31 July 2014

Social interaction

Naturally when you move to a new country you need to build up a new friendship circle and you might even have to meet the family if you moved to be with your partner. These situations can be challenging and my advice is again to not push yourself. Some activities are unavoidable, but develop a strategy that works for you.

If you function well in groups then invite a few new people or family over for coffee or dinner. If you prefer one on one conversations (like me), then make the effort to do your rounds with family members and new friends. It also gives you the opportunity to get to know them better and then you have something to talk about the next time round. It's almost as if you have to start with social skills 101 all over again. No one knows you, they don't know what to expect from you and the first impression that you make is important.

Sometimes I found first impressions quite difficult, specifically in a group setting. Everybody knows each other and are talking and laughing and I sit there with a pretty face and no words. It is quite frustrating for me, because I'm like a fly on the wall looking at myself not being myself. I know I'm more social, friendlier, funnier and more confident, but sometimes I just have no words. At the moment I'm ascribing it to the fact that they speak a foreign language and even though I understand it 95%, I still can only speak 30%. English is of course no problem and I can chip in anytime with English, but I still seem not to and that sometimes frustrates me. I then leave an evening or a dinner feeling like I totally didn't represent myself.

The important thing is not to get discouraged. First impressions can change and as you get more comfortable with everything, the situation will also change. Just never give up, never see yourself as the outsider all alone and uninteresting. Evaluate the situation afterwards and think about how you can be yourself more comfortably next time round. Do not beat yourself up and rather show yourself some kindness, you are coping with enough change as it is. Rome wasn't built in a day! ;)

I have experienced that people usually are more afraid to speak to you than you are to speak to them and when you break the ice with one question about them, their work or week, they seem to chat quite easily. Don't necessarily expect deep meaningful conversations the first time round, but there will be enough questions for you to ask to keep the conversation going. It sounds silly, but conversation is an art and it is something that you will have to master again. It is so easy when you have an established circle of friends at home and one new person joins and you are comfortable and confident, but in a new country it's a whole new story. You have no circle, you have no 'back up support', nowhere to turn to if conversation runs out and as these fears build, it can leave you incapacitated in the corner.

No one said that it was going to be easy, but don't stress and don't give up. One step at a time and you'll come out winning! :)

Picture credit: flickr