One of the most exciting parts of moving to a brand new city is meeting brand new people. I know this because I was reminded, oh, about 8 million times by anyone and everyone who found out I was moving to Paris. “Think of how many interesting people you’re going meet!” they would say. “You’re going to make so many wonderful friends!” they’d opine.
My reasonably outgoing self would be in total agreement. But my curmudgeonly 7 year-old alter-ego immediately wanted to respond to these hopeful thoughts with a sharp “I HAVE friends thankyouverymuch, and I don’t want any stupid new ones.” Call me loyal, call me stubborn, call me absolutely terrified about moving to a big lonely foreign city – but I started to tell myself that making new friends was going to be scary! And hard! Waaaaaaah!
That’s usually when the voice of reason would try to intervene.
“Jen, this is reason speaking.”
“You know, reason. The voice of sanity. I’m here to keep you from humiliating yourself and alienating all possible friendly companions?”
“Hmm. Never heard of yah.”
So I set forward promoting a staunch isolationist stance. And very quickly learned it was not going to do me very good. Two weeks in, with no internet and limited human contact during the day, I was starting to go just a wee bit nuts. Talking to strangers and sometimes the walls nuts. I found myself cozying up next to anyone on the metro who seemed to be speaking English. I considered more than once just asking the nice lady at the fromagerie if she wanted to hang out later.
I was desperate for a friend. It didn’t even have to be a particularly good one. I’d take a back-stabbing, husband-stealing, trash-talking one if she would just get a cup of tea with me some afternoon.
Worried about the new imaginary friends I liked to call “croissants” and “champagne,” my loved ones back home flooded my inbox with their foreign contacts, and I started doing the unthinkable: asking total strangers out on blind dates. So you know my sister’s husband’s co-worker’s uncle? AND you have a pulse?! Let’s get dinner. Now.
And most surprisingly, total strangers started calling me. Asking me over for tea. Suggesting we meet up for some shopping. You know, generally being incredibly warm and welcoming human beings. And wonder of wonders, I think I actually might be real friends with some of them now.
I’d like to think it’s my charming personality that invited so much friendliness, but I know it’s more likely that these wonderful people are familiar with the wild-eyed, Will-You-Be-My-Friend panic that hits expats and new kids alike. But instead of closing off from the world in a fit of misguided self-preservation, they stepped forward with an open heart.
Huh. Who’da thought that would work?