Friday, 19 April 2013

A Gathering Of Friends

At some point in our life, we have all been part of a group/s that have one key thing in common be it sport, your faith, a hobby, a pre-natal class, your child's preschool/nursery.

Isn’t it amazing how from that one seed incredible friendships have the opportunity to be born, like an oak tree, branches reaching far and wide with deep fixed roots? 

The International Women’s Group Dublin (aka IWCD) was like that, and more for me, indeed for lots of expat women who arrive in a new city not knowing anyone. (Yokohama International School was the same - by the end of MissM's first day we had 'friends')

Thank goodness that was our first expat adventure. We were eased into living on the other side of the world and made to feel so welcome by new friends. Of course not everyone you meet becomes a Friend (capital F) and others remain friends (small f) or indeed, a mate, buddy or acquaintance.

The day we arrived at our house, MrsR and MrsO greeted us across the driveway with ‘we knew you’d be here soon. Welcome. How are you?’ and we clicked, becoming good neighbours and friends. (We are still in touch every so often on FB or via emails)

MissM’s trial morning at Montessori was one of the most emotional for me, not simply cos my little girl was starting school way before we had planned, out of necessity (she needed friends, and so did I) but because of the warm greeting we received from MsS and her team ‘go have a coffee and some alone time, she’ll be fine with us’ and she was. (Several mums and I are still in contact on a regular basis; The 
D Family and us are very close still)

So, with G at work and MissM at Montessori (albeit part time for the first few months, then slowly ramped up to full time) it was up to me to find where I belonged in our new city. This is one of the basic functions of an expat wife/mum – settle everyone first, organise the house, find the supermarket, GP, hairdresser, ballet class or soccer club (or which ever after school activities are applicable) then go make friends and a new life for yourself.

MrsS shared this article about expat mothers and if you have a few minutes to read it, you'll understand a wee bit more about what it's like to walk in our shoes.

But I digress slightly as I often do, sorry.

The day I discovered the International Women’s Club Dublin, or IWCD for short, shall remain with me as a GOOD DAY.

The first meeting was a real eye opener to my new life. Walking into a room FULL of women from all over the world, of all different ages and backgrounds, knowing each one had been or was still an expat.

IWCD Monthly Meeting- a social gathering and business meeting

And you know no one.

Deep breathe. And walk up to the registration table, introduce yourself and explain ‘Hi, I’m new’

Everyone was so welcoming and friendly. I was swept up in a wave of hello’s and polite questions that I soon came to learn very quickly as ‘the standard questions’ and found myself asking others very quickly. Surely we’ve chatted about this before.

Where are you from?
Have you expatted before?
-       Where?
-       How Long?
-       Oh, I have a friend who lived there/I lived there/I’d love to go there
How long have you been here?
Where do you live?
Do you have kids?
-       How old?
-       Which school?
-       How are they settling in?
What does your husband do?
Who does he work for?
How long will you be here?
Do you know anyone?

And hopefully the big one ‘would you like to join me for coffee’

And another goodies, ‘come with me, I’d like to introduce you to  ……’

Notice how few questions are closed?

Each open-ended question allows for a conversation to flow, and for you to learn about each other. The familiar ‘so do mine’ or ‘we are close by’ warms your heart.

Years in sales taught me how to walk into a room of strangers and start networking, so it wasn’t as daunting to me as it might be for others. Still you don’t know the protocols, or etiquette of a room full of expat wives so nerves are definitely there. I often wonder how women with quieter demeanour, or those who are shy manage in this odd world of constant newness and putting ones self out there all the time.

Each month the IWCD Newsletter would arrive, full of potential dates for the diary; There were the monthly activities, such as golf, hill walking, theatre groups, book clubs, mah jong, bridge, “Your Country or Mine”, “Irish Culture”, area coffee mornings; one off special events like a private guided tour of an art exhibition or historic building, morning tea and a guest speaker at an Embassy, a cultural event such as Bloomsday to participate, or a tour of a historical site, or place of national pride. 

My diary was based around what I was doing with IWCD that month. From these get togethers, friendships would begin to grow and you’d step outside the comfort zone of the IWCD and get together.

Melbourne Cup was hilarious fun - we raced all manner of wind up toy
This is where I discovered the art of Girl Dating in order to find a friend. Then of course, you decide whether to introduce husbands and kids to your new friend but that’s another chat.

A few weeks ago I received one of the best emails ever – an invitation to attend a reunion of sorts, as part of the Irish Tourism Commission’s The Gathering promotion.

While many of us have stayed connected via good ol’ Facebook, and I Skype with a couple I have not had the chance to go back to Dublin since leaving.

We were very fortunate to leave Dublin with very dear friends who are still close to my heart and we are in touch. Two years ago, MrsS and family stayed with us in Yokohama on their way to Australia.

I was also lucky to visit with a different MrsS when she visited her new grandchild in the UK only a few weeks after we arrived.  She’s now in NYC and sadly won’t be at the reunion, but we’ll catch up in June when she’s visiting her daughter and grandson.

These women become your support network cos you’ve left yours ‘at home’.

They are your new best friends, sharing day to day life and experiences. They are substitute mums, sisters, sisters in law, aunties, grandmothers, best friends simply because you are in a new city and you need a support network, as do they. 

They recommend a GP, hairdresser, chiropractor, restaurants, where to shop, the best butcher/baker/fish monger and more, the best parks or playgrounds for younger kids, holiday destinations, hotels and more.

The Irish Tourism Commission is promoting ‘THE GATHERING” as a means to entice people to Ireland in 2013 and the IWCD has created a Reunion as part of The Gathering.

I am over the frickin’ moon that I am going!

There are so many lovely ladies to catch up with and hug.

It's also affording me a weekend away with a best mate, MrsS AND it allows me time to catch up with our neighbours MrsR and MrsO, the Montessori mums and I will do a dinner and I'll skip down memory lane to our house.

Despite being gone for nearly 5 years the warmth, even thru a FB group one of the ladies created is incredible.

The organisers have been gracious to allow lots of free time so we can catch up with non-IWCD friends (yeah) and revisit places that mean something to us.

In many ways, I feel like I am going home for a visit, and I can’t wait.

With friendship


  1. girl dating - love it!!! used to have 'hot dates' with other mums where we'd go out, dolled up and dressed up, to do things we used to do with hubby. I'd say we had a better time with each other :-) power to the ladies!

  2. isn't it funny how a bunch of girlfriends can have THE MOST amazing time together. Power to the Ladies indeed. Looking forward to our next girl date in a few weeks x