You’ve probably travelled to another country, either alone or with someone. It seems exciting and likely that you know no one, and it doesn’t matter. Now, stop and think – what if you moved your lives, your families to a country, a city where you knew no one. Absolutely, no one.
I’ll make friends at work!
You may need to rethink that. The one thing I’ve experienced here is that you go to work to work, not make friends. I’ve worked in six places in the last three years in Australia, but I haven’t made a single friend at work. I’m not referring to acquaintances or a network of professional colleagues, but a friend in the true sense of the word.
All my colleagues have been great, welcoming and polite. We’ve had laughs and drinks at work, but it stops there.
Did you know that 80% of Australia suffers from workplace loneliness? If you do meet that one colleague that you instantly click with, you’d be in the lucky 20%.
In my first two jobs, I wondered if there was more to it. I started disliking my jobs and would often think about all the close friends I’d made in the workplace when I was in India. It took me a while to understand that none of what I was feeling was intentional.
I figure it’s because people who have been here all their lives already have their social circles. They aren’t specifically looking for new friends, like us, new migrants in foreign land.
What you can do
Get involved. Look for community events, events at school, your gym, your place of worship. Reach out and say hello. As you keep meeting the same people at the same places, ask them over for a cup of coffee. Set up a play date for the children and get to know the parents.
You will find the occasional person who won’t even smile back but that happens back home too. There are more lovely people out there than you know. It may take a while connecting with the right folks – you just need to make an effort and know where to look.
How we made our first friends in Adelaide
While our visa was being processed, I joined a group on Expat Forum – many use this virtual space to talk about pending documents for the visa application and the different stages of the application.
Now, Expat Forum isn’t for everyone, especially when people go rogue! Sometimes, the conversation takes a different turn, people start wanting to make ‘fraandship’ with you, talk about setting up Indian marriage halls in Australia, and other rubbish I don’t care to recall.
I had got all the information I needed from the Forum and was about to close my account when…
… one morning, I received an inbox message from a guy in Mumbai. He had a question about transferring money through ICICI bank. I almost didn’t reply – I mean who was this ‘Addy’ from Mumbai, why did he send me an inbox message, and why didn’t he ask in a public forum?
Replying to him turned out to be a fantastic decision, thankfully he wasn’t a stalker or a murderer! In the next two years, Advait and his lovely wife Mehak became our best mates. The most heart-breaking thing for me when I left Adelaide was leaving these two folks.
We made more friends along the way
We were also welcomed warmly by fellow Indians in our church – the Walkers, the Carters, the Dias’. We created friendships with the Amars, the Ashrafs, the Otters. We’ve done meals together, Christmas, Diwali and Easter and birthday parties.
The friends you make here in your new home will be there when you need them, whether it’s supporting a friend who’s been taken to hospital in the middle of the night for eating shell fish 🙂 or supporting someone else who can’t find a job.
I suspect you’ll find that most of your friends will end up being Indian. It’s not because you are arrogant or incapable of making friends from diverse backgrounds.
It’s because when you are in a foreign land, you crave for any sense of familiarity, for home cooked rotis, for chats about that politician back home who is constantly says the wrong things, about the latest celebrity scandal, about being able to speak in colloquial English, or the ability to break into Bollywood dance.
There’s a close knit that’s formed over time as we recall our struggles and celebrate our successes. Everyone understands that we may not have family here to help and these bonds become your new families.
So while job hunting maybe on the top of your list, making good friends should be up there too. It’s easy to feel lonely, anxious and even depressed in the absence of people you can laugh with.
From knowing no one to everything we needed.