Me being me, I am a VERY social person (That statement is probably an understatement). I could probably make friends with the spoon I use for my breakfast in the morning. That being said, traveling to a new country/city and trying to settle into your new home can be rough. No matter how many times you Au Pair or move house, finding friends and a place where you belong is always the most anxiety-ridden part.
Playing an active role in your friendship making is key if you want to thrive in your new home.
1. Start Early
Every time I have started an Au Pair adventure, I start researching the area I am moving to BEFORE I even get there. That’s right, let your internet creeping skills get to work. Google the town, what there is to do there, if there is a University in the area, night classes that are offered, even upcoming concerts/live music in the area. Absolutely anything that makes you knowledgeable of the area and community.
2. Be Prepared to Put Yourself Out There
I have never started a story with, “Then this one time, I was sitting there quietly on my phone …” PUT THEPHONE DOWN! I know terrifying for some, cute guy but if you hide behind your phone and electronic devices once you get to your new town, you will NOT experience it to the fullest. Again, I know putting yourself out there is scary and the stigma of going places alone is crazy high, but ignore it. The first time I went out to dinner by myself in Barcelona, I was a wreck. I kept looking at my phone and was assuming that everyone and their grandma was watching me sit alone and pick at my tapas. But guess what, after sitting there for 10 minutes without looking at my phone, I realized, no one cared I was there by myself. I actually met a cute guy at the bar and wound up watching a football match with him before heading out for the night. GOOOOOAAALLLL!!!!
3. Find Groups
The last time I had even looked into joining a group before I started Au Pairing was when I was looking for free dinner in college. Let me tell you, groups are great for WAY more than free food. Facebook is a great place to start. If you just type in Au Pair and the town/city you are living in, I guarantee there is one, if not tons, of groups with Au Pairs in your area looking to meet up after work.
4. Back to School
Well, of course, I am sure there are some that are saying, “Well Karissa, there are no other Au Pairs in my area so I am screwed!” WRONG! If you get right back on Facebook and look at the local college/university web pages you are bound tofind an international student group or even a random club that might be worth joining. Nine times out of ten, if you just show up to a club meeting and let them know you are an Au Pair and not a student, they’ll be happy to let you stay and hang out with them. In Limerick, I randomly showed up to the International Society’s Valentine’s Day mixer and made friends with some of the coolest people I have ever met.
5. Ask Around
If all else fails and you are miserable, lonely and see no one in sight to hang out with for the next 100 miles, ask around. When you run into town with your house kids, ask the lady at the shop if she knows anyone around your age to hang out with. You may think that is weird, but it works.
Don’t go on errands with the kids, no worries, when you pick them up from school scout of parents and ask them if they know anyone. Don’t leave the house ever and have no way into town, order a pizza and ask the delivery guy if he wants to hang out. Don’t like talking to strangers, ask your house parents if they can set you up with someone they know to hang out.
I know, all of these sound strange, but honestly, you have nothing to lose. Just trying to make the point that you can make friends in strange ways.
Remember, everyone gets anxious when they are alone and trying to meet new people, but that makes it more fun when you actually find a good group to hang out with. Then again, it is never too late to draw a face on your hand and give it a name …