It all started with Instagram. Within a few weeks of creating an account to document life in Dordrecht, I received a surprisingly warm welcome from women around the world, living abroad. Being away from my usual female support circle in California, I took comfort in identifying with the details and challenges of their lives and relief in sharing mine. I've never met these women in "real" life and likely never will, but they're my friends and in a way, kindred spirits (hi ladies!).
This unexpected comradery also brought on the realization that for the first time in my life, I don't have my own local network. Even with a very loving, supportive partner, warm and welcoming in-laws and new group of exceptionally fun and intelligent Dutch friends (from JP) - I wanted to bring my own flare to our circle...so (surprise!) I went to the internet and fell deep into a rabbit hole of online Expat communities.
After creating what felt like endless profiles, I didn't think too much about any site in particular and had a hefty folder in my bookmarks to review at a later time. However, before I even had a chance to crack that folder open, I received a very friendly email. This was not the usual auto-generated "thank you for joining, please confirm your email" message. This was a very thoughtful and informative note from one of the InterNations Ambassadors of Rotterdam - Sourish Bhattacharya.
Sourish introduced himself (he moved to the Netherlands from India 5 years ago), told me a bit about the InterNations community in Rotterdam (for example, there are 186 Americans in the group!) and encouraged me and JP to join the next event at APARTT. We exchanged a few more messages and I agreed to join and take a few photos for the group.
I was a little nervous and not sure what to expect, but with JP accompanying me and a camera to hide behind - I knew the evening would be at least decent. Once we were settled in, everything was great. I think there were around 100 attendees from the InterNations Rotterdam community. I exchanged great conversation with people from the UK, Italy, the Netherlands Peru, Germany, Austria, India, France, China, Spain, Portugal, Egypt and Romania. Somehow, I felt at home in the diversity and so did everyone else. I'm not sure if I can attribute that to the open and friendly disposition most Expats seem to possess or Sourish being a hyper-effective ambassador. Or maybe it was the wine.
Either way, my experience was positive enough for me to attend the following event at Salt & Tasty and I plan on making it a habit. Thus far, InterNations seems to be an excellent resource in building a local community (both personally and professionally), so I'll be sure to follow up.
Have you found an traditional or unexpected ways to feel more connected in your new country? I'd love to hear.
Until next time, be well!