It’s been four and a half years since I settled into Haarlem with my family of four. We had a lengthy list of all the reasons why this immigration would be a positive thing for us and it has been for the most part.
The “landing” hasn’t been a smooth road — mostly full of bumps and potholes we expected (e.g. finding new work, a fitting school, and new home; adjusting to the high density and lack of space; dealing with the directness of the Dutch). There’s one single aspect of moving abroad that has surprised us the most — difficulty in finding/building our social community. Depending on the day, we tell ourselves it’s a life phase thing, or that it’s what we get for living in one place and working in another, or that we just simply don’t put ourselves out there enough. All true enough. Yet there’s more to the story, I’m coming to believe.
The more I get to know people, the more I see that we all wish for deeper connections with others. And yet, a lot of us struggle to know just how to go about it. I admit that I have most of my adult life found it easier, safer to NOT put myself in situations where there are strangers. When I shared this recently with a friend of mine, she was totally surprised. She couldn’t imagine not wanting to meet strangers all the time! We quickly derived that she likes/is good at “small talk” whereas I’m the opposite. Another friend of mine shared with me that she thrive on “those little gifts of interaction you can have in daily life…”. For them, it has to do with feeling connected to those around them.
That’s what I find so difficult to understand. I (think that I) only feel connected to someone if I can have an in-depth, lengthy conversation, in which meaningful, mutual sharing takes place. That’s just not likely to happen with a complete stranger I meet in the train or on the street. Or perhaps I just don’t try it enough?
What if I have too much judgment about what “meaningful” is. I gather now that the short interactions with complete strangers is quite meaningful to my extrovert friends. I use this label with caution – as I believe that we all have extrovert and introvert qualities – depending on the context. In response to my questioning “how do people go about connection?” another friend shared with me the following quote: