If ever you find yourself expating, you MUST seek out the International Women's Club, or American Women's Club, or similar in your city.
They are lifesavers - literally.
Just google International Women's Club and a list of Clubs appear - Moscow, Budapest, Sofia, Zagreb, Belgrade, Hanoi, Capetown, Sydney, Dubai, Yokohama, Tokyo the list goes on. You can simply google the others to see what they offer.
Like everything, you don't know there's one in your city until you need it. - where you're arriving for the first time or repatriating.
Like everything, some Clubs are better than others in terms of their offerings but ALL Clubs have the same mission, to help newbies settled in well and quickly and make friends.
Now I know from friends that there is a huge difference in Clubs, and that the ladies in Dublin and surrounding areas are very fortunate to have a dynamic Club.
MsK suggested that I research IWC's when we first moved to Dublin as she had found the one in Tokyo very helpful and a lot of fun. I thank her often for this gem of information (amongst others)
I met an interesting group of ladies, of all ages, from numerous countries who, for varying lengths of time were calling Dublin home. We met monthly for the Meeting, signed up to all manner of interest groups and went on fabulous unique tours each month.
From this grew friendships of varying depths. Some of my closest BF's are friends from our time in Dublin 5 years ago (thanks to FB and Skype).
The reunion in May proved that time and distance between expats is nothing when you share a common experience. And the IWCD is just that. A wonderful common experience.
The Women's Club in Yokohama was very different and for lots of reasons I, along with others didn't join. From what friends tell me, it's changed a lot and more expats are joining and discovering the huge benefits of belonging to an IWCD.
Most of the Clubs are in London, and with distance and the cost of transport being prohibitive, again, I opted not to join. It seemed silly to invest time and money in making friends in London when we lived nearly an hour's train ride away! I think if we'd lived closer it would have made a huge difference to our time in the UK.
When we knew we were coming back to Dublin one of the very first things I did was contact the IWCD and ask about renewing my membership.
I was kindly invited to the last Book Club Meeting held over summer. It was so lovely to see familiar faces, and meet new friends.
The first meeting of 2013-14 was yesterday and I was so excited.
I'd invited a new mum from school who'd I'd not even met! She's returning to Ireland after being away 20 years! IMAGINE!?
We both had a lovely morning. Lots of conversation, yummy food provided by the Indonesian and Pakistani members (who kindly left recipie sheets on each table), and of course the business side of the meeting took place. In addition, the meeting is when you have the opportunity to sign up to the various activities and tours on offer.
I'm already back with my IWCD Book Club, and signed up for Beginners French (yeah, I know) as I thought (a) it won't hurt to try to learn a language, (b) MissM's in her second year of French and doing rather well so she can always help me and in turn, I might be able to help her and (c) where ever you go as an expat, there's a French contingency, so even if I only manage basic conversation, it'll be useful.
My new friend J, signed up for Hill Walking, and a cooking demonstration, so she's off to a flying start!
The other funny thing that happened when I arrived at the meeting, MsB greeted me with hugs and kisses (no, that's not the funny part) the funny part was when she said, one of our members knows a friend of yours from Tokyo and was told to look out for you. She asked me at MahJong yesterday if I'd heard of you.
Hear of you!? Of course she replied.
Long story short MsR (from Sydney), met MsK (Australian, but l-o-n-g time expat) in Tokyo. I met MsK in Tokyo thru MsH (NZ'er living in Yokohama) and we were ALL members of a brilliant group of Aussie and NZ ladies called Chicken and Chablis (there's a blog in itself)
MsB introuded me to MsR and we got along really well ..... coffee's happening next week! A nice first date to look forward to. MsR introduced me to MsS (also Australian) and she kindly invited me to play MahJong on a Monday.
Now MahJong is like Bridge, or golf or tennis - its' something expat women the world over 'do' as a means of keeping busy, networking and of course, meeting and making new friends. As I'm crap at cards, and don't play sport, this might be a cool thing to do.
One of the lovely Japanese ladies I remember from 'last time' greeted me with a warm smile, remembering that we'd gone to Japan. She was very surprised to see me at the meeting, and even more shocked to learn we were back for another gig.
She asked lots of questions about where we lived, and how we enjoyed Japan. She knew Motomachi very well (it's fabulous for shopping), and The Bluff (where most expats live), and was surprised we enjoyed living in Chinatown (not too noisy and busy for you?)
I asked her if she knew anyone who taught Ikebana ...... and she smiled in the way only Japanese ladies can, with their hand over their mouth and a twinkle in their eye. She's a Master and teaches several Japanese ladies once a month in her home. I am touched that she's invited me to join, and my first class is on tomorrow.
The IWCD has changed over the past few years as it should. The core group of members are the same, but the nomad expats have moved on. Nothing stays the same, nor should it.
I'm really excited to be part of this group again, and while it's not my lifesaver this time round, the next Club in the next country will be and for that I'm eternally grateful.