Settling in and making friends is the thing I dreaded most about moving, I have never found it easy and feared that in a foreign country it would be so much worse than before. I would have my husband with me, so I would never be alone, but when we had previously moved to Scotland and even before that going to university, it had always taken a while to find like-minded people and I was worried that being this far away from home would make the loneliness so much worse.
Thankfully I was proved wrong.
It helped that we had made a fairly significant move beforehand – from England to Scotland – and, while this wasn’t nearly as far it still took seven hours to drive or get the train back to where I grew up so going ‘home’ wasn’t something I could indulge in often. I left Scotland regretting that I hadn’t made more of my time there, and I was determined not to make the same mistake with my next move, so when we arrived in Brunei I threw myself into as many activities and societies as I could. And it paid off.
Moving to Brunei reminded me a little of going to university – it is a small community and we live on a camp (there are no fences but we are surrounded by other expats mostly). This does have its disadvantages, mainly that sometimes it really does feel like having regressed in life when you go back to acting like you did in your early twenties, and of course the same thing goes for signing up for too many clubs and activities when you arrive and finding that you are part of a dozen committees which don’t really interest you! On the other hand, there are so many opportunities to try new things – I have learnt to sail a Hobbie Cat, dive, run a library, teach English as a second language… and with the hindsight of being a little older you learn to say no to things you aren’t interested in (mostly)! But the point I am trying to make is that if you make an effort to become involved in the community – whether through volunteering, signing up to classes, through your children’s activities etc. – you will fill up the time you would otherwise have spent missing home and get to meet plenty of new people. Brunei has the added benefit of being a small camp where the turnover is fairly rapid, the average contract length being four years, so everyone is fairly ‘new’ and people go out of their way to help new arrivals settle in. But even in a less close-knit community you can’t help but meet new people if you venture out of the house…
Two and a half years on, and having just had my first child, I am withdrawing a little from my previous activities and concentrating instead on being a new mother. But I have already met a new community of potential friends who are in a similar position and I look forward to the next phase of my life and all of the new opportunities that it will bring. I certainly know that, despite being away from my family, I will have plenty of support with my new arrival, and I am thankful for having the opportunity to make so many friends that I know I will stay in touch with long after we have gone our separate ways.