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

21 thoughts on “Expat friends: finding my support system

  1. I am in the same boat trying to make friends in the uk. I knew that this would be the hardest part of moving and indeed it has been. Thankfully my boyfriends friends sometimes stop by and I come yo his mums if I’m feeling particularly lonely when he’s away. Ive met many lovely bloggers sadly none in my area.

    I just joined meetup and want to try and go to some meetups. Unfortunately I live in a small town and trains are quite expensive which makes going to meetups hard financially at the moment until I find a proper job.

    I’m trying to be patient and proactive but it can get you down sometimes.

    Best of luck to you on your quest for friends I’m happy you’ve made a few already 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s really hard when you are not working and you don’t have children. Have you heard of Gone Girl International? I hear that is another good way to meet people – although I totally hear you on the expense of train travel in the UK. Otherwise – writing groups? Exercise classes? Photography or creative writing classes? Join a sports team (netball?) or cooking classes? I hope you manage to make some friends soon, I am sure you will….it does just take a bit of time….

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m a firm believer (and do-er) of getting involved with school (even when kids are older) and working on Parents Association; and joining the International Womens’ Club or similar. If there isn’t a club, start a book group or walking group …. grab onto your interests and ask a mum to join you.

    You’re aware of my girl dating philosophy 🙂

    Being patient and proactive, and always on your best behaviour is damn tiring, but you’ll soon make a few real-life buddies and can relax.

    Meanwhile, happy to chat and support you

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you! I agree re parent’s association. I am also gettning involved with a reading scheme in a local school which has been another good way not just to meet other parents from the school but also some people in the local community. I know eventually I will have a good group of friends but I do find at this stage it’s hard to ask people to do things more than once as you think “hmmm are they actually busy…or do they just not like me!”.


  3. It is definitely not as easy at it seems, especially when you dont live in the capitale. I have never practised so much yoga and spent so many hours on line since I’ve became an expat wife.. I am actually so happy that the kids dont go to school all day, so we can explore our surroundings together. And yes, I totally second the “Being Patient and Proactive” philosophy! Cheers to you all, and thanks for this great post!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you! I have to KEEP reminding myself about the patience point, we have only been here less than two months… We actually ARE in the capital but it is a small city compared to JoBurg, which is where the greatest amount of expats life 🙂 I have also now joined the gym so fully intend to get fit even if I don’t make many friends….


  4. You know that you’re doing all the right things, but it’s hard to be patient isn’t it? As well as joining classes etc, I find it sometime best just to bite the bullet and make the first move and invite a bunch of strangers for coffee, it’s helpful if there’s a ‘hook’ a talking point, e.g. a potluck lunch or a book swap so everybody is contributing and conversation is generated around the activity. You’ll get there and I promise, Jo’burg is neither as far away nor as scary as you think.

    Liked by 1 person

    • At the moment it’s hard finding people who aren’t working or busy in the day (and to be fair I am both of the above too!) but yes I know it will all happen eventually! I like the idea of a “hook” though. Once I have been to Joburg once I know it will seem a lot less daunting…..


  5. Great ideas about photography or cooking class! I’ve got hopes for the school moms and I’m also planning to join a gym after relocation.
    So far, I also had luck with meeting people through kindergarten, blog, playgrounds and expat forums.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Blogging was a great platform for me to get to know other people outside of The Husband’s circle. It was important for me to find “my own people” Haha! Not sure if you feel the same way, but it does help expand your world.

    My husband was so afraid of me meeting bloggers on my own. But bloggers are the safest people since their lives are practically out there, if you know what I mean.

    I still am struggling BTW. So not easy for an introvert to come out of her shell 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Love! As you know, I’m in the same boat – just a year further along… and yet the struggle is real, especially when living in the suburbs I’m finding!! My husband always suggests groups, but I like the idea of meeting people organically – like you said, at the pool, at the gym, etc. Some of my closest friends from our time in Barcelona were met in unexpected ways! You’ll get there!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Pingback: Some of the great posts I liked in September | Tiny Expats

  9. Pingback: Making a new home abroad – my journey back to trailing spouse-land. |

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