My last word on Starting Again: start with people. In this era of social media it seems possible to stay in touch so well with your old community that you don’t need a new one. Watch out for a got-iPhone-got-relationships mentality. Don’t deprive yourself of the biggest blessing of having to move: new friends–people that God has brought into your sphere (rather you into theirs) that you would not have met otherwise.
If you move out of country, there’s another point to mention. There will probably be other American ex-patriots where you are and you will naturally band together. (If you are from Texas, you are in really good shape, as you have both circles–other Americans and the inner circle of other Texans with which to band.) Other expats count as new friends; you need each other; go for it. We have been so grateful for the circle of American friends we’ve gotten to know here, nearly all of whom we had no connection to before coming and would not have met otherwise. But a word here: American expats most definitely count as friends, but not as natives. It is truly possible to live here in England or in many other countries and never develop relationships outside of the American circle. But how much you miss!
If you want to learn about your new home, if you want to appreciate it fully and jump in with both feet, you need some natives. A friendship with someone who has a background different from you is a profoundly valuable and enriching experience. I say completely seriously that it is a little foretaste or appetizer for heaven, where you will find an astonishing diversity of people gathered together in the ultimate community.
I know there are places where Americans provoke interest and people are at your gates day and night. There are also places where it’s hard work just to get people to talk to you. There can be challenges in both situations–try not to let them put you off. The friendships you are striving for are worth it.
Want to know the funniest thing about this post? The befriending that happened when we made our biggest move to date, the one across the ocean, wasn’t due to me. We were befriended. We visited our church our third week in country and since that time we have been included, adopted, cared for, and supported by a community of wonderful English friends. Today this is our primary community and I feel certain that many of these friendships are life-long. For the rest of my life, I will not be able to bite my tongue when people say the English are cold or distant. I could tell you many stories of their kindness and the welcome we received when we came in as strangers.
Maybe this series hasn’t been that relevant for you because you’re not moving. But that makes you one of the “natives”–perhaps there are strangers that need befriending.
This post is the conclusion of a series:
Starting Again: Five Things To Do and One Don’t
Do #1: Be a learner
Do #2: Be an appreciator
One Don’t: Don’t compare
Do #3: Turn off your defensive mechanism
Do #4: Jump in (with both feet) right away