Do #5: Befriend the natives


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

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10 Responses to Do #5: Befriend the natives

  1. Debara says:

    I appreciate your perspective Betsy! Thank you!
    I also am completely smitten by the interchanges you have with the children.
    YOU are a GREAT MOM!

    I want to ask a couple of questions. Might I refer our St. Andrews Student Wivesi to your blog?
    Might I make copies of this series to put on the table for wives at the orientation??
    I will also – point gals to Laura Fenton in Oxford….and the Graduate Wife blog.
    How does that sound?? Don’t worry – i’m not an ‘ask and then go ahead’ kind of
    gal. I’ll wait to hear from you.


  2. betsy says:

    Hi Debara, I’d be delighted.

  3. Erin says:

    This was a great series, Betsy! So many things I totally agree with- you are just better at putting them into words. Praying for you as you move on from one place to the next!

    • betsy says:

      Thank you, Erin! You should be writing this, you have so many more miles into it than I do! Thanks for prayers–kiss those twin girls!

  4. Mert Tabbut says:

    i have loved your series. Seriously you need to write a book or you could be my ghost writer. The topic nearly the same but the twist on it would be all you have written about for people who have lived in the same spot for a very long time and need a good bit of jostling out of the comfort zone. I do hope we get to catch a glimpse of you all when you are stateside. if we have fallen off the list put us back on!!!!

    • betsy says:

      You’ll never fall off the list! We’ll find a way to see you as soon as we can! Love you!! Thanks for your encouragement, Mert.

  5. Pingback: Five Things to Do and One Don’t | part of the main

  6. Erin says:

    Hi, Betsy.
    I just moved to Singapore with my husband a week and a half ago…. And it has been a really rough transition for me so far. I mean, how do you do this? Move all the way from Minnesota to SE Asia? There’s just so much that’s changed in my world, so much that’s different, it’s been quite overwhelming. I have a little one on the way (due in December) which has only added to the confusion of it all.

    A friend sent me a link to your blog today and I literally took notes. You’re the first person I’ve found whose been able to say “here’s how you do this,” which is exactly what I needed to hear today. My heart finally felt like this transition might be possible. And the all-sufficiency of Jesus the laced these posts just really reassured my spirit. Thank you for writing!


    • betsy says:

      Dear Erin, You are doing something really Big. And really, really Hard. A week and a half?? And a baby on the way?? You are my heroine, seriously! Well done you, for already getting on with it and seeking to transition well. I hope and pray that you keenly know the help and presence of the Lord Jesus as you follow him–even to such (literal) lengths. I’ll be praying too as you fight the good fight of homesickness and try to open your heart to something new and very different. God bless you!! And many thanks for taking time to write such an encouraging comment. Let me know how it’s going! Love, Betsy

      • Erin says:

        So, Betsy, we’re now three months into the transition to Singapore and it seems the little one is about to pop out any day now (six weeks to go). My husband and I have joined a church, I’ve found a mum’s group, and I’ve made some new friends! Oh, and I’ve figured out how to ride the buses/trains, how to navigate the hospitals, and how to get groceries for our family. I’m well on the way to transitioning to this new place… even if I do miss home and Minnesota fall something terrible several times a week. God really has been good to me.

        I’ll never forget how blessed I was by your words when I first landed here though. I’ve also checked out a couple of the books on your recommendation list (mostly on parenting) since then and I’ve just loved them. I’m so glad you write! Best wishes to you as you transition again yourself!

        Many blessings,

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