04 August, 2011

First Ever Expat BlogHop - What is an Expat for You?

This post is inspired by my blogging friend over at Tales from Windmill Fields who is kicking off a regular expat blog hop.  I hope I can be dedicated enough to participate each week, but my posting record tells me otherwise!  I do really need a good kick in the pants to keep on top of a decent schedule, so let’s hope this is it!

This week’s topic is What is an expat for you?  Not an easy one to start with, I must say!  I did think about recycling an old post, my before and after meme, but where’s the fun in that!  So what does it really mean to me to be an expat?

Even though I refer to myself as an expat, I’m really not.  I’m not here on assignment and neither am I a trailing spouse.  I think the actual term for me might be ‘Lovepat’ or as I like to call myself: an Import Bride, although Maarten certainly didn’t pick me out of a catalogue (he’d be feeling pretty ripped off if he had)!

But what does it really mean to me?  Being a fish out of water.  Trying new things.  Having to cope with a different way of doing everything.  Trying to find good underwear.  Not being able to buy Crunchy Nut Cornflakes.  Driving on the other side of the road.  Swearing in a new language.  Above all though:  being shameless about finding new friends.

Although I’ve lived in half a dozen countries in my lifetime, I found making friends in the Netherlands far harder than anywhere else.  For the first six months or so I didn’t make any friends of my own.  I would trail along with Maarten (trailing spouse after all, perhaps?) and his friends would be friendly, it didn’t always translate itself into friendship.  I was at a bit of a loss as to what do next.  It came to the point where a trip to the local supermarket was becoming a big (or)deal.  I was becoming agoraphobic.  Going to work and coming home, with only the very occasional shoe shopping diversion (which before I moved to the Netherlands was almost a daily occurrence.  Have you seen the shoe stores in Edinburgh?!).  I was joining Meet Up groups in Amsterdam, but couldn’t be bothered going all the way there to actually meet people.

It all changed one day however, completely out of the blue.  I was at my lowest point.  It was January, my first winter here, dark and very, very lonely.  I received a message out of the blue via Facebook of all places!  From a South African woman living here in Almere!  I wasn’t alone!  We arranged to meet for lunch and really hit it off.  After that I was completely rejuvenated.  I had one friend of my own.  One friend!  Before I knew it, I had another.  And another.  And it snowballed.  Now I look around at my circle of friends and have so many, it’s hard to count.  And not just acquaintances, but real, true friends.  The kind of friends that you can sit in silence with and not feel uncomfortable (not that there’s ever any silence, mind you!).  The kind of friends that you know you can ring in the middle of the night and they’ll rescue you.  The kind of friends who just get you.  Know what I mean?  It’s precious and I’m eternally grateful.  I feel like I’ve finally found my place here in the Netherlands.

So when you ask, what is an expat for me?  I say new friendships.  I couldn’t be without them.

What we are talking about

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