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 !