I’ve had several people comment lately about how I’m “really jumping into things” after being here just a short time. We just hit the 3 month mark, so I don’t really feel like it is so short considering we’re only here 24 months–we’re 1/8 of the way done! But I have found that some people are creepers when it comes to settling in (exploring, sightseeing, joining groups, making friends, etc) and some are jumpers. I guess you know what category I am in!
Most of this is really because I want to find my tribes and to do that quickly you need to jump. I need my mommy tribe, my exploring tribe, my grown up conversation tribe, etc. Some people overlap tribes and some people are just in one tribe. And of course with the mobile nature of our life style, people move and leave the tribe and new people come in. I also think the virtual/social media tribes can be equally important.
Whether you’re moving to a new city, state, or country or just moving into a new stage of life (hello parenthood or empty nesting!), you need new tribes. It reminds me of the Girl Scout song “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold.”
I have found great success with online tribes, particularly Facebook. I know. I know. Facebook is both a blessing and a curse and it totally depends on how you use it. But honestly, I love it more than I hate it. Aside from the obvious of keeping up with family and friends around the world, I love joining groups related to my area or my life. First thing I do when preparing a move is to look up and see what groups are in the area. Here, I’m in a mom and baby group for people with babies and toddlers who live in my area. We meet in person, but we also ask questions over FB and WhatsApp. I’m also in a group specifically for government people living here and some groups for women in Cairo and Expats in Cairo. Internationally, I’m in 4 different groups related to embassy people–people with kids, decorating ideas, etc. I have learned so much from the groups and made friends prior to our move.
You can also find online groups to help support you with different challenges. When DS was a baby and having problems nursing, I exclusively pumped for him. It was a brand new experience and something I knew nothing about. I found a FB group for exclusive pumpers and they were such a life line–supportive, helpful and full of ideas to make the process easier. They were women from all over the world supporting each other.
Obviously along with online interactions, you need in person friends and tribe members! My first focus is always finding the mommy tribe as my kids want playmates. In the ideal world, the kids get along with each other and the mommies can then talk and vent about all things mommy and grownup related. In the best best world, your best friend is the parent of your kids’ best friends and then everyone hangs out all the time! I was lucky to have that in India and in Virginia and am hoping to have that here! But so far we have several friends where the kids get along and the mommies get along, so life is good.
I also like to have the grown up conversation tribe–people who may or may not have kids, but you hang out when the kids are at school or at night when the kids have babysitters and talk about non kid things! I’ve joined a book club that is a great source for that and an international ladies group that socializes and explores.
Then there are the smaller tribes–I’ve started taking pilates regularly and after class students talk a bit, mostly about how much our bodies hurt! I’m also trying to organize regular happy hours for our building so that we get to know each other more, especially as we have a wide range of people with kids or no kids or grown kids and tandem working couples and trailing spouses.
My two biggest pieces of advice for finding your tribes if you find yourself tribeless either due to a move or a change of life status (or your friends moving and leaving you behind) are:
- Just do it. Join the groups. Show up at the meetings. Go up to the mom on the playground and say “hey, our kids play well, let’s do a playdate.” It’s a bit easier in an expat community because most people are new regularly, but you can do it anywhere. Research, join, and show up.
- If you can’t find what you want, make it and invite others. In India I started a playgroup for stay at home moms with little ones in our neighborhood. I ended up making the best of friends and DD ended up with her best friend through it. Here I’ve started a weekly story time as I don’t want kids to miss out on that opportunity they’d normally have in the US. I’ve also started up happy hours. Many people are happy to participate in things, but need someone else to start them. So start it!