Settling in to an established community(4 Posts)
I've started a thread on schools in New Jersey, which has got me thinking about the settling in aspect.
I've lived in NYC, and found people really friendly, but didn't make many true, deep friends. Lots of people to say 'hi' to, and chat to. I felt like this was because a lot of the ladies I met had been there years and formed friendships...they didn't need to go for a coffee with a new friend as they already had busy, established lives. (I'm not moaning...these were all nice women!)
We currently live somewhere where expats (from all over the world) tend to mix, and not so much with locals. I think because we've all turned up new and friend-less, I find people here so friendly, have made a wonderful number of true, trusted, friends. People are very open to going for coffee/dinner with someone you've just met, which means you don't feel 'new and no-mates' for too long!
I know living in New Jersey would be moving to a more settled community, where people have years to form friendships. For those of you living in places like that, how did you find settling in? Or am I wrong, and experiences are that even in established communities people are open to forming new friendships?
Areas like Summit, Short Hills, etc are very much areas that Relocators push to expats, so you will definitely find a more transient crowd there as well as people who are living there for good. I live in Bergen County and only know one other Brit. I have loads of friends but that's because I have put myself out there and found them.
If you're only here temporarily, I wouldn't be too upfront on that fact as you may find people can't be bothered to make too much of an effort as they know you're not staying.
I've found people pretty friendly - I'm in Maplewood but moving across the border to South Orange in Aug as we're buying a house. But I'm Irish and have never had a problem striking up conversation with folks . It's definitely a lot friendlier than London.
Commuter towns tend to attract a lot of new people, mainly families moving out of Brooklyn/Queens/Manhattan/Hoboken/Jersey City looking for more space, good schools etc. Which means that there's a regular influx of people in a similar boat, looking for new friends too. But it also means that people who've been here longer still remember what it's like to be new and disoriented and will offer a helping & friendly hand where they can. You still have to put a bit of legwork in though (accept any and all invites was my rule!).
Maplewood/South Orange in particular attract diverse liberal crowd, eg gay couples, interracial couples, ethnic minorities. The walkability, combined with the cute small town features & access to the city, make it popular with non-Americans (it's not just Brits & Irish by any stretch - I've met people from France, Germany, Sweden, Holland, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Australia, NZ, Brazil). I'm glad of the non-Americans around here as I like that my kids aren't the only "foreign" ones iykwim (though my DH is american). It's one of the things I liked about London too (had heaps of non-British friends as well as British ones).
There's also plenty of people born and brought up in the area (or lived here decades) but I've found them equally friendly (I've made a good friend who's lived here her whole life, which has been a great way to get a bit of history about the place).
But there's also a lot of commitment to keeping it a friendly place - lots of things like local messageboards/websites, local playgroups, really active PTAs, a commitment to supporting small local businesses etc. It helps to kind of buy into it, drink the kool aid so to speak. The community spirit was amazing after Sandy hit (a week after we moved in). The downside of this is that hyper-localism can grate after a while, especially when it comes to local politics (same the world over I guess!).
Can't speak about other towns but I'm sure that plenty are just as friendly & welcoming. Want2Be has given great advice about schools on your other thread - she is generally a font of excellent knowledge on life in this bit of northern NJ!
One thing I will say is that NJ has lots of cool nature - we spent Sunday morning at Island Beach State Park and it was idyllic. I love being able to get to such glorious beaches so easily!
All sounds like it should be fine then settling in. We've got four kids, so that helps as straight away I'll meet lots of different people through school/baby groups.
I've heard anecdotally about people not being able to settle in, but I guess every situation is unique, and I know the beginning is tough and involves putting on a brave (friendly) face when you can be feeling like getting on the next plane home...
I'd want our next posting to be permanent, so would be planning on putting down roots, for the children as much as for me!
I like and miss the positivity and enthusiasm that the US has...the warmth from nursery teachers I experienced, the brilliant customer service (I don't find it contrived...I love being told to have a nice day!). If only we were moving this summer!
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