which sums up how we’re working at fitting in and finding friends.
As I will be mentioning in an upcoming post, we’ve been here a year now. That year has been full of adventures and unexpectedness. Some things were fun and worth the wait; Other things we knew would pass if we just gave them enough time and space. Getting up each day and living life helps.
In a lot of respects we had it easy. Well, easier than most. We moved to a country with a very similarly relaxed attitude to the one we had been living in, we moved with a job, we moved to extended family, and we moved to a country where they speak our language even though it’s not their own. We also had the support of our friends and families back home, which has been invaluable.
Making friends is still tricky though. As is purported in the NYTimes article I linked to above, we are both past the stage in our lives where we are in the circumstances to be making new “Best Friends Forever”.
It’s up to you to make the time and put the effort in to new people and friendships, in the knowledge that they don’t have to let you into their lives. They already have established friends and social circles, it’s you who have to fit in. Or not … But everyone we’ve met has been so welcoming, so friendly, so willing to accept us and make time for us. I’m very grateful that the Dutch are as easy going and friendly as they are!
We have been lucky in that our schoonzus (sister-in-law) back in Sydney (married to my gorgeous brother, and mother to my beautiful niece and nephew) has a loving and welcoming family who I’ve now known for over ten years. Not only have they welcomed us with open arms, but they have had us over for dinner, and included us in family functions. At these functions we have been able to meet more friendly people with whom we have things in common.
Unfortunately they are a little far away from Amsterdam, and I remember with chagrin what it was like when we lived up the Blue Mountains and away from our friends rather than in Sydney with them. Though, the two hours travel feels much further in the Netherlands.
Himself has gone out of his way to join the local Go group, and though this wasn’t as full of young vibrancy as we might have hoped, he did have a lot more fun and success at a paella cooking class through Meet Up, where he got to learn some new skills and meet some new people that way.
(Meet Up is a great resource by the way! There is a group for everything!)
Making friends has never been easy for me, but I’ve worked hard at getting out of the house and meeting people. I joined a local knitting group through Ravelry before stepping into the city, and within the first week they had saved my bacon when one of the cats got sick and they were able to help me find a good and local vet. Knitters truly are the best people in the world!
I have been having fun with my fellow language class students too, though there may not be any life long friendships coming out of that one (I’ll keep you posted), they are still good people to spend 4 hours a week with.
For a brief stint at the end of last year I volunteered as a knitting mentor at a group attached to the English Bookshop in the Jordaan. This was really wonderful at the time, as it got me out of the house and meeting new people, but they were fleeting, afternoon friendships. We had yarn in common, but not much else as the group was for pregnant mothers, something I’m not. I still love the bookshop though!
All of the above interactions and some of the introductions wouldn’t have been possible without modern technology and the internet.
The friends we’ve met through family, though we don’t see them often, we still converse, pass messages, and invite each other to things via facebook. This goes for friends of friends, and family of friends we’ve also been introduced to here. Facebook really does have its uses.
The little news tidbits which people post to their feeds means that we’re updated without people having to remember to tell us things, and without the exorbitant cost that phone calls used to be, or the delay that post is.
The groups we’ve joined through Meet Up and Ravelry, which have introduced us to new groups and my volunteering opportunity, have all enriched our lives.
And as I’ve mentioned many times throughout my blog, Skype continues to to amaze me every day. The very fact that we can effectively push a button and speak to people face to face is a (not all that) minor miracle! Not when I still remember patchy phone calls to the other side of the planet which could be affected by sun spots and speech delays!
Finally for us (so far) there has been Himself’s work. Not only are they a very inclusive workplace with lots of extra curricular activities, but there are other members of staff who have moved from the Sydney office also. This has lead to us doing group things outside of work with them, and to me becoming friends with some of their spouses. I have an exercise partner, and there’s been a whisky appreciation group, not to mention Mudmasters, the Melbourne cup party, and Australia Day BBQ!
We have been lucky in our move. But we have also worked hard to make things happen for ourselves, and put ourselves out there.
I will be doing more feature posts like this in the future. What it’s been like for us, and how we’ve handled situations, things we miss, and the little differences. I’ll tag them as “expat” and give them their own tabbed page for easy reference. I hope you’ve found this interesting and informative.
Don’t forget to leave any comments, insights or tips as to what you’ve found works for you in your big life moves and changes in the comment section, and stop on by my Expats Blog Page to leave me a comment there too! (Yes, it’s all about the popularity and the readership! ;)) Hope you’ve enjoyed the change of pace!