Moving to another country can feel a lot like starting over, except with the advantage, perspective, and friendships of your previous home. My partner and I compare it to starting a level over in a video game, rather than at the very beginning. Meaning: I have both internal and external foundations to build upon in my new life here. And, I trust myself to make the right decisions while staying open to All of the Newness. But still, making new friends is a whole new ballgame, especially for this introverted extrovert. (Or is it: extroverted introvert?)
Herein lies friend dating: meeting new people with the intention of either growing a deeper relationship with them, or allowing them to settle into an acquaintance. One of these is not necessarily better than the other, as long as you maintain curiosity around connection. So far, I've had the magical experience of a yes to everyone I've met: from the full-of-life Lithuanians to my American friends to Italians and everyone in between. For those of you also starting over or just curious about how I handle this aspect of moving abroad, I've created an internal guidepost:
Be open to new experiences: be open to walking to new parts of town, trying new foods, learning more about the person or people you're connecting with. Make sure the conversation isn't just about you and your New Life. Stay focused and stay present.
Be okay with a maybe or a no. If there's one thing the pandemic has sharpened for me, it's my ability to say no to what doesn't serve me. Not everyone has to be your best friend, but you can learn something from everyone you meet. Display discernment, curiosity, and grace.
See the bigger picture: even if you miss your friends and family back home, the first few months in a new space can bring great wisdom and joy, as well as loneliness and overwhelm. But, it's perfectly okay to spend time alone, recharge, and ground. Pacing yourself and seeing through a larger lens is key to being able to get back out there and make even more new connections, at least for me.
If I could poll my friends around the world, they'd remind me how skilled I already am at discernment, boundaries, and openness. It's been fascinating to move into new worlds and new forests, while also displaying my individual brand of discernment. If you're moving into a new phase of life, whatever it may be, I hope these words support you on your journey!
Below: Vilniaus Universito Botanikos Sodas (Vilnius University Botanical Gardens), August 2021.