Feelin’ Like I Don’t Fit In

I’ve been here since September, yet … I just don’t feel like I’m fitting in. I love living overseas for all the obvious reasons & thinking about my new school I couldn’t ask for better. So, what’s my problem?

Recently I’ve noticed 2 things that unify our staff:  Drinking & kids. If you’re a drinker you’ll fit right in & always have someone to hang with. If you have young kids, play dates at the park will yield an instant bevy of friends who also have children. As for me, socializing around a bottle has long been a thing of the past. And kids? I don’t have any of my own, so hanging out with families who plan activities around kid-type stuff never quite works for me.

I am about 10 years older than most of our staff, something our director didn’t mention during the recruiting process. Years ago, if I was speaking with someone 10 years my senior, I’d feel as if I were in the presence of my parents or one of their friends. Could it be this is how our younger staff see me?

I decided it’s time to look outside school for social fulfillment. I love dogs, cats & pets in general so surely there must be a group of pet owners in this cosmopolitan city who meet to share interests. I like hiking & scuba diving (no ocean here, though), reading, board games, the gym, museums & I’m open to trying new things.

I discovered MeetUp.com not long ago & it’s been a good start. Through MeetUp I joined an expat book club & an art appreciation group that visits different museums around the area. There is life beyond bars and playgrounds! (I checked out CouchSurfing.com but it’s mostly for expats who are just passing through town.)

Moving outside my comfort zone & saying ‘yes’ to things I might have said ‘no’ to back home has helped me meet people & initiate some budding friendships. For example, taking dance lessons is something I’d never, ever consider back home. But, forcing myself to try activities outside my comfort zone has opened up a new world for me. We have fun at dance class–we laugh at ourselves & at each other, all in good fun.

Are you currently, or have you been in a similar situation? Do you have some insights to share with me & other International Educators?

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16 Responses to Feelin’ Like I Don’t Fit In

  1. mysterC says:

    I had a similar experience in teaching internationally. One thing that was a nice respite from the party scene for me was in befriending some of the local staff people at my school, non-teachers. They were not big partiers, it was a super interesting cultural experience, and I could take them to various places or restaurants or such that they could perhaps not afford. Looking back, I almost wish that I had invited one of the staff to live with me at my far too large abode, though the complexities of pulling off such an arrangement might be best suited to another entire thread….I also had a great time going on hikes in the nearby countryside organized by a local group of expats & locals…good luck!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Anonymous says:

    yes, my experience too! i’m active and fit, 62 and fun but can’t relate to the party zone and the young family thing.

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  3. Mr. P.M.S. says:

    Keep an open mind about meeting friends who may share some of your own interests. I am also 10 or 15 years older than the majority of our staff, and as was mentioned in an earlier comment, it’s a good idea to seek some friends outside of one’s professional circle. What you are experiencing is common at many schools all over the world, thought many of us may be more limited if we are not proficient in the language where we reside. “Smile and the world smiles back.”

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Debby says:

    I always look for an international church with English services. Then I check out the concerts offered in the area, find one I want to attend and post it to everyone I know. I can usually find someone who will go with me. At my last job/country I was eventually sending out a regular email to several hundred potential concert goers. Many people told me they went to concerts that they would never have known about.

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  5. Anonymous says:

    Ii take a while to settle in. I think it is 2 years before you really find what works for you in a place. It will get better all the time but don’t worry if it doesn’t happen instantly.

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  6. Board games FTW! I started a board game group after moving to my new city and starting at my new school. When I posted on the ex-pat page asking for interested people, I got a slew of responses, and this Sunday will be our third weekly meeting. So far only two of us really have any games but I have a huge collection myself and there are enough people who can come every other week or so that we should be able to keep it going. I also plan to organize stand-up comedy shows in this area once I get more settled. There are always things you can make happen if you’re willing to put yourself out there!

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  7. Helen says:

    I wrote about the same thing. Sounds like you’ve done well, best thing regardless of drinking and having kids all teachers need to get outside of the school social group. Being around each other all the time creates all kinds of problems for everyone. I think you are the one with the right plan.

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  8. Anonymous says:

    How about trying to set up a couple of things that would interest you – for example maybe a games night, movie night, pot luck supper, a day hike and putting out an open invitation email to your colleagues?? You may find there are others who are feeling the same way you are who would appreciate someone reaching out to them. In my experience, for the first few months in a new posting you don’t really know who “your people” are going to be – often people just group together around anything which someone organises…. i find for it often takes at least 6 months before new teachers start finding those friendships based on fit rather than just proximity or the happenstance of arriving in a new place at the same time.
    Good luck!!! I hope you find “your people” soon!! 🙂

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  9. Emyv says:

    I was an expat before I qualified as a teacher and always thought it was unusual that people mostly socialize around alcohol in the UK. I then realized it wasn’t just the UK. Therefore I tried early on to find my groups outside of school, and that’s a good opportunity to really interact with locals or like minded people, in case you cannot find them in your school. I think in some cases it’s just drinking by default and some people would be happy to do something else. See this as an opportunity, you don’t need to hang out with colleagues only, if you are curious about your host culture, learn some basics of the language and make yourself other groups of friends, that’s my motto, hope it works for you

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  10. Peter says:

    In my last years of teaching I was at least 10 years older than the next eldest faculty member. There was no problem on my side and on the faculty side: the school needs kids (students), siblings (the youngest faculty), parents (young faculty) and grandparents – the role I was happily playing.

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  11. omgarsenal says:

    IF your country of origin has an embassy, or consul, visit and ask about ex-pat organisations or groups that try and support fellow expats
    .

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Margaret says:

    If there is an Internations group in your location, that is another way to meet locals and other expats.
    Internations. Org

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  13. Callie says:

    Honestly, I think you have been forced to make the best possible choice. Developing your social life away from your professional life provides more privacy, is less fraught with gossip concerns and it provides a distinct demarcation between your job and your life – balance – which is healthier. Your decision is so positive, especially in an international setting. It will allow you to meet more people and discover more things about your host country. And maybe you’ll uncover a new talent – I’ve had that happen. I expect you will look back on this as a very positive stage of your life.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Anonymous says:

    I think 2 months is a very short time to make connections. And you’re doing it! I liked the movie night that 3 -4 friends and I shared. Whoever hosted also cooked and we all liked cooking for each other.

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  15. Brian Meegan says:

    Find out if there is a dog/cat/animal rescue group in your community. You will help out animals in need as well as meet new people !

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  16. Been there says:

    Happy to hear the OP found some healthy happy social outlets. At some posts, I have found myself in similar circumstances. Sometimes the chemistry just isn’t there at the workplace so the OP is smart to look elsewhere. A resource that’s worked well for me in my current host country is Facebook. I realize I’m not any kind of social media Copernicus here, but my host city has an especially active expats group on that platform and I can count on finding lively activities for the day and night throughout the week. As I have become more familiar with the local and expat crowd here, it also provides a platform to create and promote my own events.

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