Making Friends and Meaningful Relationships in Paris

Does it help you to know in your loneliness you are not alone? Expatriate life can be a lonely life. It takes time to meet people, it takes time to grow meaningful relationships sometimes a whole lot of loneliness to find people you relate to and that you can share the ups and downs of expatriate life with. We are after all relational beings with a need to feel connected and to share our experiences.

The story goes like this, you have arrived in Paris, you hit the streets and walk for miles in wonder and awe. Then the reality of this new life hits you. You don’t have any friends and no-one to share and discover these new experiences. Life becomes a chore. Your mood begins to sink to the lower end of the happiness scale.  Even more sort after, you long for the joy of meaningful friendships.

From here you join every social group you can find, finding plentiful people somewhat like yourself, living in a city new or old and in need of companionship.

With acquaintances in abundance there remains a nagging desire for more meaningful friendships. Like the friends you share everyday life and delights with, the new activity you have decided to take up, the new shoes you saw yesterday when walking home from work, the coffees, dreams and challenges shared. Those friendships you can call on when times are tough and you need the listening ear of someone trusted and dependable.

It is possible that luck is on your side and those valued, trusted friends arrive at your doorstep very quickly. However it is more likely that friendships take some months or even years to find, develop and strengthen into meaningful relationships.

Ultimately, remember this life of making new friends means you come into contact with a wide range of people you may never have had the opportunity to meet before. It’s a great opportunity to learn more about yourself and others and you never know what lies ahead – so savour all your experience as a blessing.

Here are a few pointers to help you on your new friendship journey.

  1. Maintain regular contact with family and friends at home, they are your lifeline.
  2. Seek and build relationships both with your partner and separately.
  3. Be prepared to make friends and then make more, over and over again. Have a couple of introductory phrases prepared and be ready to ask lots of questions.
  4. Early in your arrival, be courageous, join and attend  a sporting group and every social group you can find, even those activities you wouldn’t normal partake in. Life won’t come to you until you step into it. Making friends, particularly meaningful friends, is hard work and takes time.
  5. Participate in a volunteer position in a non-profit organisation. Learn a new skill. A French class is the obvious choice for Paris, but there are many other types of classes as well.
  6. Be sure to contact every lead from friends and acquaintances. Connect with native French people, Expats from your home country as well as Expats in general.
  7. Take it slowly, do not divulge too much too soon, but be yourself.
  8. Be open to different cultures, ages and lifestyles, you never know who you may meet.
  9. Accept that rejection is part of the process. Lick your wounds and continue your friend finding journey.
  10. If you find you get along with someone, follow up with an email and suggest another outing.  Be aware of how you feel when you are interacting. If you are not comfortable or don’t like someone, don’t continue to connect.
  11. Spend time with people who reciprocate. Don’t put energy into someone that is not reciprocating, it takes up too much emotional energy.
  12. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when needed and seek the ever listening ear of a counsellor, to help you on your way.

Emotional States & The Good Life

New research from the Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology in Glasgow postulates there are 4 primary emotional states: happiness, anger, sadness and fear from which more complex emotions are derived. It is these four primary emotional states that envelope and motivate us or provide caution. Just as nutritionists recommend that a well-balanced diet in moderate quantities from all 5 primary food groups is essential to good physical health, so experience of the four primary emotional states, in moderation, is essential to psychological well-being.

The emotional states of happiness, anger, sadness and fear are fundamentally a tool to help guide thought and behaviour and influence social connections. Below is a concise explanation of the functions of each emotion.

Fear: 'fight or flight' reaction. Fear warns you to be more cautious, to give more analysis to a situation before acting.

Anger: to signal something needs your attention and to communicate your thoughts and feelings when required to rectify a problem either with yourself or others.

Sadness: lets you know you have lost something of value. It is the signal that you need to take time to process your thoughts around the loss and not rush through life without due processing of loss.

Happiness: well, happiness is the feel-good emotion. The more happiness experienced, the greater the buffer against negative emotions occurring in unhealthy quantities. It is clear happiness is something to strive for and there are many pathways to happiness, yet don’t make happiness the goal, but rather the process to 'well-being', 'life satisfaction' and 'living the good life'.

Expatriate Life – New Beginnings

A Wonderous Yet Difficult Time.

You’ve finally arrived in Paris, and have a new home. You smile with delight when you first spot the Eiffel Tower twinkling at night. You are full of desire of exploration and wonderment at this beautiful new home town – Paris! The honeymoon phase of living in Paris begins.

Relocating to another country and culture can be exciting and daunting all at once. It is even more stress invoking if the new country uses a language you do not know. Depending on the circumstances of your move, typically there will be a honeymoon phase. This is a time of great delight, motivation to learn the language and enthusiasm to see and experience all of what there is.

Paris, also called ‘The City of Light’, and well known as the city of love, magical beauty and baguettes while bustling with a quiet energy ready for you to explore, can at some point become dull, grey, lonely and a chore!

Yes, you are now feeling unhappy, low, insecure, and not sure what is right or wrong. The long dark days, or even bright long days, takes its toll and you find yourself having trouble creating and maintaining a rhythm of daily life - the “honeymoon” phase is finished. You have landed in the face of French bureaucracy, not enough language skills and perhaps no French speaking friends at hand to help you out. Thankfully for many, there are relocation companies employed to help you wade through the initial challenges of finding and securing a new home and the myriad of paperwork that comes with it. But, for many others they begin alone.

For most, living and/or working in a new culture requires a period of adjustment. One may experience frustration and the humbling experience of not being able to express ones’ self as freely and fluently as in your native language. It is common to feel irritated and misunderstood, or just out of place as you move around the intricacies of social norms not yet known. At times one may experience periods of intense introspection that may lead some to question where they fit into this new culture. All the while your usual social supports are far away in a land not forgotten.

It may be you experience parts of your personality not so welcome or that just don’t fit your new city, At the same time, you may find other parts of yourself are awoken. Perhaps you just yearn to experience parts of yourself not yet explored.

A new location will have you question many things about yourself and test all relationships both near and far. Confusion, low moods, uncertainty of self and lack of confidence can soon hinder you.  You may have noticed your family members seem different. Yet, in their own way they are experiencing the challenges of the change and are also trying to put the pieces together.

It is important that these experiences are processed and understood to help you experience greater confidence and find direction in your new world. You are on an exciting journey with a great opportunity for new experiences, new goals, to learn more about yourself and a new culture and language.