As promised in my previous post I am digging deeper into the eight pillars of Wellness for, but not limited to, Expatriates and Repatriates. And I decided to start with the Social Wellness. Why? Because as somebody on the move for almost 20 years I feel this can be one of the toughest ones.
Sometimes it is easy to connect, we meet the right people right from the start. At other times it’s not so easy, we experience moments where we do not seem to click or feel connected at all. Then there are the moments when we feel overwhelmed and exhausted by trying to make connections. And all this with the knowledge that even if we do feel connected and supported, it can be short-lived as one of us will eventually be on the move again.
Creating a stable and solid social wellness around you can be a tough one
According to the University of California, Davis, “Social wellness refers to the relationships we have and how we interact with others. Our relationships can offer support during difficult times. Social wellness involves building healthy, nurturing and supportive relationships as well as fostering a genuine connection with those around you.”
Whether we are looking to create connections when we…
- move for the first time to a very open, expat orientated environment,
- move for the 10th times,
- move to a secluded, tight-knit community,
- live in a location with a high turn over and are the one staying behind
- or face(d) a repatriation
…each one of them comes with their different challenges. But all have one thing in common. And that; social wellness is important for each one of us, no matter the circumstance! We need social wellness for the small and the big things in our life.
If you have been moving around, no matter if abroad or within your country, you might have noticed how friendships can go deep very quickly. It seems like an unwritten script for those on the move. I wonder if that is because everybody seems to know that it’s on borrowed time and you simply just dive in.
But if others around you have not experienced the power and pressure of moves, if you find yourself in a close-knit community or in a location where you are the only newcomer it can become a real struggle to find (deeper) connections. It can take a long time, a lot of effort and all of your strength.
How we connect changes over time
A social connection plays a vital part on how settled and at ease, we feel! How much I like and enjoy the city I live in stands or falls with the connections I build around me.
But over the years I noticed that the approaches and easiness of creating connections changed. My first moves within my home country and abroad were work-related. It was easy to make connections with colleagues around me. Later I moved with a young child and a baby. Again making connections on that ground was easy. The expatriate’s community was very open, welcoming and I met others who had kids in similar ages. Meanwhile, the kids are getting older and I noticed I have to put more effort into meeting others. This might as well be due to getting older myself and having lived this life for quite a while now. Everybody is busy with life, and it does not always overlap or connect naturally.
But whether you move with or without (younger) children building connections always takes an effort. And it will always depend a bit on luck. Luck to be at the right place at the right moment.
And if you are more introverted, like me, it takes a lot of “getting out of your shell” moments to connect, and that can drain your energy. Stepping into extrovert situations as an introvert is not easy, it’s exhausting yet necessary at times.
Take that step
Start with small questions. For example ask for the good supermarkets, a restaurant or doctor recommendations, etc. if general approaches overwhelm you. You will be surprised how helpful others are. And you may meet a new friend like that – I surely did once or twice down the line!
Facebook, whether you like it or not, is a great place to find resources on what is going on where you live and to find groups of all sorts of interest. MeetUp, Internations, Embassies, Running groups, Sports-Arts-or Cooking get-together, book clubs, are a few other areas that come to my mind on where to connect.
Look out for groups where expatriates and locals mingle, it can help to connect in a different way.
Push yourself a bit by trying to see this as an opportunity and take the move as an experience to find some new areas of interests.
And don’t hesitate to go out and ask for advice, help or support. I know it can be tough to do so, I know that one first hand. But it works and helps to connect, even if it feels overwhelming.
Look out for the newcomers, reach out and offer them some help, advise or support. After all, you once were in their shoes too. A friendly face and a helping hand can go a long way, especially when you just moved somewhere.
All this counts for day one as much as for years later, whether you moved or are the one staying – don’t close off but stay curious and open for new discoveries, and connections. Keep the social connections going!
Connecting as a Repatriate
When it comes to repatriation I found this all a bit more challenging to be very honest. And I do believe that taking care of your social wellness as a repatriate can be tougher as you are not really new, but you are not an “oldie” either. You don’t always fit right in and often have to work harder to connect and to reconnect.
Back during my repatriation, I struggled heavily. It came unexpected, it came as a shock and I blocked myself off quite a bit, unintentionally but still… I felt disconnected, didn’t know where and how to fit in again and how to find myself in this old yet new situation.
Looking back I could have handled things differently. I was definitely lucky to connect to other Expats who “took me in”. But I could have tried harder to connect to the local environment around me, too.
If you find yourself in that situation you could as well try to get connected to welcoming groups in your city and use the same groups as I mentioned above. The place you moved to might not be new to you but this should not block you to connect and stay curious and to make new experiences.
Having said that, out of my experience I found it super difficult, it drained me, but I do believe that we will find the one or other connection, eventually. But it can take much more time.
Don’t let it wear you down
But I am not sugar-coating it, whether it comes to making new connections abroad or back home or relieving old friendships after repatriation it can be hard…make sure not lose yourself in all this. I am introverted myself, and that seeking and making sure I stay connected wears me down, exhausts me at times.
If trying to make connections is getting the better of you if it all starts to overwhelm you take a step back.
- Try to connect for and to yourself again first.
- Take small steps.
- Choose one outing a week instead of thinking you have to do it all.
- Try to get rid of some pressure you might have put on to yourself by slowing down.
- Try to find smaller outings/groups to feel less overwhelmed.
- Learn to enjoy a coffee or tea outside by yourself, with a nice book for example.
- Go outside every day, even if just for a short walk.
Trying anything new, even making connections is often a trial and error. But don’t see it as a wasted time if it doesn’t work out. What counts is that you tried and you made a new experience.
And like most things in life, connections as well as friendships can’t be forced, allow time to work for you!
Can you relate to this, do you have other advice on where and how to create your social wellness? I would love to hear from you!
Stay connected, wherever you are!
I will be back here soon again, I hope you too!