Making Friends - One Cup of Coffee Syndrome
I moved from Adelaide in South Australia to Melbourne in Victoria, Australia (the state next door - 732 kilometres, about a nine hour drive) in February 1994.
I came from a very large family network (I am the eldest of 27 grandchildren) and I had a job where I moved around a lot, so in Adelaide, whenever I went out, I would usually either see someone I knew or someone I recognised wearing some form of colourful clothing.
When I arrived in Melbourne, everyone appeared to be staring at me, most of them appeared to be wearing black clothing and I did not recognise anyone.
One day, I was walking through a department store and to my surprise. I recognised someone. I smiled at him and he smiled at me. I was so happy for the next two days. It took a long time to remember who he was, and then it came to me. He was an actor off television!
I felt so silly. I was so desperate to see someone that I recognised that I had started smiling at actors!
I found that by not 'recognising' people on a regular basis, I hadlost the feeling of being 'myself.' The mirror that reflected 'who I am' had disappeared and I had to rediscover who I was.
Not long after this happened, I was invited out for a cup of coffee at a cafe with a work colleague. In Adelaide, I had known most of my friends for a very long time and our conversations would generally be described as deep and meaningful.
Unfortunately, I started talking to my new work colleague in the same way. I started feeling as if he thought 'wow, she's a bit heavy' and it would be best to avoid me in the future! I was never asked out for another cup of coffee! I assumed from then on that safe topics were the weather and football and I would need to stick to these subjects if I wanted more than one cup of coffee with someone.
The strategy I use and recommend now is to keep any 'first conversations' that I have with people that I have just met as light and meaningless! I talk about the reason why I am at an event/location and start asking general questions as a result of our conversation - but I do not start talking about my past in another location.
I also suggest that newcomers start or continue a hobby or interest in their new location rather than just find other people who have moved to talk to. The conversation can then be about the hobby or interest rather than me and I am then less threatening - and we automatically have something to talk about that the other person is interested in. This topic can be explored in depth before we move on to the 'deep and meaningful' stuff.
My final tip is to seek out some people who have also moved as these people will remember what it was like when they moved and will be far more empathetic. All of my new friends have come from all over the world, and we all agree, that Melbourne is Marvellous!
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