The toughest part about living abroad is the making friends and finding a social life. Entering a new community, sucking up the courage to put your shyness/insecurities aside and saying 'hello' to that stranger or calling someone you've never met and asking them out for coffee is just a small but uncomfortable part of that. I guess it's kind of like dating, but you're looking for "the ones" rather than the one.
When you live in a fairly transient place like Dubai, it means having to do this over and over again. People move on or go home and your social circle can suddenly be depleted before you know it. Just when you're getting comfortable, it's time to put yourself out there yet again.
It's good for me to be pushed to put myself out there, as I won't do it if I don't have to. The thing is, when you don't put yourself out there you can miss out on some really amazing experiences.
Recently we've had to say goodbye to a number of people and while it would be nice to cocoon ourselves up as a family of five, it's much healthier to get out there and build up the social circle again. So, 'how do you that?' I hear you ask. Well, I've been online seeking out playgroups and coffee mornings and social groups and while the normal-at-home-in-Sydney me would throw up a little in her mouth at the thought of this, it's how you meet people.
So far I've stayed away from the Australian groups, because, well if I wanted to hang out with a bunch of Aussies I would have stayed in Sydney, but I think it may be time to start looking in that direction too. As looking through the groups online I realised that I don't really have a hobby that I can utilise - so the crafters, the soccer players, the quilters, the triathletes, the long distance runners, are not high up on the list of groups I'm going to sign up to.
Another way to meet people is to essentially force yourself upon the fresh blood. Someone new arrives in town and their husband works with your husband, so you give them a call. It's awkward as hell, but it works. In fact, just before typing this I forced myself to pick up the phone and call a complete stranger. I have to say, I'm glad I did it, as she was lovely, we ended up having a good conversation and I'm really looking forward to meeting her in the flesh. She has similar interests to me, but she's grown up in a totally different world and is someone I would probably never meet living in suburban Sydney.
The thing for me, it's not about finding like-minded people. Sure, that can be nice, but travelling and putting yourself out of your comfort zone means meeting people who have completely different ideas about the world and that's what I love. Talking to people whose life experiences have been completely different to mine. That's what I want to make the most of.
Also, what may seem like a perfect match on paper may end up being a dud in reality. Unlikely friendships can sometimes be the best.
One of the best times I've had here is sitting round with a group of mums from around the world - UAE, Portugal, Lebanon, Egypt, Ireland, Netherlands, France, Brazil - the only thing in common is our kids are in the same class. Listening to these women discuss their lives and comparing notes has been fascinating. Getting insights and feeling secure to ask "Why do you do….?". It's fascinating for someone like me who's interested in people and what they do.
So wish me luck as I put myself out there yet again. I'm looking forward to a year filled with lots of conversations with interesting people. Here's hoping!