A former colleague of mine would use the word “community” all the time. He would encourage us to find the right community, invest in them and the importance of them. He made me wonder if the word had a deeper and more versatile use that I had realized. A few days ago, while speaking with a friend, I realized how much sense the term community makes. Especially when you are trying to find home in a new place. I truly realized how important it is to find the right community, invest in them and how intentional you need to be.
Living overseas – no matter how often you’ve done it or for however long – needs one key ingredient to be smoother. That ingredient is community. The more I think about it, the more sense it makes. I’ve been living in the States for just nine months now. So I think lessons and observations stand out more clearly. Once you’ve lived somewhere for too long, observations such as this tend to go overlooked.
Several of my introvert friends have shared about how much harder it can be to transition into a new place. Simply because meeting and talking to new people can force them out of their comfort zones. I think that force is especially needed.
Introverts might find it harder to explore and fit into a new community but I think it can be difficult irrespective of your personality. Your personality should not become a hindrance to your ability to enjoy this new home to the fullest. I am learning that unless consistent efforts are made, your plan to “settle” into a new place will fail. We tend to form attachments with people and places. When you move, these attachments that make the transition painful. Almost like the roots of a plant, you need to let out your roots and remain surrounded by what nourishes you. New attachments make the new place familiar thus making it easier to call it home, even if it is for a little while.
I am so grateful for my church city group who became my new community when I first arrived here. They are definitely some of our closest friends in this city now.
Your community are the people who will help with understanding your new culture. Books definitely help but the people around you may be more relevant to your situation. Your community will help you get familiar with the city. Ask them questions – people usually enjoy imparting knowledge. Your community can teach you to cook or introduce you to restaurants (if you are not the cooking type). Food, we all know, can be a big source of comfort and joy. Forming a community can ensure that you don’t end up feeling lonely.
How you find and form a community will depend on your own style. Leaving it to work out on its own will most likely not work. Relationships take time and it’s wise to invest in them sooner rather than later while settling into a new place. If today’s efforts didn’t work, think of something new and go out and meet a neighbor. Knowing the language definitely helps so make the effort to learn. But I think communication in terms of kindness, cheerfulness and hospitality work in all cultures.
In any case, finding a new community and feeling settled in will take time and effort so it is important to have the right attitude. Focus on what makes it easier to make a new home. It might be easy to draw comparisons between places, people and cultures. But different parts of the world were made different and will remain different. Enjoy the adventure and the new definitions that come with it.
I am still learning to live overseas, Learning about people, politics, culture, seasons, systems. But this I am confident about – community defines the people who make a new place seem like home. I am grateful for my community.