When I decided to move to The Netherlands I didn’t have any specific idea about what I would find here. I am a sociable person and I thought I could make new friends but I was prepared to have a difficult start before I could “break the ice”.
I feel fortunate and thankful to have had a very warm welcome. I have met wonderful people (Dutch and internationals) since I arrived and with their smiles and empathy they helped me feel at home in Holland very quickly.
I don’t think that my case was special or unusual. I see how much team spirit there is among expats, helping with their similar “issues” and feelings and supporting one another by creating a network. There is a big empathy and not necessarily only among compatriots. This common things between internationals make it easier to befriend expats, at least at the beginning as you are landing on the country.
When you live abroad I think that social life is more important than when you live in your own country. It helps you integrate better, learning what life here is like from locals and long-time expats. Your family and friends back home are far away (at least physically 🙂 ) so your new friends sometimes also play the role of your family.
A nice way to meet local and international people is to join clubs or groups and to participate in social events organized by them. I will leave the links of the 3 articles in Expatica.com with quite a complete compilation of Expat Groups and Clubs (Part I, Part II, Part III). I have also found some others in Yahoo Groups. ESTEC too has clubs based in many different hobbies and I imagine other international organizations and companies have some too.
One I know a little is InterNations. I have got a very good impression of it during its events in The Hague, meeting very nice people and having fun. It is a non-profit organization and it is not necessary to pay a membership fee to participate in their activities.
I have seen it is possible to find “all kinds” of other groups, so I recommend to do a little research about their members, activities, etc. before paying a membership fee. Some associations have fees, and quite high.
In my case, I am working on expanding my relationships to avoid living in “a little expat world” in Holland. I think it is healthy and enriching. My next step towards this objective is to learn Dutch (I should say to “start” to learn Dutch 😉 ). I will take a VERY INTENSIVE course in July. I don’t expect to speak Dutch in a month but I hope to jump the barrier and to have a close contact with the language :)… I am looking forward to being able to say hello in Dutch to my Dutch neighbors! :D.
PS: Dear friends, please forgive me if I am a little “disconnected”, I will be in my full-time Dutch immersion in July. I hope I will not go crazy :D.