13 Comments

Like many others have mentioned, this post rings very true to me too, although I have a slightly different trajectory. I've moved to the UK from California for over 13 years, plus a year in France, and it is challenging to make friends every time we move. We are now in our second location in the UK, and there isn't any sort of newcomers or 'Americans' group. (We have never been in London, so no large American clubs or other groups like that). When I first moved to the UK, I did a massive amount of networking for professional reasons and it was exhausting. The year we were in France, I met up with a group of other 'partners of academics' who had also relocated due to their partners jobs. These people were from all over the world, and I found that to be a very fascinating and eclectic group to spend time with, more so than the very active US ex-pat group who I did a few things with now and again. Like many of you mention, coming from the same birth country has no bearing on whether you will be compatible. Eventually I found like-minded people in both groups, but of course it takes time. The three people I am still in touch with are German, French, and a Taiwanese person who I met through the Americans. We are slowly bedding in now to our new location in the UK, and when I am feeling lonely I remind myself that it takes time to find the gems, but they will be found, eventually. Good luck to you all in Portugal-we love it there too! Luckily we have had work projects there so we get to visit often. LaDonna, your photos and words are really wonderful. Thanks.

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Apr 10Liked by LaDonna Witmer

I very much enjoyed this piece and felt it personally. I agree that a shared language is a weird way to make friends. And I totally enjoyed the line where you said it felt like you were going on a thousand first dates. Just because someone is an English speaker doesn´t mean they share my world view, sense of humor or politics. I have had to realize that it will take quite some time before I build a circle of friends that my reflects my tastes and interests. Thank you for posting!

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LaDonna, your experience mirrors ours entirely. Thanks for sharing ...

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Apr 9Liked by LaDonna Witmer

My husband and I just had this same conversation yesterday! Thank you for putting thoughts to writing.

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Apr 11Liked by LaDonna Witmer

Once again you hit the nail on the head. We arrived in Portugal about the same time you did and went through almost the exact same process. One of the things that has improved drastically in my life since moving is my patience. Finding English speakers is easy but as you pointed out discovering kindred spirits and people who share the same values, lifestyle and life stage takes a lot more time. Thanks again for sharing your experiences. Your writing reassures me that what I'm going through and feeling is unique to me.

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Another post that really resonated with me - I'm still a freshman here (in Spain), and in the 'thousand first dates' phase, struggling a little to find my place and my people. The introversion does add a slight challenge - I love my new city, and am soaking up all the lovely chaos that I can, but also feel the first tendrils of a quieter spot reaching out to me...

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Apr 11Liked by LaDonna Witmer

So true! I vacillate wildly in my introvert/extrovert feelings. I can go ages happily only communicating with my immediate family. Every time I read another study that underscores the importance of relationships (and physical exercise) for happiness and longevity, I panic a little that I am doing it all wrong. College was definitely a weird experience for me- life-changing, but weird. I do feel like it takes two years to feel settled, so hopefully you are starting to feel like you’ve hit your stride. These photos are so lovely- I really love the interior/exterior quality of them. The composition and framing remind me of some of the best Cartier-Bresson images. Thank you for always sharing with us.

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Apr 10Liked by LaDonna Witmer

As one of the friends you made during your first move to the Whole New World of California, I loved reading this. Fond memories of meeting you and realising: Oh. OH. This person is for me! This is that magical, special and ass-meltingly awesome friend I was waiting for without realising it! And then getting to know you via stories and fart jokes over some Moons Over My Hammy. This post answers some questions for me, about what it would be like if JC and I picked up and moved to Portugal in a couple of years... and also, I love the cake analogy. I loved Chanel Miller's book and didn't know she had a SubStack so I'm off to subscribe! Anyway, you know I will always respect your cake, in addition to your bacon bits. XOXO

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I just want to share how much I'm enjoying your blog posts. My Portugal experience still feels so much in transit, as I come and go, but still very much based in the US. I'm longing to have more substantial time there. I love the college analogy. I've moved a lot in my life and find in takes 1-2 years to feel grounded in a new place. Some places have been easier than others due to the variance of circumstances. You're really inspiring me to start writing, so we'll see where that lands. Once I land more permanently in Lisbon, I hope my experience is with a mix of local Portuguese and others that have ventured to this beautiful place. Muito obrigado!

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Apr 10Liked by LaDonna Witmer

As a fairly new U.S. immigrant to Portugal (9 months), I believe discovering the people who resonate with our values and interests and would make compatible friends can often elude us in our new life in a new country. The general go-to for meeting people are organized cocktail and dinner events, with the commonality that everybody has to eat. But this is a pretty low bar when seeking compatibility me thinks:) And as new residents who want to establish local friendships mixing it up with tourists is a non-starter.

When I got here I knew that I most love to be around people who are called to go deeper in relationship with themselves so that they can invite meaningful and authentic connections with others. This means making the effort and taking the time to deconstruct old beliefs and discuss our deepest desires and irksome challenges. LaDonna's writing exemplifies deep diving into the wonderment of life. Often when I read her, I muse that, "I would like to sit down and discuss this with her."

There's a FB page called "Portugal Conscious Community and Events" which has a lovely melange of gatherings for meeting and being in community with others. Yes, some of it can get "woo-woo" but you pick-and-choose. And in an effort to invite more of what I want in my life here, I created a page more specific to the Western Algarve: Lagos Portugal Conscious Community & Events. If this calls to you and you're in this neck of the woods, I invite you to connect! (I hope it's ok that I mention this?).

Thank you LaDonna for your beautiful insights embraced in spectacular prose! I feel Tippeee and will act on it.

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Much of what you say resonates with me. However, the main difference is that, as I didn't marry until I was 41, I am reasonably self-sufficient. We have a small circle of acquaintances here and a couple of good friends. We enjoy spending time with new people, but then relax into our quiet routines. I went to coffee meet ups in Setúbal, but found it wearisome to have to tell my story over and over. I want to discuss more interesting topics, but then get the feeling we are not on the same wavelength. I am quite outspoken, but feel that I am expected to keep to the middle ground.

I realise that what I really enjoy these days are the simple pleasures - my house and garden, a nice meal out, an interesting drama on TV or a gripping novel, holidays both in Portugal and elsewhere, my hobbies and walking the dogs on a Spring morning with the scent of apple blossom in the air. As we walk, my husband and I can put the world to rights and offend no-one.

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“Setúbal campus” - love it! Tipeee? Tipper, tipped, tippled ... I don’t get it, it’s a corundum for me, paywalls seem like obstacles, but I understand if .... no, I don’t understand. Should I leave or feel guilt if I read for free? Why do we write -art vs commerce? Sorry, so sorry

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I love this analogy! College friends are often lifelong friends, and that’s what we hope to meet after our move.

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