Friendless in Pretoria

Ok, it’s not quite that bad but as the “summer” (remember, it’s winter here in the Southern hemisphere) begins I am reminded of what it is like when you first arrive somewhere and don’t know anyone.

Many of my closest friends have now left the country for extended holidays in their home countries. Others are still around but travelling or working. And even though I know there are still people here, our routines have splintered to the extent that regular contact is getting harder by the day.

So I walk my dog alone, I don’t meet anyone for coffee, I await the time of the day when my kids will be back from “winter school” which is the best way I have found to keep them occupied while their own friends are absent. Once they are back through the door I might not get much conversation out of them but at least I can stop talking to the dog.

Walking alone - Howth, Ireland - Black and white street photogra

In all honesty right now, it’s fine. We have just been away for a week long family trip which kept us in each other’s company pretty much 24/7. You can have too much of people even when it is your nearest and dearest. So a little peace and tranquilty and “me time” is welcome.

But what it is reminding me of isn’t just what it is like to be a new expat but also what it will be like to be a new repat. And that’s what’s worrying me.

One of the things I have loved most about our life here has been the constant interaction with friends. Without extended family to distract us, we spend a lot of time with each other. In the week I see girlfriends to eat, drink, walk, exercise or just generally chew the fat with. At weekends we meet en famille for lunchtime get-togethers that stretch into the evenings.  Our kids are in and out of each others homes for playdates and sleepovers. We think nothing of inviting two, three or even four extra girls home to sleep the night and then all meet up again the next day for another round of socialising.

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Of course this isn’t to say that I don’t have friends in the UK and won’t make more. But there is something undeniably social about life overseas. Here in South Africa we are freed from the usual weekend chores by having helpers who do our washing and ironing. Eating out is cheap (for those of us on expat salaries – I totally appreciate how different it is for locals) and thus if you haven’t done a food shop recently it doesn’t matter too much. And the weather is just so damn conducive to socialising – no worry about not having enough chairs in your house, you are almost always guaranteed that you can sit outside.

Back home people are far more likely to retreat into their homes. Many have family living close by – parents, siblings etc – and spend the days with them at the weekend. More people are also likely to work – as we all know, one of the issues about being an expat partner is how hard it can be to find work; the silver lining to this is how many fellow expats you know are free to spend time with. It’s not that people in my home country aren’t friendly or you don’t ever spend time with them – it’s just that, well, they aren’t your replacement family like they become overseas.

(I should hasten to add at this point that I do have family I am obviously looking forward to seeing when we return but they don’t live that close and we only generally see them once a month or so).

So whilst I spend my last few weeks in Pretoria relatively alone I know this is all good practice for what life will become once more in just a few weeks time. I will still be in touch with the friends I have made here and already have plans to meet up with them for holidays, plus social media and instant messaging make long-distance friendships so much easier than they used to be.

But I am stealing myself for a different kind of life. One without quite so much time with friends and without the constant coming and going of pre-teens in our house. I know it will be replaced – although at the moment what or who will replace it is still a little hazy – but it just won’t be the same. I’m not sure you can ever replicate the sort of lifestyle you live when you are living the expat life.

One thing that will remain a constant though is that I will still have my dog to talk to. Let’s just hope I find someone else to take the burden off him before he gets totally fed up with me!

Picture credits: Walking alone – Giuseppe Milo, sleepover – Renee Shelton

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A Series on Expat Depression #6: Self help

“I did talk about my sadness/culture shock. It did help. I also worked hard on doing the stuff I liked to do and trying to have new friends. All these things helped” – Lola.

Up until now in this series on expat depression I have talked about what this dehabilitating illness looks like, how it affects you, why it affects you…now I want to turn towards something a bit more positive and start to explore how people have helped themselves. Later I will look more closely at professional help but before then I want to start discussing some self-help methods that you can try yourself. Of course I am not a mental health specialist so I can’t tell you whether you need to seek the help of a professional or whether tackling the illness yourself is enough. But even if you do feel the need for more help,  some of these ideas might give you something you can do alongside seeking professional assistance.

Thank you to all the brave women and men who responded to my survey asking for their experiences. I have been humbled by how willing people have been to share what has very often been very difficult times for them.

It’s good to talk

“Time, really, and being able to talk to my husband about what was wrong…and feel I was being heard. It’s still a bit tenuous but it’s improving” – “V”.

Many people told me that talking about their feelings really did help. In many cases this was to a counsellor or another professional but I will look at that in another post. After counsellors though, the most popular person to discuss feelings with was a partner.

When I wrote the Expat Partner’s Survival Guide, I suggested that it shouldn’t just be the accompanying spouse that reads the book. It is all too common for the one who isn’t working to think they shouldn’t be bothering their partner with their worries and unhappiness. There is still a misconception that the one who goes off to work every day has the harder job – that they are the ones who need the support. I know from my own personal experience as well as the extensive research I have done for the book and this blog that this certainly is not always (or even usually) the case.

Unless you talk to them, your partner may not even know you are struggling. A classic symptom of this is that you bottle it up until one day they come home from another day in the office and you break down on them. They will probably then feel guilty that they didn’t realise there was a problem, but chances are they have been pretty wrapped up in their own, new life.

If you are unhappy, talk to them. If you worry that they will think this means moving was a huge mistake and you want to go home – reassure them, talk about culture shock, show them my book or my blog!

As well as partners (and of course not everyone has a partner, or perhaps their partner is part of the problem…), survey respondents talked to friends or family both in their host country and back home. Some though cautioned to be careful who you spoke to – many expat communities are small and lips can be loose. A trusted friend or family member not connected to your new life could be easier to talk to than someone you have only recently met.

Social interaction

“I’ve always exercised and certainly realised that I needed to get out and about and see people to help me and not stay in the house alone with my child. I joined an expat group and began going to the mum and kid activities” – Nicola.

“Reading the experience of others in expat articles – especially “trailing spouse” issues – made me feel more normal and less alone. Connecting with other expats was helpful”. Anon.

Different from talking to someone specifically about your problem or feelings, many felt that just interacting with people was also a great help. As I write this I have recently finished a Skype conversation with friends in England. I wasn’t feeling particularly unhappy anyway but it does give me a little glow inside knowing that there are people back home who miss me and who will be there for me waiting with a bottle of Prosecco when I get back.

But interacting with people around you, even if you have to force yourself out of the house, is even better than doing it through the internet. Finding a group of people all doing something that they love and joining them can be the best way to take your mind off those negative feelings. It is a cliché and may make you cringe a little but taking up a hobby that you can do with others is excellent advice. From photography to book clubs to golf, there were many suggestions for ways people could meet other people in a social setting and help move on from their depression.

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But beware the expat bubble

“I made a tremendous effort to integrate more with the locals – mums at the school gate, being more chatty with local shop-owners, offering to help out at school functions and giving people lifts in their cars. Leaving Greece wasn’t an option so I kind of decided to grin and bear it. The things that we would complain about as expats, I now accepted as the norm and just got on with it. I’ve made some amazing friends who were right under my nose all the time. I’d created a little expat bubble for myself which was the worst thing I could have done” – Nicky.

On the other hand, one respondent cautioned that she needed to get out of the “expat bubble” in order to improve her feelings. Whilst making friends with other expats can be a lifesaver to many (especially when you are newly arrived), it can also be very claustrophobic. It can be easy to fall in with people who feed off each other’s “negativity” – if this happens to you, find a way to move on. Even if you don’t find a way into making friends with lots of the “locals” (as this isn’t always an easy thing to do), there will always be another crowd out there.

Sport and exercise

“I am an avid golfer and in all of my postings, and especially when things are hard, I force myself to continue to get out there and play both for the beneficial effect of the exercise and fresh air as well as to interact with others” – Robyn.

If one of those things you can find to do involves sport then all the better because it is well documented that exercise improves our mood. Whether you run, jump, throw or swing, getting your heart pumping a bit and those endorphins going will trigger positive feelings in you similar to the drug morphine (which I can speak of from experience, having been heavily drugged up after the birth of my daughters by caesarean).

Not only that but you can also feel saintly after that weekly work-out and indulge in a nice slice of cake. Yes okay I said in another post that over-eating isn’t going to help your feelings but if you’ve just done an hour of bootcamp….

Other “lifestyle” changes and finding a routine

“In conjunction with therapy I made a lot of changes to my lifestyle in terms of exercise and activity monitoring. Thankfully the summer also came to an end and there were more groups (including a choir) that I could join to meet people. All of this helped pretty quickly.” – Anne

As well as meeting people and doing exercise, people spoke about other ways they had changed their lives (in small ways, not necessarily in an all-encompassing big sweep change way). One said she had started doing volunteer work and “got a schedule for my day”, another that she took up meditation, a third that she signed up for a couple of online courses. Others spoke of the importance of routine, of having something to get up for each day. It doesn’t have to be anything major but just having something in your diary or something to focus on can really help.

Getting a dog

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“I got a dog, which was a bigger help that I anticipated” – Nancy.

“I was lucky in a way to have my dogs with me. They were a great source of grounding and comfort. They also forced me to get up and do things every day,  needed to feed them, I needed to make sure they go exercise” – Robyn.

This is a favourite of mine as we have literally just acquired a nine-week old miniature schnauzer puppy. It is my first dog but already I can see what a huge comfort having a pet can be when you are new somewhere and perhaps on your own at home for much of the day. I am obviously not alone in thinking this – several of the respondents to my survey mentioned the benefit of “man’s best friend” to their mental wellbeing. As well as the company and comfort they provide, walking a dog also gets you out of the house, helps you exercise and provides a daily chance for social interaction. The flip side to this will be if you have to leave your dog (or cat) behind when you leave so make sure you research how easy it is to bring them home or to another location at the end of your posting.

Getting out of the country…moving on.

“I made an effort to see friends more often, and that helped to a degree. However the depression really took hold and the only thing that really helped was getting out of the country and seeking treatment in the UK” – Catherine.

“I have been taking longer vacactions back home every summer and that is the best cure. I don’t have any of those feelings when I am out of the country” – Sarah.

Finally, for some the only way they were able to fight their depression successfully was to get away. In some cases this just meant a vacation, or a prolonged spell back home, to others it meant leaving for good.

Although it is always worth giving a new location some time (definitely up to six months, a year is more realistic) to work out if you will be happy there or not, there will be some occasions when it just isn’t going to work out. And on those occasions is it worth battling? This doesn’t just relate to new assignments though – sometimes situations and circumstances change even if you have been happy somewhere for a long time. People mention in particular a group of close friends leaving and feeling alone and isolated all over again.

Leaving somewhere is never easy – especially if you have been building up to it for a long time and/or people back home don’t realise you are unhappy (I bet they all think you are on a three-year vacation!). But brave people do make that decision and it may be that this is the right thing for you. If you do, never regret it. You will almost certainly wonder if it was the right thing to do (just like most of us question the decision to move away from our homes in the first place). But once you have decided to go don’t look back.

Do you have any more ideas for people to help pull themselves out of depression? Has anything worked for you – or perhaps NOT worked for you? And don’t forget, if you haven’t already read my previous posts in this series they are all available right here.

Photo credit – the Bookclub, Shoreditch by orangejon

 

 

 

 

Expat friendships – fast and furious!

“I’m new”

“I’m new too”

“Can I be your best buddy and do lots of things with you and chat every day and feel like we have known each other for years instead of basically 0.3 seconds?”

“Of course!”

So goes expat friendships – there’s nothing like being in a totally alien place with literally not a single contact in your phone to force you to find friends. And quick.

I’ve written about friendships a number of times on this blog already – perhaps an indicator of how important this aspect of expat life is to most of us. I wrote about Finding my Support System in this post, My New Best Friend (my GPS) in this one and about how and where you meet people when you first arrive somewhere in this one. But what I have been pondering more recently is not just about how you find those friendships, but what those friendships really mean when you are an expat.

So far I think I have been extremely lucky here in Pretoria.  Thanks to the fact that my children are still primary/elementary school age, I have found it reasonably easy to meet other parents. But already even though it really is only a matter of weeks since I met these new friends, I feel like I have known them for years. Once you find those friends, your bond is often a very strong one.

As I was pondering this fact I read two stories from expats who confirmed this view – that there really is something special and different about expat friendships, where you meet in a vacuum and fill it as fast as possible with coffee dates and Facebook chats and playdates with your kiddies and evening get-togethers with your other halves.

It starts with a coffee...but soon it could be friends for life.

It starts with a coffee…but soon it could be friends for life.

First, there was a beautiful tale shared in an expat Facebook group from a woman who ended up being the birth partner for someone she had only just met. The pregnant lady’s husband was out of town when she went into labour so she called on one of the only people whose contact number she had in her phone (having very recently arrived in her new location).

But even though they were still relative strangers, the fact that they were both living somewhere with none of their usual support groups (family, old friends, long-term colleagues) meant the woman telling the story felt entirely comfortable and okay about performing this role. I feel sure that now these two will remain in touch for a long, long time even if their lives are scattered to the winds as our expat lives so often are.

Secondly, I read this post by now ex-trailing spouse Liz who writes about the “end of her journey”:

“Over the past year I have really enjoyed sharing stories with other trailing spouses, both in real life and online. I know it won ‘t be as easy to find a sense of community when I move back, the sort of close community spirit that exists here amongst the trailing spouses is very rare indeed. I’ve learnt how other people can surprise you with the things they are willing to do for someone they may not know that well, or how much effort friends will go to – when there are no family members nearby to offer their support, your friends often offer a lifeline.”

The words “close community spirit” really sums it up for me. I have joked many times about how we desperately find friends in our first few weeks in a new location – and then spend the next six months trying to shake them off. Or about the “friendship dance” we do when we meet someone new and spend the first few meetings trying to work out whether we actually like them or not.

But in reality, this life brings us together – often with people we wouldn’t naturally be friends with, but people with whom our situation bonds us. Having no-one else to rely on but each other means that we turn to these new friends for support, comfort, entertainment, reassurance, companionship…..all the things friends and family back home have been giving us, but now we need it all at once and all in double-quick time.

Some of those people will be “just now” friends – the ones who you spend time with while you are both living in the same place, but who you won’t stay in touch with apart from perhaps the odd Facebook comment. Others will be friends for life – the ones you long for, visit in new places, whose children you will watch growing up (even if from afar) and whose birthdays you will still mark. But every friendship is valid – as expats, we all know how important they are. And each friend we make helps this strange peripatetic life just that little bit easier, that little bit less lonely and that little bit….well, friendlier.

When we move on, to another country or back home, we may not take the friends with us but we take the MEMORY of those friendships. We know how it feels to be alone, to be the one whose only daily adult interaction is with the supermarket checkout person or the security guard at the gate to our compounds. And we know how it felt when someone reached out to us and offered us even just a smile, a few words, an invitation or a recommendation. We remember this and hopefully we take it with us so that we in turn can become that person. The one who offers friendship to those who need it most.

Here’s to our expat friends!

Have you got any special expat friends? How and where did you meet them? Have you kept in touch with friends from previous locations?

Picture credit: Luis Cerezo

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Expat friends: finding my support system

This month’s Trailing Spouse blog crawl is all about finding our “village”. By this, they mean the people who support us when we are away from home, those who take the place of our families and the friends that we have known for years – the ones you turn to in a crisis, or if you are feeling a bit low. But also the ones who know your children, the ones who you can call on at a moment’s notice if you are delayed at school pick up, or who will have your child in the middle of the night if an emergency calls. Indeed, where do you find these people?

There doesn't always need to be this much wine....

There doesn’t always need to be this much wine….

As someone who has very recently arrived in our new home of South Africa, I am in the midst of finding this out. So far, most of the people I have met socially have been through the school (and what a lovely bunch they are – hello! to any of them reading this!). Although we have a large High Commission here, where my husband works, it doesn’t appear to be particularly well set up for meeting people.  We do, however,  have a new Community Liaison Officer who has started to make inroads into this situation and I actually made a few new acquaintances at a coffee morning she organised the other day.

But one of the problems when you move abroad as a partner is that we are so used to defining everyone by their job, what they “do”, that if you are the one who doesn’t have that job it can become quite difficult to know quite where you fit in. Although I do have a job, I do it from home – so meeting people through it doesn’t happen. It is therefore in my hands to get out there and make friends.

When I lived in St Lucia, I arrived knowing no-one. We literally started from scratch. And there were very few expat groups or obvious places to meet people – plus there just wasn’t the “school gates” culture that you get in the UK. So it took a while for me to make friends. But when I did, I met them in the most unexpected places – not just through other friends and the school, but one at the swimming pool watching our kids learn to swim, another was an estate agent showing us new houses, yet another I just got chatting to in a coffee shop.

I thought the name of this coffee shop was highly appropriate.

I thought the name of this coffee shop was highly appropriate.

I know I am lucky though – with children the age mine are (10 and 7), I will always have an easy way to make aquaintances. But what about those with older children, or none at all – and who don’t work? Where do they meet people?

Even though I am meeting people through the school, I am finding that a lot of them are working, or busy with their lives. So my thoughts are turning to where I can find other adults to talk to – not necessarily to become best friends with, but at least to have that interaction with and perhaps for some of them to turn into something more. It’s important to realise that not every connection will turn into a best friend.

So I am planning to join a gym and do a photography course. I am not sure when (well, the former better be soon before my legs actually forget how to work, it’s been that long since I have done any proper exercise!). Other options people have mentioned to me include book clubs, cookery courses (this is also an attractive option, some time down the line), blogging get-togethers and writing groups.

I don’t think anyone should feel compelled to join anything if they don’t want to. After all, some people aren’t that bothered if they don’t talk to another human being from one day to the next. But for the rest of us, those who do feel the need of the shoulder to cry on or the ear to be listened to, as well as the more practical side of friendship (that someone who can be there for you in an emergency), there are places you can meet people.

Another way I have met a few people has been through the power of social media. Through blogging, I have already turned a couple of “inside my laptop” people into real people, with at least two or three more I am hoping to meet up with soon. Getting to know someone online before you meet them in real life is a good way of assessing whether you have enough in common with them to want to try and form a proper friendship (or even just a casual friendship). You do of course need to be careful you are not about to meet a total nuthead – but so far everyone I have met in “real life” off of my computer has been more or less normal!

Luckily no-one like this yet....

Luckily no-one like this yet….

So these are some of the ways I am meeting people, as well as some of the ways I intend to pursue to continue to make connections. I am sure there are more, and would be interested to hear what others do. Or, if you’re in the Pretoria area, are not too much of a nutter and fancy a coffee, let me know in the comments below! (PS for those in Johannesburg I have already had contact with through the blog, yes, I really hope to get over to see you at some point. It’s just that at the moment JoBurg is just a bit to far and scary for me to get to on my own. And I’m still looking for a friend who will accompany me there!)

Check out other #TrailingSpouseStories in this month’s blog crawl:

Tala of Tala Ocampo delves into research on how a best friend at “work” makes a job (being a trailing spouse not an exception) more engaging.

Didi of D for Delicious tells all about her trailing spouse village if she lived in a Stepford perfect world.

Picture credits: wine drinkers Wendy Brolga, Lonelyville coffee shop:Lou Bueno, don’t worry, we’re from the internet: PhOtOnQuAnTiQuE

So you’re a fresh expat in town -where do you meet new friends?

Moving somewhere new is a daunting prospect, whatever your age and situation. But what is really hard is when you move somewhere new and you don’t have a role. When you’re not going to school, or university. Or when you don’t have a sparkly new job to turn up to the day after you arrive.

As an expat partner, I have accompanied my husband on two different postings. Before that, I moved as a single, childless woman several times – but all of those times I had a role. I wasn’t the spare part. I had a way to meet people.

So where exactly do you make friends when you’re not going to work? Of course this is difficult whether you are moving to a new city within your own country or to the other side of the world. But relocating overseas does give you a particular sense of vulnerability that having a few buddies around you can at least partially alleviate.

I polled a number of friends – some had been expats, some hadn’t – and they came up with a list of great ideas. So here, in order of the number of times they were mentioned, are my top tips for finding new friends in your new location:

Through the kids

credit: Claire Broomfield
Image courtesy of Claire Broomfield at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Okay, if you don’t have any you can ignore this one completely. But the number one way most people moving overseas who DO have offspring meet their new-found mates is via their own children. School-gates, baby-groups, playgroups. It’s the easiest and most natural thing in the world to get chatting to the other mums and dads as you wait for little Lottie to finish her ballet class. I’m not going to go on about this as most of us know how it works. There’s something about the desperation of parenting that opens us up to the possibility of endless conversations about the most mundane subjects. I will say one thing though, don’t always assume that if someone doesn’t have children with them, they don’t have children at all. One of my friends is currently in Cairo, while her son and her daughter are at boarding school in the UK. “It’s now been a year and a half and I do have new friends, but I am constantly thinking ‘where do I belong!’” she told me.

Expat groups

You’ll discover many of these groups online, but very often there will be a local “branch” or activities run in your host city. Internations, A Small World   Expat Blog  and Gone Girl International were all examples given to me. Or you might find there’s a country-specific one where you live. One of my friends, for example, made friends through the group DR1  in the Dominican Republic.

Volunteering

If you aren’t able to get a job (for one or more of many reasons – visa or work permit issues, childcare responsibilities, non-availability or if you just don’t want to work) then volunteering is often a great alternative. It’s a good way to keep your cv up-to-date, it gets you out of the house and into the local community and – if you’re lucky – you might find some friends along the way! Examples given to me included helping out with IT at a local bereavement group, working in a school and volunteering with ACCESS – a not-for-profit organisation serving the local international community in Amsterdam.

Women’s groups

No good this one if you are a man, but many people mentioned women’s groups specifically as a way they have found people to bond with when they first move abroad. This included local International Women’s Groups (sometimes linked to international schools or embassies), Gone Girl International  and in the case of one of my friend’s in the UK, the Women’s Institute. She was, apparently, the youngest person there by about 25 years, but “they still gave me the warmest welcome I have ever had joining a new group”. Others said “just say yes to everything” at the start (and then start being a little more discerning after about 6 months). It might not be your thing, but you might meet someone else there who also thinks it’s not their thing. And bond over it not being your thing….

Book clubs

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Ever popular amongst expats this one. I’m never too sure how much actual book-discussion goes on in these groups but it’s a great way to get everyone together for a reason and if you all love books, you’ve got at least one thing in common. And there is often cake and/or wine as well. I belonged to a fun book group in Kingston, Jamaica, where I worked as a singleton, and really enjoyed meeting people from a totally different background to myself (most of the others were trailing spouses). We also got to read books from all over the world, books I would never have even known about, about let alone chosen for myself.

Sports and hobbies

Another obvious one – you make friends much quicker when you are doing something you love. But it’s not always easy to find something to suit. Cooking lessons, art classes, horse-riding, walking groups…all these were mentioned to me, but where do you find them? Someone told me about a great website called Meet-up  where you can find groups of all shapes and sizes close to where you live. This will of course depend on where you are – it’s entirely possible that the choice will be slightly more limited in Ittoqqortoormiit, Greenland  than in Manhattan, New York.

Dog-walking

Image courtesy of iosphere at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of iosphere at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I’ve never actually owned a dog (yet. This is at the moment under debate in our household so watch this space). But I am told that walking the pet pooch is a great way to get chatting to people. I’m not sure if these people go on to become proper friends, or whether they’re only ever your “doggy” pals. Perhaps someone with a dog can tell me. But nevertheless, a chat over a pooper-scooper can be just as welcome as a chin-wag over a dirty nappy….
 
Language classes

Another easy way to meet fellow-expats is to join a local language class. The most obvious one would be a class to learn the language of the country that you are living in, but there’s nothing to stop you expanding your repertoire into other languages if you enjoy learning them. I met some great, giggly Korean women this way when I was young and living in Venezuela. I don’t think their English was much better than their Spanish, but it didn’t matter. We bonded over the fierce teacher who would pick on us if we were ever late to the class.
 
Church/not church.

I wasn’t sure what to call this as a couple of people mentioned church being a good place to meet people, but then someone else also mentioned non-religious groups such as local secular or humanist societies. So I have come up with a sort of church or non-religious equivalent. Perhaps community groups where you share a common belief?
 
Friends-of-friends

This is still a common way to meet people. Difficult when you first move somewhere and literally know no-one. But eventually you’ll make at least one friend and then hopefully through them, others. Ask them to introduce you to people, tag along when they go to groups. Don’t be shy. And then return the favour when you’re a bit more settled yourself and meet someone who has just arrived.

And finally…

One answer that stood out came from a friend of mine whose husband is an officer in the British army. She said when she moved into her new house, she invited the whole village for coffee and cake. The whole village! Well, I wouldn’t expect you all to do this but there is a message here. If you want to meet people sometimes you have to be the one making the effort – especially if you are moving somewhere where there aren’t that many other newcomers. People get settled in their lives, they have friends – why would they need new ones? However, if you can show them you’re someone worth knowing, they might well make that effort. So go on, put on the kettle, start baking (or pop to the cake shop) and invite over the neighbours!

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So that’s my round up. Now I would love to hear from you – where did you meet your friends when you moved somewhere new? Has anyone met anyone somewhere totally unexpected?