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?
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 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!
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.