In my years of being an expat I have been to many 'coffee morning' groups. These have ranged from the official ones hosted by The American Womens Association and the British Association in Hong Kong, to a discussion forum one in Singapore and a 'meet-up' group in Zurich.
They attract a group of (usually) women who have moved half way across the world for their husbands jobs and find themselves without jobs or friends. Going to a coffee morning for a lot of people is an easy way to meet others in a similar situation.
I have met some wonderful people at this type of event, several of whom I am still in contact with years later, however they also attract their share of people I fondly refer to as 'crazies'. The crazies always have issues with their new expat status and these coffee groups appear to be the ideal place for them to discuss these.
Their issues range from the obvious 'I feel so lonely as I have left my friends behind' and 'I don't have any identity now I don't work' to the absurd 'I hate Singapore because it is so hot' or 'I can't believe I can't find tinned pumpkin here in Hong Kong'. The first two are understandable but the second two, well, what can I say. I can only assume that people don't google where they are moving to and that they don't realise that different continents (or even countries for that matter) have different groceries and weather ??
Sadly what happens at this type of group is the everyone bonds over a mutual dislike of their new home country focusing on why its not like at home, and they get together regularly to make each other miserable. Its all very negative.
For someone like me where my new home is going to be home for a long time, this kind of negativity isn't something I want to be around and so I have been thinking about how to avoid this type of group and still meet new people....
After a bit of thought I understand why the coffee mornings can become so negative.... there is no group focus.
So in pursuit of a more positive experience, I joined a German speaking coffee group during the day time in Zurich run by InterNations. It was refreshing to discover that the attitude of (most) of the people who attend is completely different and much more positive.
Generally they have accepted that Switzerland is the new home and things here are different. Food is different, attitudes are different and of course the language is different. The focus of the group is to speak as much german as possible, thus slowly improving. No time to complain about Vegemite/Oreos or crumpets if you are concentrating on your nominatives and accusatives.
These people have committed themselves to learning German as they understand that they need to be able to communicate with the people around them. English isn't always an option here.
So my advice for any new expats is to join a group with a focus. Something you enjoy doing or something that will give you more positive experiences. A photography group will give you to opportunity to look at your new home differently, or a walking group to give you time to appreciate your new environment.
In 2015 I'm going to commit more time to playing at my golf club with the ladies group. Improve my handicap, get some exercise and speaking German all at the same time. No time to complain about not being able to buy back bacon in my local supermarket !!
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