Connecting – When You Move To A New Place

When you move to a new place, the world opens up. It’s like all of a sudden, everything is possible, and everyone is a potential new friend. But it takes a new set of skills to learn how to satisfy this need for belonging when you become an expat.
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Especially if you go abroad to a new workplace, you instantly have new colleagues, so a whole set of new people. You will see them at the workplace, and you will spend some time together during lunchtime, next to the coffee machine, or by the teapot. You will probably have corporate dinners and informal meetups outside work hours. So, meeting new people when you move to a new place and not being alone definitely won’t be a problem. But the challenging part is to find the real connections, not just the superficial ones.

Finding A Balance

The idea is to find the balance between always being on the run and in-between people and isolating yourself. At least for me, this was the situation when I experienced the world “opening up” after leaving my “small” town behind. I’m using quotation marks because my hometown is not so small with 150.000 people, but it certainly seemed small after moving to a new place with almost 2 million people.

So finding this balance, in my opinion, takes open-mindedness and patience. Of course, to meet the people you can connect with on a deeper level, you have to meet lots of them. But you will need a strong “filter” as well. Because if you are perpetually out there, always among new people, repeating the same scenario of getting to know someone, going out with a group, but deep down knowing that there is an end to it, and soon you will be doing the exact same things with a different group, after a while you might get the feeling of emptiness and loss of meaning.

This is something that gets talked about fairly often nowadays when expat mental health and cross-cultural psychology topics are always on the table.

Lots Of Faces

A few days ago, I was browsing online, and an ad came up for a site that helps you find travel partners. I wasn’t looking for anything of this kind, but it stirred my curiosity. I wondered how that worked: you just picked a random person and offered to travel together? So I looked around. And as I was scrolling, new and new people appeared, as if the faces were being endlessly generated.

A very strange feeling gripped me as it all started to feel unreal. There were so many faces, and it was odd knowing that I could get in touch with the person behind whichever of them with only one click.

And then I thought that this virtual availability was the same as the real one I experienced when I moved to a new place: all of a sudden, lots of faces popped up in my personal space, and I could choose any of them. I found myself going out with different people most of the nights. I went to the theatre with a group, then next time I had dinner with another. I saw exhibitions with yet another and went to lunch with different ones again.

It soon became overwhelming, and at the same time, it started to feel kind of empty. It was all the same, just with different people. It didn’t take too long until I realized that this wasn’t at all what I needed, and I started to pay attention to that voice that kept telling me that I was searching for something else.

I was searching for the connections I had back home: the feeling of belonging. Belonging to my family, and my close friends.

I Opted For Less

Suddenly, talking to different people each day didn’t seem so appealing anymore, and I opted for less. And slowly, I mean really slowly, it all started to get clearer. I let my intuition drive me toward the people I really had a connection with. I met amazing people after moving to a new place, but only a few really stuck with me. And I think this is perfectly natural. To me, it seems that we are programmed to have our close circle, so we can develop a strong sense of bonding and belonging, no matter where we live. And this doesn’t seem to change with the change of circumstances and/or countries.

A Different Set Of Skills When You Move To A New Place

But it certainly takes a new set of skills to know how to satisfy this need of belonging when one becomes an expat. But at the end of the day, I think it all comes down to everyone’s own and very personal journey in terms of self-knowledge. You cannot save the work with this one, but you can be prepared for it as you start your new life in a new place.

Eszter Szűcs-Imre

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