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.
- Maintain regular contact with family and friends at home, they are your lifeline.
- Seek and build relationships both with your partner and separately.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Take it slowly, do not divulge too much too soon, but be yourself.
- Be open to different cultures, ages and lifestyles, you never know who you may meet.
- Accept that rejection is part of the process. Lick your wounds and continue your friend finding journey.
- 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.
- Spend time with people who reciprocate. Don’t put energy into someone that is not reciprocating, it takes up too much emotional energy.
- 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.