I stopped organising my kids’ playdates when they were about seven years old, I suppose. And so it’s a little bit weird to find myself, now, here in a new country, with a 21-year-old back in the nest who doesn’t know anyone his age.
Moving to a new country with school age children means that they are plonked in the middle of a vast pool of potential friends who can be found from their class, sports teams and extra-curricular lessons as well as from the neighbouring streets. I remember,when we went to Holland just over ten years ago with a 12 and 13-year-old in tow that it was me who had the hardest job making new friends. But then I did what I always did and joined the board of a professional women’s network. In this case Connecting Women in the Hague. I joined the board because it gave me a head start on getting plugged in and meant that I had more chance of being noticed at the meetings than had I just been a regular member. It worked. When I started a Writers’ Circle too I found something even better than friends, I found soulmates.
Here in KL, for the first time in many years I have decided not to establish a business . My business, for simplicity’s sake, is now registered in the UK and taxable there. And so I have no need to network professionally. It was a considered decision not to establish Summertime Publishing as a Malay company, particularly as we’ll only be here four years, but I had not recognised the impact it would have on the ease with which I settled in and made friends. When I don’t network for business I miss out on a whole heap of possible friends.
Anyway, six months in, I had established my writers’ circle and was making friends. Then, as you know, if you read my blog regularly, 50% of the circle’s regulars were posted elsewhere. So, Josh and I have both discovered friends are a bit thin on the ground.
But I won the Networker of the Year award from Women’s Business Initiative International in the Hague, back in 2011. That shows I am a networker, right? That shows that if anyone knows how to make new contacts, it’s me. If I don’t make an effort to make friends I must be a fraud, and I would not want that.
And so, back here in KL three weeks ago, after my month in England, I put ‘meet people’ top of my agenda in the months when it seems half of the expats here are away on holiday. Still, I like a challenge. After just a couple of weeks I’ve added quite a lot of numbers to my phone address book, so it seems my methods work.
Eight Ways to Find New Friends
I find myself now, on the alert not only for new friends for myself but for Josh too. I know the ropes and so this is my eight step action plan for friends for us both.:
- New leads. I follow up every ‘lead’, like the names folk who had once lived in KL had given me when they knew I was moving here. I guess this makes them ‘qualified leads’ rather than total strangers so I arrange a lunch or a coffee. Next week I’m meeting a complete stranger. Ooo errr. It feels like a blind date.
- Old leads. I follow up every ‘old’ lead I ever had, people I think once said, they lived in Malaysia. I remember I reviewed a book by a guy who lived here about 15 years ago. A book called NLP 4 U, and it had a rather good chapter on networking. I remembered his name, so I looked him up and am meeting him for lunch tomorrow.
- Leads on Roads Less Travelled. I like to go where others may not have gone before. So, I emailed the spouse association for my husband’s company and asked if they had a summer club for uni students visiting KL. Bingo! I learned that the new leader of the association is a newbie like me and has not one but two student sons here! We have now all met and Josh has met up with the boys several times. I meanwhile, have a supporter keen to involve me in more talks for the spouse association.
- Lead alert. I never miss an opportunity. So when I heard tell that that the friend of a friend had a student son here, I engineered another mother-and-son playdate, much to the embarrassment of the young men involved. I think they kind of expected to be sent to the playroom to get out the Lego. Not only did the chaps get along but I really enjoyed the mum’s company too.
- Listening out for leads. When a newcomer appeared in my pilates class and I heard her mention the words ‘daughter’. ‘uni’ and ‘new here’ in the same sentence I swooped in and extracted her phone number.
- No expectations. This is the key here. It is not about dating so there are no hopes and dreams riding on these potential friendships. It’s just about making a connection and seeing if we have anything in common. If we don’t like each other it really doesn’t matter. Honestly, it doesn’t. I’ll still make a little effort and dig out my mascara though.
- Start something. Make an effort. It’s worked for me in the past and I have every reason to believe it will work for me again. I started a Writers’ Circle here, and am still looking out for new members for our Wednesday meetings, but I want to improve my chances of finding like minded people, so from September, I’m starting a Writers’ Café too. Rather than the freeflow atmosphere of the Circle, this will take place in a café and each session will have a leader who will teach something and the people who attend willl write and share their work there and then. It won’t cost any money and it won’t always be me who runs it, but it will happen every month. I’ve also invited three different couples for drinks or dinner in the last week. I’ve met a few people I know vaguely for coffee and whaddayaknow one of them actually brought along a writer friend who is also new in town! I know it’s all effort, but it’s been a lot more fun than sitting moping.
- Put it out there. Sitting at home,wishing you had new friends won’t help you to find any. Wishing people would magically know about the Writers’ Circle and the Writers’ Café won’t actually help anyone to find out about it. So, I’ve put the details on my website and made a Facebook event and will be advertising for members in a couple of local newsletters.
There are days when I feel like such a tart! But really, I’m just being proactive. Like I said, it doesn’t matter if some of these playdates fall flat. It’s a bit like the way I do gardening – I open a packet of seeds with my teeth and chuck them onto some soil (the seeds not my teeth!), give them a bit of water and wish them luck. Some will take, some won’t and some, if I am lucky, and am careful to remember to nurture them a bit, might actually bloom quite nicely.