In all honesty, it took me over a year to adjust to my new life in the US. I have spent some time figuring out what I did wrong and what I could have done differently.
I made the decision early on to wait a while to find a new job and in my case, also a new line of work. Why not, right? First, we had the long summer break and my little kids needed me home. Once they started school in August, I wanted to be available to help with their transition. They also came from an Afrikaans school and now had to switch to English. I expected some tears and struggles. To my surprise, not only did they love their new Elementary School almost immediately, they had no language or “fitting in” issues at all.
Their immediate success left me feeling lonely and alone. Pieter started his new job and was putting in extra hours at the office. I was home and as an added bonus, struggling with adjusting to my new role as Housekeeper/Cook/Personal Shopper/Family Taxi Driver.
If you just moved to the US, know this: Yes, it is going to be tough, especially in the beginning. And if you’re like me, a self-proclaimed introvert, even tougher.
Here are my top 5 tips for adjusting to life in the States:
1. Get Involved with the School
Not only do Elementary Schools need us, the parents, but they also want our help! By the end of my youngest’s last year in Elementary School, I handled the digital newsletter, organized the annual food drive and helped out at school events. Added bonus: I made some friends and became part of my kids’ lives in a more constructive manner.
2. Join or Go to a Local Church
While we aren’t religious fanatics, it helped to experience a different way of church and to feel welcome in another group of people. We were lucky that my son got invited to his new friend’s church and we decided to try it too. Our idea was to go to different churches and see which type we liked best, but we never tried a different one after that first Sunday. While we don’t go as often these days (and we actually live right by that church now) I still see it as Our Church.
Not a Church Person?
3. Take up a New Hobby or Sport
While I desperately wanted to find and join a fun book or scrapbooking group, I could not locate any near me at the time. I’m not sporty, so that came off the list very soon. While not finding one was my main excuse, I mostly felt as if I didn’t deserve this expense or the time to myself. I was not bringing in an income, and spending money on non-essentials felt wasteful and wrong.
I turned to a little bit of baking. Nothing fancy, but I was soon baking some beskuit (rusks) and frying up some koeksisters (a syrup-soaked fried donut). The kids were also eager to help.
4. Be Open to Making New Friends
My daughter came home at the end of that first school year with news that she and her best friend on the bus want to set up a playdate. While she couldn’t remember her Best Friend’s name (9-year-olds!) she did have a phone number. A text went out, a date was picked and a great afternoon was spent chatting while the kids played. This was the beginning of a great friendship. Soon, we went on weekly walks and trips to the local coffee shop. We introduced our husbands and our families started getting together for chats, dinners and wine(!). Till this day, we have not stopped hanging out yet!
5. Join the Workforce
In my situation, waiting to go back to work was not the best idea. Once I realized that I started looking at job advertisements. I ended up in Real Estate with a part-time, work “mostly” from home job. As an assistant, I prepared real estate documents, online listings, advertisements and even took listing pictures. I loved being part of a group again and learned a lot from this new experience.
Say yes to new opportunities – nothing positive comes from hiding out at home.
We have now been in the US for over 9 years and while we still miss our friends and family back “home”, this is where we want to be. Yes, it wasn’t easy but it was definitely worth it.
What did you do to adjust to your new life?