It was a quarter to 5AM and I remember feeling slightly buzzed by 1) the pints of Stella beer we consumed and 2) the relief of finally finding a kindred spirit I could share my confusion with. I was three months into settling down in Singapore and the honeymoon period of moving to a new country was over.
The loneliness was seeping in.
Unlike traveling, that’s when I realized that the friendships we make abroad are not only sparked by the spirit of carpe diem
— seize the moment because you never know when you will see each other again — but the willingness to invest and trust people all over again in the long run, in a new home where people are different from you.
But it’s an awkward situation:
Your friends back home never moved abroad and can’t relate to your new life chapter. The people abroad don’t share your cultural point-of-view.The exposure to a variety of people makes you acutely aware of how different or unique you are and that will scare you.The first instinct is to retreat inwardly, like a teenager screaming, “No one understands me! I’m so alone!”
But you’re not.
Several months have passed by and that kindred spirit eventually moved away. But I’ll always remember what I learned from him that night. Maybe it’s less about making friends who are similar to you — whether in race, shared history, career — but more about accepting one another in spite of our differences and being open enough to invest in someone long enough to find out.
After a year of living abroad, below are my tips to finding a support group. In my experience you’ll never find one if you don’t even try. Not only have I found my Pinoy family inSingapore, but friends of different races who I can stay up to 5AM and have a beer with.
1) Explore the night life
Partying is the easiest way to meet new friends because people have fewer inhibitions. It takes some trial and error to find a friendship outside of the bar, but you might as well indulge in some fun while you’re at it. Everyone needs their group of weekend warriors to have spontaneous nights with!
2) Facebook connect
Start by posting a status message. Facebook makes the world smaller. You’ll be surprised at how willing your personal network is to help you out and by the number of second or third degree acquaintances you can meet up with, especially since they were once in your shoes.
3) Join an interest group
Going abroad is a great time to pursue a hobby and go to events. Join a class — whether it’s the gym, arts, or a charity group. Find people who you can connect with your passions
4) Get to know your colleagues
You spend five days of the week with your colleagues. Even if you’re the new girl or guy, don’t be shy and smile. Be the person to invite for lunch or drinks. The awkward discomfort will pay off in the long run because colleagues are not only friends, but allies and potential partners for collaboration.
5) Catch up with family and friends
It’s important to keep in contact with those who knew you before leaving.They keep you grounded whether you succeed or fail in building your life abroad. So, go home once in awhile, Skype or Facebook. With the technology available these days there’s no excuse not to keep in touch.
Have you just moved abroad? How do you cope and find your support group? Do share by commenting below!