What's the best thing you've done to make your family feel at home in your new community?
I joined an expat group (American Women's Association) and started volunteering for local charities. Between those those groups I was able to quickly make both local and expat friends! I just put myself out there with a friend face, and reached out to people. I have a pretty active social life now, and so do my boys!!
Home is where you make it!
Get to know your neighbors.
We delivered bottles of wine (but could have been cookies or flowers) to our neighbors on our first day as a 'hello' and also a 'sorry' for taking up the whole street with our gigantic moving truck! We have been included in playdates, holiday parties, and girls-night-out ever since.
It takes courage to approach strangers, but definitely worth it in the long run and makes us feel a part of the community.
I think that the most important thing to think about when uprooting your family and moving to a new place is the fact that most of the security and "at home" feeling comes from within the family itself. We went through an incredible amount of transition this year, and the thing that helped keep my daughter feeling secure was structure and familiarity of family life. Her bedtimes, routine, family meetings, and general rules were more or less at the same wherever we were. I made a huge effort to get her good nutrition and good sleep, knowing that these things make a huge difference on behavior and outlook on life. Now that we are through the major transition and making our home in a new country, we have all of those things more firmly in place, and can do more. When we found out we were moving to England, my husband found videos books at the library about England, and we studied up on our new country together. This really helped to build excitement about our future. We have a running list of all the places we'd like to visit here (Buckingham Palace is on the top of her list) and the British things we'd like to try out. We take lots of family outings, frequently pointing out what is cool/new/different/interesting about what is going on around us. On a more domestic note, when we have moved into our new homes, I have made a point of getting my daughter's room set up first, indulging her with some new bedding and things that make her feel at home in her new space as we settle into unfamiliar territory. This is also exactly what we did when we moved to Germany, and I have to say that my daughter has been able to keep a really positive and excited attitude about living in both countries.
Blogging and being involved in various forms of Social media (Facebook, twitter, Mum's in Cyprus etc) has enabled me to make some wonderful friends in the local area, through meeting people we have learnt so much about living in Cyprus and had many words of advice given to us. Both my husband and I have made friends where the initial contact was online and mylove of the internet has helped us to find out so much about our new home.
1. We moved all our furniture over
2. We moved in my mother! :)
3. We got a cat
4. We explored our new city every weekend as a family
5. We made lots of new friends of all different nationalities and the shared experience of being abroad is very comforting
Getting involved in the new community is really key. When you have kids that are school age, it's usually fairly easy for them to adapt because they get to make new friends and everything is new and exciting (which can also be a bit scary).
But one of the best tricks we've found to quickly getting to know people around us is having a dog. Our Newfie is nearly 6 years old now, and we have met so many people in our neighborhood while out walking her. It's a lot of work to have a dog, but they certainly can make a huge impact when it comes to getting out there and bumping into people.
Moving to a foreign country for months or years is a real test for a family; but one that hopefully only brings the family closer together. You really learn to communicate with one another and lean on each other in these difficult times, especially when you move somewhere that is non-English speaking. When we came to Germany, it was just my husband and myself. But getting over that hurdle of going to the grocery store myself or dropping off dry cleaning was tough. Those first few years of trying to learn a language are crucial.
You've got to try to just dive into your new surrounding and culture head first, and soak up all of it that you can. Spend time as a family doing things together as often as you can, travel a bit and just make the most of it. Because chances are, you're not going to be living there forever. And you may just fall in love with the scary place! :)