Six weeks. We’ve been living abroad for six weeks! I haven’t decided what this blog will become, but for now it’s my outlet to share how our lives are evolving in a new country. I love sharing our travel notes and itineraries, too, so I’ll continue to post about those. Soon to come, our 24 Hours in Bath and 24 Hours in the Cotswolds for more trip details. You can also see our day-to-day adventures on my Instagram stories. But if you’re wondering how we are doing everyday life…read on.
My job this summer while Mitch hunkered down in his new role at work, was to make sure Luke and Bailey settled in nicely to our new home and way of life in the UK. Since this was my second time around as an American expat in Richmond, many things felt familiar to me, but making sure the family felt adjusted, safe and happy was my priority. Thankfully, the British summer weather cooperated and we were able to get outside every day on our bikes along the Thames or in Richmond Park, which helped everyone get to know our surroundings and enjoy the new neighborhood. We’ve also gotten to explore London and a few places beyond, all while taking in the new language (yes, it’s very different!), culture (so much queuing!) and meeting up with friends new and old.
Admittedly, I’m a bit rusty at making new friends since we’ve lived in Athens for 12(!) years. But one thing I remembered still holds true…put yourself out there, say yes to everything and new friendships will inevitably take hold. You really get back as much as you are willing to invest. So upon arrival, I immediately reached out to find school families who live near us and we scheduled a few play dates (is that what you call them when the kids are pre-teens?!) I also connected with the American Women’s Club in Richmond which is a lovely, diverse group of expat ladies who meet weekly (Wine Time!) and are so welcoming to newcomers. Anyone from home who knew of someone living in London I made sure to connect with, and that’s how I met who I’d call my first real friend, Beth. Beth grew up in Athens so we immediately had many mutual friends and her youngest son is Luke’s age, so we all spent the day together. Beth also has a teenage daughter who has already babysat for us (again, must come up with a pre-teen name for that!), so they are as close as family in my book at this point.
Why did we need a babysitter so soon? Well, one of the friends I made at Wine Time invited Mitch and me to a dinner party and card night. I was pretty excited…our first social invite! And, she served Mexican! (Sidenote: Every American misses Mexican food here. We try to replicate it, talk about recipes and drool while reminiscing about it. It’s a real addiction.) They were playing a card game called Euchre (ever heard of it?!) I was lost most of the evening and embarrassed at my lack of card skills, but nonetheless it was an adult night out with really fun people (and margaritas!) and a huge step forward. We have made some friends!
Meanwhile, Luke and I attended a “pub lunch” hosted by his new school, TASIS, for families to get together over the summer. It was a lovely sunny day, but my nerves were tingling as we approached the large group of women chatting and kids running around. Who would we talk to? We know no. body. But, the amazing part of going to an international school is that most families are also expats and have a vivid memory of being the newbie. Immediately we were approached by several friendly moms and Luke was introduced to three classmates. They took him under their wing and I breathed a sigh of relief. The mothers were so welcoming and I quickly met a family who vacations at Sea Island and a different mom whose daughter goes to UGA. WHAT?! These are my people! What a small world we live in.
Later that afternoon after our pub lunch, one of the moms texted me and mentioned that some of the boys Luke had met were going to a sleep away camp later in the summer, something outdoorsy and simple “like a Y camp.” Would Luke like to join them? Although it was felt far out of his comfort zone, Mitch and I encouraged him to go. It would be a great opportunity to bond with some new school friends (not to mention hang out with other kids – not Mom) and enjoy some outdoor sports and activities. Skeptically, he agreed to go, and he’s there now. I’ll report back on the experience, but my prayers are that it will be a big step forward for him as he begins a new school next week.
We try to make new acquaintances everywhere we go. We’ve been attending the church we went to the last time we lived here and Luke wants to join the youth group in the fall. Other dog owners are super friendly and I’ve learned the greeting, “Morning” when we pass in the park. We forced ourselves to attend a garden party for our flat complex to meet our neighbors and met some really lovely people! Fun fact…one of our neighbors is an actor and was the original Phantom of the Opera on the West End and Broadway!
Sometimes it’s a bit daunting walking into an unfamiliar sea of faces and regurgitating our story like a blind date, but I’m really committed to building a community of friends that we can enjoy and live alongside through the next few years. Even though we moved here because we love London as a destination, it’s the people and their friendships that make a place feel like home.