Thursday, March 01, 2012

Avoiding Isolation

by Expat Focus columnist, Jennifer Tucker

One of my biggest fears about moving to a new country as a “tag along” spouse was isolation. I dreaded the thought of moving halfway around the world with my husband, having him go off every day to a job while I sat twiddling my thumbs in the apartment, wondering what to do and not knowing a soul.

I’ve had my share of “thumb-twiddling” days and moments where I made faux pas in social situations. Overall, however, I feel as though I’m doing an OK job at transitioning to life in New Zealand. I think that if I could talk to every person who’s preparing to move to a new country, I would tell them that one of the best ways of easing the transition is to form a social network.

You’ll make friends, learn about the community, and develop a sense of purpose by having something to do on a regular basis.

There are many ways to get out and get involved, but in my opinion, here are some of the best:

1. Start searching the internet. Read up about your new country. Find the local newspaper and check it daily. Reading the news will give you something to talk about when you meet people, and you’ll be up on current events in your new hometown. If you don't have a blog, think about creating one and linking it with an expat website. If blogging isn't your thing, then register with expat sites and read through the Q&A forums. Follow the links to user blogs based in your soon-to-be new country. Most expats, me included, are happy to share what they know.

2. Get out of the house. If you’re able to work, then look for a job. It doesn't have to be full-time or even in your area of expertise, but you’ll meet other employees and have a reason to go out every week. If you can’t work {don’t have the right paperwork, need to stay home with children, don’t speak the language} then check out your local mission, soup kitchen, museum, or gallery to see if they need volunteers. If you can't volunteer, then look into joining a gym or a community center or a church. Definitely join the local library. Most libraries have classes on a variety of things – learning the language, lectures on local history, book clubs – and most don’t cost a thing. If you have children, libraries can be a God-send with their story times and children’s reading programs...

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