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How to Build Your Own Support Group in a New Country

How to Build Your Own Support Group in a New Country
Image by nogoodphotography (license).

I had a great support group in life; my family, my friends, my career and my co-workers.  Then I had to move to a different country when I got married to be with my husband.  After I managed to find a job I got pregnant and had to stop working. Suddenly I was totally alone except for my husband, who even though is a super great guy; but he just could not replace everything in life.

I spent a couple of months moping and whining on how alone I was and how everything was so much harder without the things that used to make my life easier.  I disregarded advice on how to deal with it instead of trying things and severed ties with the people I knew because “they were so far away”. I felt insanely jealous when I saw my friends on Facebook photos enjoying their social life just the way it always was.  I even got depressed in the middle and then decided this was no way to live and slowly found different ways to deal with it.

Listen to people’s advice.

This might seem so cliché but seriously how many times have people tried to give you advice and you just stopped listening and your inner voice kept telling you “what do they know, they have no idea how hard it is.”  Even if they don’t know, listening builds bonds between you and other people.  Whatever they are saying might just work if you tweak it around a bit.

Keep in touch.

Just because you are far away means you should let the people you already care about out of your life.  With so many different tools to stay in touch virtually you absolutely have no excuse not to keep in touch, unless of course you live in a place with no internet which is highly unlikely.

Build new bridges.

This is quite hard at first, but you can always start with the local newspaper, look for events, movies, expos whatever you enjoy because the odds are you might find someone who shares your interests there.

Facebook is also a great place to look for events and groups of people who are interested in your likes too.  Local blogs are also a great resource.  In most cities there’s a couple of blogs that keep you abreast of the local happenings which is a great way to find things to do and people to meet.

Blogs written by expats residing in their new adopted cities are a great resource as well.  Use Google blog search or Technorati to find local blogs by searching by tags or keywords on the city you are in. There are also lots of expat forums which are usually categorized by country and are an excellent place to find answers to your questions and make the transition easier.

Enjoy the time.

With less social obligations you will probably have more time to do other things.  Have you read all of the books you have always wanted or seen all the movies you have wanted to see?  Well there is not time like the present.

Go to the gym.

The gym is a great place to stay fit, feel better and to make new friends.  I joined the local Curves Chapter.  The women-only atmosphere is great and makes bonding easier.  Although I have not made any close friends, at least I get to have a nice chat three times a week with whomever is there and the trainers themselves,  I always feel refreshed, energized and much happier when I go.

Take a class.

Most cities have community colleges which offer cheap classes teaching a wide array of different things.  Interested in pottery, music, creative writing or Japanese?  Go find your course.

Be open to differences.

You spent many years building your social life; probably even handpicked all of your friends.  You do not have that luxury this time. Be open to different people, respect your differences and you can find great friends when you least expect it.  Explore the different culture and learn to respect and enjoy it.

Contact your embassy or consulate.

Embassies or consulates might have programs which help their citizens settle in or point you in the right direction on how to do it.  It is also always nice to get to know the people who work there just in case you ever need help or are in trouble.  In foreign land most people stick together better.

Be friendly with the neighbors.

If you come from a culture where neighbors greet newcomers and move to a country where people don’t you might feel offended but try introducing yourself.  The neighbors might become great friends or at the very least might lend you a cup of sugar when you need it, just remember that you need to be ready to do the same back.

Yasmin is a software engineer turned stay at home mom who loves reading, making brownies and making origami paper hats.  She blogs at ChocolateMintsinaJar, collecting interesting tidbits and asking hypothetical questions.

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Michael Miles December 27, 2008, 2:31 am

    Great advice! I have lived as an expat for many years and now have a good network. But I have worked the whole time. It’s not easy to leave everything behind and start again – I did it when I was young so it was easier for me.

  • Karl Staib - Work Happy Now December 27, 2008, 3:14 am

    I moved to Austin and had a small support group. I wanted to expand out and I did many of the things you said. My favorite was be friendly to your neighbors. I met so many great people in my apartment complex who I’m still friends with.

  • Jarrod - Warrior Development December 27, 2008, 3:40 am

    Excellent, I’ll have to look this post up again if I decide to make a move to Japan someday.

    I think many of these suggestions can very well be applied in our own country too.

  • Vincent December 27, 2008, 7:17 pm

    Joining courses is a great way to meet new people. Thanks for the article and great tips to help us to find a support group.

    Cheers
    Vincent
    Personal Development Blogger

  • Maria December 28, 2008, 4:37 am

    These are such great tips..especially the listening one which helps you create bonds with people…that is so important! Thanks, Yasmin! PS..my daugther’s name is Jasmine…:)

  • Mark | Life Empowerment December 29, 2008, 12:16 am

    Great advice! I can share this with my friends who’ve come from abroad to reside in Singapore.

    Thanks for sharing Jasmine!

    Cheers~

    Mark
    http://mark-foo.com
    Personal Development To Empower Your Life

  • Mark | Life Empowerment December 29, 2008, 12:18 am

    Sorry Yasmin… Got your name wrong. ;P

    Mark

  • mona December 29, 2008, 7:30 pm

    Really good advice here, Yasmin, great ideas.

  • Kiki December 30, 2008, 10:19 am

    These are great tips! Some I have already put into practice, and some I look forward to trying now that I’ve just moved from China to England. As an American who has been living abroad on and off since 2004, I’m always looking for new ideas on how to make new friends in the new countries I live in. Thanks for the ideas!

  • Arswino December 30, 2008, 12:25 pm

    I have never moved before, but they are a great advices, very useful if sometime I decide to move to another region or country.
    Thanks for sharing, Yasmin.

  • M2Mz December 31, 2008, 12:06 am

    Great advice, it really is hard to meet new people.
    It’s tough out there.

  • jessyz January 2, 2009, 9:35 pm

    I am so glad you found these useful, good luck to all of you expats.

  • Slinky January 7, 2009, 12:26 am

    Find somewhere to do what you love, but in a group. Go to open knitting night, work out at the gym, take a dance class, volunteer at the animal shelter. If you’re doing something you like and are with other people also doing it, chances are you’ll find someone to be friends with!