Some 'Friendly' Advice

By: Emma Martin - Also see author's expat blog listing

When you decide to live in another country for no apparent reason other than ‘because you can’ there are obviously lots of things to consider but there is one very important thing you need to do, it’s not deciding where to live, getting a job or learning the language although these are very good things to have on your ‘to do list’. The most important thing and my biggest piece of advice is to make friends.

When you arrive in an unfamiliar place, in country where you don’t speak the main language, when you don’t know how to make a doctors appointment or how to get your car taxed, when you don’t know how or where to register your child in school or when you need to get some huge sheets of plasterboard up a winding flight of stairs you need the help of friends.

Friends can often help you decide where to live, they can help you find a job, they may even have a job for you and never has the saying ‘It’s not what you know, it’s who you know’ been more true than here in Cyprus.

Friends will show you the ropes, they’ve probably been there and done it, or they know someone who has. They will have battled bureaucracy, got lost and confused by unfamiliar procedures and they will probably know where to buy Marmite. If they don’t know the answers they can point you in the direction of the pub and at least make you feel at home.

When it all feels like its going wrong and you wonder if you made a mistake friends will tell you they have wondered the same thing and remind you that it will all be ok. Without friends you will never feel at home whatever country you are in.

When we were planning our move to Cyprus we didn’t know anyone, or anything for that matter, we ignored all the standard advice – research the area, get a job and generally have a plan. We brought an apartment, packed our bags and brought some plane tickets. What we did do though is make our first friend before even getting on the plane. ‘Meeting’ a fellow Mum online with a similar age child via an internet forum who turned out to be living just a few streets away was our first step to making our new home actually feel like home.

But you can never have too many friends!
I’ve never felt as lonely as the night I stood on my balcony in the first month of living in Cyprus whilst my husband as out playing on his new pool team (with the husband of my ‘first’ friend) It was winter and surprisingly cold, we had no tv, no internet and no landline phone. Our apartment has a fantastic view, overlooking the uninhabited city of Varosha, lovely in the sunshine but that night I looked out to darkness and realised I knew virtually no-one and was miles away from everything I’d ever known. I vowed that I would make it work, and not only that I’d do everything I could to ensure that others didn’t have to feel the same.

When we finally got our internet connection I did what I do best and scoured the internet whilst I tried to come up with a plan. With a combination of websites, fourms, facebook and my newly created blog I tried to bring fellow expat Mums together. I created a facebook group after realising that there was no easy way of doing this.

East coast Mums was born and two years later has over 100 members, through the group I have arranged many meet ups, usually day time meets for Mums and kids of all ages but occasional evening ‘girls nights out’. I’ve travelled further afield and met people from other cities not only British expats, but German, Greek and Serbian to name just a few.

I joined a dedicated social network ‘Mums in Cyprus’ and through my contributions and passion for bringing people together was recently invited to work with them. This opened up my network of friends and acquaintances even more and makes me feel like I can make a difference.

Through my endeavours I’ve met lots of people, but most importantly have made a circle of people I would now consider to be good friends. People that I would feel happy to call in a crisis or when I need a friendly face.

This group of people are always there, they are also many miles away from the place they once called home and they know the challenges of making a new home in a foreign land. They know that living in Cyprus is not all sunshine and cocktails, that there are bills to be paid, jobs to be done and that 40 degrees is hard going day in day out when you don’t spend your time laying by the pool.

They understand when you disappear off the radar when family or friends come to visit or during the summer months while everyone works their fingers to the bone in the tourist industry. They are still there in the winter when the visitors leave and the residents get their island back and you remember that ‘real life’ will still go on.

I’ve learnt many things during my three years living in Cyprus and because of the people I have been lucky enough to meet I’ve rarely had to learn the hard way. A friendly word of advice can save hours of confusion and frustration caused by trying to figure out how to get a medical card or the best place to buy a car.

If was to offer just one piece of advice to someone else who has made the decision to move abroad, it would be to get out there and make friends, everything else will come because it has too but you will never be ‘at home’ without friends.

About the author:

I'm Emma, British ex-pat wife, mother, daughter and friend - living in Cyprus and merrily blogging away about my life and all random things that occur to me along the way.
Blog address: http://emsyjo.blogspot.com/ Twitter: @Emsyjo
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Contest Comments » There are 50 comments

Christine Amorim wrote 5 years ago:

Emma, another great piece that I know most expats can identify with, especially in a country where you do not speak the language. I have been here and felt like this, but its true friends can make all the difference!

Nicola Smith wrote 5 years ago:

Emma, what a great article written with from the heart with thought and feeling oozing from every paragraph. You have captured the difficulties of moving to a strange place and dealing with it with friends who will help you get by no matter what is happening in your life. Good luck.

Carine wrote 5 years ago:

Emma, you are so right! Not only about the importance of friendships but also about how Cyprus ticks. Love the way you wrote this from the heart and how your advice is globally valid, a 'universal tip' so to speak :-) Glad also that our site has helped you settle and connect with other mums in your area. Your contributions to our network are much appreciated, great to have you in the team!

Reanna wrote 5 years ago:

Wow Emma, you have absolutely hit the nail on the head with this peice. Not only is it fantastically written but all so true and I'm sure anybody who has moved abroad where they didn't know anyone can totally relate to everything you said. Well done and all the very best for your future in the sun :-)

Jen wrote 5 years ago:

Great article, making friends is always a good place to start!

Michael Therisa wrote 5 years ago:

very sound advice,good reading for anyone planning to move to another country, well done!!

Carolyn Therisa wrote 5 years ago:

a really enjoyable read.Sounds like sensible advice for moving to another country.

Very Bored In Catalunya wrote 5 years ago:

Excellent advice here, I know I was lucky to already know quite a few English people out here in Spain so I knew who to ask about all the local amenities. It definately makes those first few months go much smoothly.

Lotta wrote 5 years ago:

Best advice you can give to anybody that moves abroad, make friends, it is the only thing that really matters in a new country. Very good article Emma. Lotta

J Richmond wrote 5 years ago:

A very enjoyable blog and so true. Friends help you through all the ups and downs of life and how wonderful to be in a position to extend a friendly helpful hand to other people. In the words of the old song - 'When you've got friends and Neighbours the World is a Happier Place'.

Chasing The Donkey wrote 5 years ago:

I'll be making this move in 6 months, and read every line taking it all in. Even bookmarked it! Thanks.

Lauren wrote 5 years ago:

Great advice Emma. I'm not sure I could move without knowing anyone, knowing the country and so on but from what you've said 'not knowing anyone' is easily rectified with a bit of effort, determination and the internet.

Niki Neve wrote 5 years ago:

Beautifully written and such true and accurate advice, I only moved 150 miles away from my home town and spent years trying to make it feel like home, if I had read this then I am sure it would have made it all so much easier!

Chris wrote 5 years ago:

Great post Emma! You help more people than you know :)

Angela Evans wrote 5 years ago:

Fantastic article Emma, gave me goosebumps as I read it! Friends are definitely what everyone needs the most, that support network you can't live without. Great, great, great. Love reading your stuff!

Rosemary wrote 5 years ago:

Good advice to people going abroad

Aaron wrote 5 years ago:

A very good piece of writing and great advice for anyone who has moved away all that they know.

PhotoPuddle wrote 5 years ago:

Great post and excellent advice. When I lived abroad it was only for a year and although I was with my other half I know that it would have been a totally different experience without the friends I made.

Nick wrote 5 years ago:

Excellent advice. It was a big step to take and you have obviously not regretted it.The comments you have made I am quite sure will give help to others thinking of making such a move. Making friends makes things not seem quite so daunting. Well done.

Annie wrote 5 years ago:

Smashing post and friendship is the most valuable thing you'll ever need and kudos to you for being proactive and making that happen for yourself and others!

Vegemitevix wrote 5 years ago:

Very true. Friends make or break an expat experience I've learnt. Vix x

Jenny Paulin wrote 5 years ago:

Emma I think this is very good advice. Making friends, however daunting, is the key to settling in to a new town or country because it helps with so many things. Thanks for sharing your experiences x

Midlife Singlemum wrote 5 years ago:

Very good advice. I would say making friends is the single most important factor towards a successful relocation.

Hayley wrote 5 years ago:

Great article Emma and so very true. Through your articles, blog, Facebook group and meet up's you have not only made friends but helped others to make them too!

Alison wrote 5 years ago:

Hi there I love your blog! such great tips and info. Can't wait to read more. Alison xxx

Rachel wrote 5 years ago:

You summed up exactly how most of us have felt, very good advice, wish i'd seen an article like that before i moved here xx

Lucy wrote 5 years ago:

Very true, having friends here in cyprus, make life the whole world easier. Great article xx

Vicki wrote 5 years ago:

Great advise, well done x

Heather wrote 5 years ago:

Great piece!

Jenny Fram wrote 5 years ago:

Great article Emma!

Kelly Atherton wrote 5 years ago:

Lovely post and brought a little tear to my eye thinking about when we 1st moved there and our life whilst we were there and where we are now. We moved there only knowing my parents and in hind sight we were very naieve and had to find out everything ourselves (very scary)....wish we had researched a little bit more too and maybe made some friends before making the big move but hey we met lots of lovely people whilst we were there that i consider my far away friends now and its lovely still staying in touch with you all and what you're getting up to now...... Im so glad its worked out for you....it feels like ive known you forever and im happy i was your 'first' friend haha :D xx

Ruth wrote 5 years ago:

Haha, the 'Its not what you know' is soo true of this country! I also find that having friends who partners also work 'unsociable hours' makes a big difference, otherwise evenings could be very lonely! Great article x

Donna Wild wrote 5 years ago:

Well said Emma so many true words Great article

Emma Day wrote 5 years ago:

What brilliant advice and something people could quite easily not think of! And of course knowing where to buy Marmite in Cyprus is a MUST too!!! :-) If I ever get to move out there, I aim to make you my first friend! xx

Pat Payne wrote 5 years ago:

This article is so true and very sound advice to anyone considering moving abroad. Great advice Emma, well done on a great article.

Elaine Livingstone wrote 5 years ago:

Its great how the internet can be used to the good in this sort of situation. I suppose it could also be used the other way to isolate yourself from your new country. Well done on getting to grips with the experience and sharing them to help others.

Michelle Tutton wrote 5 years ago:

so very true emma, great advice to anyone wanting to come to live in cyprus. You can never have enough friends.

Jan Blasby wrote 5 years ago:

Wow!! These words really hit home, you and my cousin have been so brave to start a completely new life together and well done to the both of you. Emma you should be very proud of yourself. If I had my life over I would have had the guts to do what you have done especially after reading your words of wisdom. You are a huge inspiration., fantastic. My Best Wishes to you Love Jan x x

TheBoyandMe wrote 5 years ago:

What an amazingly insightful post, and I think it is a really honest thing to write. I can imagine that actually not having any friends in an area, and therefore no allies would be really difficult to overcome. Excellent post and a brave woman!

Susanna wrote 5 years ago:

I'm an expat too and agree making friends in your new country will make life much more fun!

Debbie wrote 5 years ago:

Brill blog. Had me interested from the start. The feeling of isolation, the will to see it through and the great realisation that you and you alone can change your destiny and mold it into your dream. By reaching out to one another and asking for help is the first step. Giving is just as important as receiving, if not more so. You have always been willing to give your friendship and advice to anyone that needed it even if they did not realise they did haha. Your warmth and understanding are obvious and because you never wanted to give up you will reap the benefit of what you sow. You are truly an inspiration. Thank you for your wonderful blogs. X x

Nikki - A Mother In France wrote 5 years ago:

Great advice Emma. I was lucky enough to meet an English speaking French friend within weeks of moving to France who helped me no end. I would have really struggled without her.

Lorraine wrote 5 years ago:

Great blog post and so lovely to hear how you've helped others who have moved abroad, its always been a dream of mine to move to Spain but its always been the thought of leaving friends (and family!) behind that is the biggest reason we havent taken the plunge, so its nice to read how you made new friends on your new adventure :)

John wrote 5 years ago:

Wow...What a great piece of writing. Had never really thought about it before but the advice you give here is superb, not only for anyone who has or is planning on moving aboard but just in general. When I think back over various places that I lived it is always the ones where I have had more friends around me that have the fondest memories. Thank you for your incite and if everyone thought the same and made the effort to make more friends then the world would be a better place.

Emma Wright wrote 5 years ago:

Emma, what a great post, so well written. I love all you have done to help join other mums together who may not have the confidence to get out there and meet new friends, brilliant x

Jackie wrote 5 years ago:

It is lovely to read of somebody's experiences moving from their home country and family to another country with another language and no family or friends around them. Emma has done well with her blogs and making friends both in Cyprus and on line. Well done Emma on your newsy blogs.

Terry Hill wrote 5 years ago:

A very well written insight to the trials and tribulations of moving to a new country. Great advice to anyone thinking of moving to Cyprus.

Kelly Vertigan wrote 5 years ago:

Very true... Without friends, im not sure we would still be here... Moving abroad can be a very lonely time but with the help of friends... there is light at the end of the tunnel! Loved reading this ... made me remember about when we moved over!! xx

Sue Stewart wrote 5 years ago:

Really enjoyable piece writing and very good advice for anyone moving abroad.

Sam Barnes wrote 5 years ago:

Great bit of writing! and so very true. I have been lucky enough to make some amazing friends whilst in Cyprus, some in Paphos and some in Famagusta. I would not have lasted abroad without them, or without the continued support of family in the uk who understand why we need to live the dream ;) Friends are an amazing resource for comfort, understanding, advice, and good times. Finding one that makes a good cuppa is also a bonus xx

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