Jul/Aug
2015

As a Newcomer: Be courageous

Written by By Sylwia Bujak
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When you’re a newcomer, it is normal to get lost or do something not very wise—like turning onto a one-way street downtown—or feel uncomfortable at local gatherings. A newcomer has to have courage to say hi to new people, to leave the house. All those simple things can suddenly be a challenge when you are new.

If you haven’t done it, you can only imagine how it is to arrive in a totally new place, where you absolutely don’t know anyone and quite possibly English is not your native language. Yes, it is pretty stressful. However, there is this amazing mixture of excitement and wonder of a new place and all its offerings.

 

From Around the World to Rochester

I came to Rochester with my husband, who got a job at Mayo Clinic, and our almost 2-year-old daughter (at the time). I’ve been living here for almost 3 years now, and it hasn’t always been smooth. I have moved more than 40 times already, and I am only 36 years old. I have moved schools, houses, areas, towns, countries, continents...you name it. Currently I am a stay-at-home mum, active volunteer/fitness instructor at Rochester Area Family Y and, personally, a very social and chatty person. 

Initially, my biggest concern was language. I am Polish, but I lived for many years in the United Kingdom. My husband is Northern Irish. I wasn’t sure how well I could communicate: Will an American accent be easy? Will I be understood by locals? It took me a while to put myself at ease and realize that Americans actually do like my European accent, and this is an excellent starting line. However, many are scared to ask me straight away where I am from. Asking a personal question, within reason, is very human, and it shows that one has genuine interest in the other person. That is how friendships are born. 

Beware of the Social Butterfly

You need to prepare yourself for many social rejections. Your new neighbor, who seems to be lovely, never has time to meet you for coffee. Nice mummy in the park won’t be able to come to a play date, and the girl from pilates class just doesn’t want to hang out outside of the gym. Give yourself time and don’t take these rejections personally. 

From my experience, every newcomer will meet a person that I call a “social butterfly.” Social butterflies are friendly and into hanging out. They come across as they want to be your best friend but with no intention to actually be one. It is important to recognize them and not to get discouraged about their lack of interest later on. It takes time to get to know people and to choose your friends. 

As we all are social animals and need other people to thrive, I thought it might be useful to share some tips that can help ease the transition and allow you to meet new people:

  • Put yourself out there. Join a religious organization, bring kids to the park, join a gym or go to the library. 
  • Start small. Just say hi to people or smile. You don’t have to share history or have the same background. You might connect because you both like Harlan Coben’s books, have kids the same age or like yoga.
  • Use social media. Stay at home mum? Advertise your need to spend time in adult company. There are mums out there who will gladly meet, so your kids can play and you two can whine about how hard potty training is. Single? Ask where local singles are gathering. 

Don’t expect that you will connect with the first person you meet. It might be a lengthy process, but look at the bright side: You will gain experience and have some fun searching for your new best mates.

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