Making friends in a new land

It takes time to develop friendships, you know, the non Facebook type. Local folks have often made their own group of trusted friends over the years. Expatriates are usually the first to become friends since they are more aggressive, and on a more urgent time line. We newbies are open to all friendships, even with those expats who will be the first to leave to their next posting..

When I think back to the most obvious time in life to make new friends, it was in those lycée years (French high school), in my small graduate degree class or when I had my first baby. The first two situations were intense and stressful and you rallied around the people you’d end up spending the vast majority of your waking hours with. In that first baby stage, you’re vulnerable and not too busy. You’re experiencing the transformation of your body, your couple, your career, your dreams. You’ve quite possibly  chosen a similar birthing model, based on shared values.

Today, I sorely miss those friendships made during that sacred birthing time in the US. There is a big hole the size of a crater my friends have left behind when we moved to Europe. I can hardly bring myself to look back on the photos at this point, it hurts so much. Those friends have weathered the storm of early motherhood with me. It’s those few friends who knew why I was late for a playdate, why my hair was a mess, why my kid was finishing off a fit in the car. I was known. And, in a way, our mothering has grown up together. Our kids had become each other’s playmates.

It’s hard to start from scratch in a new place, with people not knowing how to size you up. My husband and I were chatting about which women around me I could get along with best so far on this side of the ocean. Is it with the women who have the same number of kids? Similar interests or personality? Or women who have made the same career vs. work-at-home vs. stay at home choices?

We came to a hypothesis that you’ll most likely find the most in common with women who have made similar professional choices. After all, we have made dramatic choices that have steered the course of our life for at least 5-8 years. I’ve chosen to be at home for my kids’ young years. Work fits in when kids nap, when they are asleep or at school. Not the other way around.

The thing is, there aren’t many stay-at-home or work-from-home mothers in France, or in this region in general. So, we look for other things in common. Maybe I should befriend mothers of several? But the mothers who have lots of kids tend to be busy. I get it. Really, I do.

Okay, so maybe it’s about striking conversation with mothers of kids who speak a different language at home. Or, parents of kids in the same school, in the same class or soccer team. Wait, when did that happen, that my friends are the parents of my kids’ friends?

There’s an apple cider party planned for this weekend on our street. Our three lovely neighbors are planning on bringing a few friends from the village and everyone will raid each other’s gardens to pick apples for juice and cider. It’s in the middle of our street, it couldn’t be more convenient. It’s at this type of social event that we feel we get to know the locals best. We said we’ll be there.

The other day, there was a spontaneous invite to an all evening 40th birthday barbecue at the neighbor’s. It wasn’t on our radar and we didn’t know more than the two people who invited us, but we graciously accepted the kind invite. An hour later, we tucked one baby in bed and headed over until the older kids were stumbling over their feet and slurring words.

This Sunday, our international church in Geneva that draws people from all over the Geneva and Vaud cantons, as well as neighboring France, suggested service be held in homes scattered across the region. We’d drive 40 minutes to the location closest to us. Yes, yes, sign us up! The drive is so worth it for the relaxed lunch, meaningful conversations, playdates with new little friends.

A Korean choral studying at La Scala opera school in Milan was looking for a few beds for the night so they could perform in neighboring Switzerland. Oh sure, come on over. Can the neighbor boy come over for English lessons? Sure, why not. Let’s do it.

Unless we absolutely cannot, we say ‘yes’ a lot in this season. We are just that eager for relationships in a new land.

This post was part of the #Write31Days challenge, on the topic: Our family in global transition.
You can read the other posts written this month, by clicking on the links below!

1 – French Preschool
2 – Making friends in a new land
3 – ‘Yes’ people in a ‘No’ culture
4 – How language affects transition
5 – Not all French people are foodies
6 – The apple juice party
7 – I’m the third-born
8 – French-Mex ridiculous
9 – Busted by the Swiss police
10 – Educational field trip
11 – Visitors: the good and the bad
12 – Christmas in October
13 – A good place to get sick
14 – C’est les vacances!
15 – Playdate anguish
16 – The five year plan
17 – The Q&A edition!
18 – Holidays are for world-schooling
19 – The Granny I want to be.


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