- Susie Csorsz Brown
(Flash from the past)
First, let me tell you a story. There was this FS family who moved to a new post overseas. They had been to other posts; this was not their first go at this. They arrived, dragged themselves to the grocery store, wandered around, spending an inordinate amount on a pitiful number of items. They pushed through the jet lag to get to a 'normal' bedtime , and then, like zombies, dropped into a listless sleep. Their arrival was not horrible, but not great. Very average, with no major mishaps: all 10 luggage artived, pets arrived, welcome kit was present (if not unpacked) in the house. Clearly, the new language would be a stumbling block. The next day, there was a 4th of July gathering at the embassy pool. Kids were very excited to make friends, mom was very excited to meet other adults, start building her new community. It's always nice to meet folks outside of the embassy community, too, but any friends would be welcome. The family arrived to the pool and ... not one child approached the family. Not one adult. Odd as the only people present were embassy community members; but not one. Everyone stayed with their established friend groups leaving the family to play on their own. Which they did. And the mom made a resolution to herself: never would another family feel like this, so isolated and ignored.
Friends, as much as we move, we are often the new kids in the block. We are the deer-in-the-headlights newbies who don't even know when we've made a social faux pas. We know general embassy rules (wear your badge, don't run around, don't leave unmarked bags lying around, don't take electronics where they shouldn't be, and don't go wandering where you shouldn't be), but the norms of that particular place? Nope. We don't know names, we don't know where rooms are, and we certainly don't know who is important as far as the hierarchy goes. We'd like to, though.
More, we don't know who has kids, and who is a single. We don't know who has pets and who is grouchy before a cup of coffee. We don't know who talks way too much and who knows how to listen. We don't know the embassy gossip (probably don't want to). We don't know who just arrived and who is ready to head out. We don't know anything about anyone. We'd like to, though.
As part of my job last post, often people would wander in lost, looking for office x. Every time, I would take the time to walk with them, and show them the way. As part of my job, I regularly heard stories about missing past homes and friends and family. As part of my job, I played the role of welcome wagon + first friend at post + confidante + tour guide. Mostly, because I know what it's like to land and have none of those things. And to need nothing more than a little bit if each.
You know what can make all the difference for a new person (with or without a family)? A welcome. A happy-to-have-you-here. An invite to join. You don't have to bake a casserole or make a banner; just be welcoming. give this new person (+ family) a reason to be happy to leave the house. Or a hand with grocery shopping. Or finding their way to the x office. Be a First Friend. Help start a tour off on the right foot.
I say all this partly because I want this for every person transfering to a new place. And I say all this partly, too, because I hope someone does it for us.