Friday, June 22, 2012

Making friends in a foreign country

The way I see it, making friends in your new home country is essential to feeling "normal" and "at home".

Maybe this comes easily to some expats, especially (I am assuming) the ones that work out of the home. For this expat, who sings nursery songs and runs in circles chasing toddlers all day.... Not so easy.

There have been a couple oppurtunities, conversations struck up with other moms while out walking or wandering the fabric store but in the moment a huge wave of (totally uncharacteristic) shyness takes over and I lose the nerve! Why should it be any different in another language?

(insert pouty face here please)

Am proud to say, I think I am on my way to my first (nonfamily) friend here in Mexico. A couple months ago, the girls and I stopped by a dulceria (um, not for candy....) and the shop owner asked me (in spanish) if I spoke English. I personally love it when people ask this question - because to me its pretty darn obvious that Spanish is NOT my first language.

When I told him I did, he asked me to wait and went to get hia daughter.

Oh great, another person who "speaks english" , I thought. Usually that means a person can say "How are you?" and respond "I'm fine" and then stare at me blankly if I say anything else.

So when my prospective friend Diana came down and said hi, I was suprised that she actually spoke English pretty well. She was about my age, and absolutely horrified that her dad dragged her down to practice/show off her English with a complete stranger.

"Sorry" she said "My dad is really proud that I studied English in school. He wants me to practice all I can."

I assured her it was no problem and a relief that she actually could speak - I joked with her that most people who think they speak English can't actually conversate at all. We chitchatted for about 10 minutes, and the girls and i continued our walk.

Since then , every time we walk by we are either on our way somewhere or Diana isn't there. I always wave to the dad and send my "saludas" to Diana. Today we went for our walk and decided to stop by and see if Diana was in. La senora (her mom) was tending the shop and I have never spoken with her before. We buy our Principe Crunch and a red Gatorade to share and then I ask her,

"Oye senora, la chava Diana esta su hija?"

And she said said yes and asked if I knew her. I told her we had spoken once or twice and to give her my greetings. "Do you want to speak with her? She is here today" la senora told me.

So Diana came down and asked how we had been, what we had been up to. We talked a little bit , about how she would like to live in the states to practice her English. I suggested she look into Canada as the visas are a tiny bit easier to obtain - especially if she is going to go to school. She said she heard it is beautiful there in Canada but really cold :)

I asked her how she practiced English, and she told me she reads English books everyday and watches CSI:Miami and another crime investigation show from the states that air here in English with Spanish subtitles. The book mention was my perfect in - how many HUNDREDS of books did I bring with me !?!? And they are just sitting in boxes , sadly collecting dust. I asked what genres she liked and she said mostly histroy. CHACHING! A match made in literary heaven! I probably own only.... 75 some odd books about various countries and their history. So I offered to look through my books and bring her a couple to read.

THEN to my suprise she asked if we had been to any museums or down to La Reforma. No, in the 6 months we have lived in this city FULL of amazing museums and places to visit we have not seem ONE. NOT ONE. (geez, its like my inlaws have lives or something. Lame!)

She offered to take us one day, if we were interested. I then told her we would love to, that I have missed being able to talk in my own language and how the girls get bored in the house. She laughed and said she was sure it was hard to move to a place no one understood you, and told me she was usually there if I ever needed anything or wanted to talk. I told her I didn't have a cell yet but she gave me her cell to use whenever or to make plans.

Needless to say I'm PYSCHED at the prospect of a friend! Family is great and all, but a person isn't whole without friends. There are a couple of organizations I plan on attending meetings as well, now that we are competent (sort of!) driving in this city. That isn't the same as having a friend right on your own block!!!

Here is to hoping we become besties so I don't die of boredom and loneliness here surrounded by millions !


  1. I wish I could have made friends in Monterrey, but everybody who lived around us thought I was a a slut because I am American. They actually told me this to my face!!
    I hope that I can make friends here in Tampico. I would love to meet someone who speaks English, that would be awesome!

    Good for you tha you have made a friend, I agree friends are needed.

    1. Wow. No one has said this to me yet, but who knows what they are saying behind my back! Perhaps because I usually am with my husband and/or inlaws... And my MIL and SIL are pretty assertive in their family protectiveness. I don't think anyone has enough cajones to call someone in their family anything bad (to their face at least) .

      I hope you make friends in Tampico . The pictures look so gorgeous, and the kids are having fun with their cousins! :) so happy you guys finally got to move!,

    2. Well I'm mexican, I live in DF, but I started reading this blog because I thought it was about knitting (as Tricia aka Rallitodeluna joined the 'Tejedoras y Tejedores de Mexico' group on Ravelry) then I found some interesting things.

      About people calling you a slut:
      well I don't know the place where you're living but in the little town where my parents were born in Puebla people used to think that every girl who moved to the city became a slut. Also many old people are very prejudiced and think that if you started dating a boy at 15 you would automatically leave school and get pregnant. Or if you have had more than 2 boyfriend's and you don't seem to be getting married to the third that also makes you a slut for them. Even worse, at least about 10 years ago, you couldn't go out with short skirts without having everybody seeing your legs and yelling things at you. Thanks to heaven my parents wisely moved from that place.

      So there are many places where people is very conservative or too old fashioned in my country hehe but at least in D.F., Cuernavaca and Acapulco (my husband was born there) people are a lot more relaxed.

      I don't know if I'm saying what I mean, but I hope you'll understand.

      I hope you all find more friends :) and have a great time in Mexico :)

  2. Having a friend really makes a difference. When we first moved to GDL, I was soooo lonely. I really wanted an English speaking friend, but nobody spoke English. And then one day in the parking lot at the grocery store, I spotted a Gringa looking woman, more or less my age, with a car that had California license plates. I decided to be brave and I shouted from a short distance if she spoke English. When she answered yes, I went running over to her car and struck up a conversation. We've been friends for two years now. :)

    1. Jackie, what a fun story! That is such a cute memory, I hope you guys remain friends!

      I never see Americans here around us. Only downtown in the tourist area/centro but even then they are usually in groups and not looking for new friends. Poco a poco!

  3. That is awesome! Making friends is definitely hard, even when there's no language barrier. Props to you for putting yourself out there. I hope you have a great time at the museums.
    Oh, and forget the history books, get her some juicy American novels, then you'll be friends for life!

    1. Maybe I should hire you to make friends for me, seems easy for you ;)

      I was thinking about finding a copy of 50 Shades of Grey for her to borrow, but figured that might be a bit much ;)

  4. I agree. Sometimes I wish our town was not so small because there are no english speakers here. Sometimes I do miss having someone to be able to call or go out to dinner with. Thank god I at least have the girls here online to keep me somewhat sane.

    1. I agree, Lisa. I would probably be in an insane asylum without you ladies!!!

  5. That is definitely the hardest adjustment for me. Congratulations on your find and I agree with the previous comment. Throw something juicy into the history mix. She'll probably love it.

    1. As soon as e are besties, I will for sure be passing on somemjuicy stuff ;)

  6. Im so excited for you, Like everyone is saying it is so hard to connect to people here and usually due to their ideas of American women. I invited some of the nurses to a barbq at my house and said it was a bring your own meat afair. This started a whole day discussion on how things are done here in Mexico and how I wasnt doing it right. In the end I said, look if you want to hang out come over and bring some meat. lol It was quite a debacle. In the end they asked if I could change the date because most of them had decided to go to a fair that day. Im still not sure if this is the typical Mexican avoidance of just saying no or if I should really try to plan something again. Have you ran into the Mexican saying yes and meaning no yet?

    1. Oh Amanda, sorry to say but I have seen several times that "yes means no" . My inlaws say this to people ALLLLL the time , maybe like 4 times in these first 6 months :(

      The mexicans I know (here and in the US ) would be HORRIFIED if someone brought food to their party. Almost like an insult. Once, I insisted on bringing a pumkin cheesecake to a christmas party and I was the ONLY one who brought food. Out of around 30 people. Bu, I have seen it is pretty acceptable for men to bring beer and or other alcholic beveragest good luck with your BBQ, its a weird thing here about partys !