Moving abroad to live as an expat is an exciting adventure. But finding your rhythm, making friends, and building community in a new culture can sometimes be difficult. This can be especially true for those who move with a partner who already has a job in The Netherlands. While the employed partner quickly falls into a work routine and makes connections with colleagues, the unemployed partner can feel alone and isolated.
Struggling to find your community as an expat is not uncommon. The good news is that with so many internationals living in the Eindhoven area, resources are available to help expats and their families settle into their new environment. Support networks and organizations including clubs, hosted events, online meet-ups, and Facebook groups exist to support expats, build connections, and help people adapt and thrive in their new lives in The Netherlands.
International Women’s Club Eindhoven
Joining a club like the International Women’s Club Eindhoven (IWCE) is a fabulous way to meet women from all over the world, including Dutch women who have experienced being an expat. At the beginning of each meeting there’s always a relaxed coffee-and-tea time, and because members all know how difficult it is to settle into a new country, they take the initiative to come up and say hello. Easy conversation with women interested in each other’s journeys and experiences can be a welcome break from the overwhelming and often awkward moments of transitioning to a new country. Meetings are held in English, though most members speak multiple languages.
IWCE Special Interest Group (SIG) activities
Activities are happening every week, and you can choose which ones they want to join. Club members meet to discuss books, attend art exhibits, watch a film, practice speaking different languages, take a walk, cook international food, and so much more. Even with the challenges of COVID-19, the IWCE has found ways to keep members connected and SIGs have continued to meet up, both online and in-person (following safety guidelines).
The IWCE has hosted their annual Winter Market charity event from Nov 10 – Dec 24. This public event featured local entrepreneurs selling wonderful handmade items that make great Christmas gifts for family and friends. The Winter Market has been around for about thirty years, and this year for the first time, the event took place online due to COVID-19.
Building a Strong Community During COVID
After the pandemic started, the whole world felt anxious and isolated. The IWCE reached out to members via email and even when they had to cancel a meeting, the board sent every member a Tony’s chocolate bar with an encouraging note so that members still felt cared about and valued. That’s how members of a strong community support each another. If you’re interested in learning more about IWCE, check out the website or send an email to email@example.com.
For Meagan Macvie, a writer and communication specialist, it was essential to build a network and find her tribe in this new country. “On moving to Eindhoven from the US, in September 2019, as an expat spouse, I didn’t know anyone, so sometimes life was lonely. I couldn’t speak or read Dutch, just going to the grocery was often stressful. If I could barely find yogurt in a store, how would I ever make friends? Luckily, my husband’s employer connected us with Sharda Weistra, who happened to be a member and then-president of the International Women’s Club Eindhoven (IWCE). She invited me to a meeting, and from that very first meeting, making friends was natural. Many wonderful Dutch and expat women from all over the world introduced themselves to me. Some, like me had just arrived, while others had been living in Holland for decades. They were quick to share their unique stories, advice, and assistance,”shares Meagan from her settling in phase.
IWCE meetings are held in English, but most of the women speak multiple languages. There’s always coffee-and-tea time at the beginning of each meeting, and because these women all know how difficult it is to be plopped in a new country, they take the initiative to come up and say hello. The women in the IWCE are kind, warm, and curious about each other’s journeys and experiences. There are so many activities happening each week, and members can choose which ones they want to join. There are book clubs, language clubs, cooking clubs, walking groups, film groups, and so much more.
Maya Angelou once said, “A friend may be waiting behind a stranger’s face.” And potential friends are everywhere! They could be your neighbors or these generous women of IWCE supporting each other!
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