Every New Friend is a New Adventure- Making New Friendships in the United States
I adjusted pretty quickly to my new lifestyle consisting of 10-hour days that included running errands, taking care of the kids, and doing light housekeeping. Even though I enjoyed spending time with my host family and having family dinners with them, something was missing for me. I needed friends. I have always been a person who didn’t like to be alone that much and I have friends around me whenever I can.
When I was living back in Europe, my friends and I had weekly movie nights and coffee dates, something I wanted to have in the United States as well. I didn’t hesitate for long and started to look into my options of how to meet new people. Luckily, my au pair area director provided me with a list of all au pairs that were living close to my neighborhood and I picked the number of two girls, who were living in Walnut Creek as well. Before dialing their numbers though I started thinking, “What if they think I am a total creep? What if they think I am weird?” But then I thought “Wait a minute, they came here all by themselves as well and must know how it feels trying to make new friendships. Maybe they have called someone randomly as well?” That gave me the courage to eventually dial the number of a girl named Fran not knowing at that time that this particular phone call would turn into a friendship that would last even longer than the one-year exchange stay in the United States.
While the phone was still ringing on the other end I was thinking how I would introduce myself without embarrassing myself, but my thoughts were interrupted by the voicemail that I had reached. I left Fran (as she was called by everyone) a message asking her to call me back, and then I went on with my day. I didn’t think much more about the call until the next day when I came home from picking up the kids. My host mum, Anne, greeted me with a note in her hand, telling me that a certain Fran had called, asking for me. Inside of me I stroke a pose “Yes!” but outside I played it cool and headed right to the phone to return the call. This time I reached Fran right away, she had a really nice voice which instantly made me feel comfortable talking to her. She invited me over to her house that following Friday for a movie night together with two other girls, who worked as exchange nannies as well. Easy to say, I was excited and very much looking forward to that night.
A couple years ago, I would have never dreamt of picking up the phone and calling total strangers to meet up with them for movie nights. I used to be a pretty shy person, and it took me a while to warm up to people. I still have that in me, but I am more open and eager to approach new individuals. And, I am definitely not as shy as I used to be, which is partly due to the fact that I moved all by myself half across the world.
Social Get-Togethers with other German Au Pairs
My week went on with fulfilling my everyday duties, but everything had a different twist since I had the outlook of meeting new girls in my area. On that particular Friday night, I packed some snacks and lots of enthusiasm and drove over to Fran’s house. Her place was also in a very cute, quiet neighborhood. As I heard footsteps coming to the door after I had rung the bell, my heart started beating wildly. Usually, it takes seconds to make or break a first impression, and I definitely didn’t want to screw my chances of a new friendship that quickly. “Just act normal, just be you,” I told myself. The door opened, and a very friendly, petite blonde girl greeted me with a very warm welcome and hug. Oh boy was I relieved! Fran guided me into the living room, where two other girls were already sitting on the couches. One of them was Mina, who I also became really close friends with throughout the year. Actually, Mina and I recently met in May 2015 in San Diego when she was visiting the States on vacation. Mina, Fran, and I clicked pretty quickly, even though we had an age difference of six years. But that all didn’t matter since we shared the same cultural values and experiences. It felt really good to know that there were these two girls who have lived through the same fears and concerns, but now we had each other to gather new experiences together. At the end of the night, Fran and I had made plans to visit San Francisco together the next day, one of many more fun trips we did during our au pair stay.
The au pair phone list however wasn’t the only opportunity for me to meet new people. Back at the time in 2008, I previously had joined a German social network for students, which provided several interactive groups that members could join. Throughout my research, my focus fell on one specific group in particular. It was somewhat called like “Weekly German Au Pair Meetup at Starbucks in Downtown Walnut Creek.” Meeting new people and having good coffee at the same time, what’s not to like? I instantly had joined this group and found out that it met every Wednesday night in downtown Walnut Creek, no more than a 10-minute drive away from my home. Luckily, my new friends Mina and Fran had already attended this meeting, so for my first time we all went together. I was amazed to see how many German au pairs were actually living in and around the area. There were nights when we were about 20 people! It was so much fun to connect to so many new individuals from the same culture, yet we were all different but all in the United States for the same reason. That really helped people to bond easily.
Thankfully, I can say that I wasn’t alone for a long time and made a bunch of new friends fairly quickly. Many of those friends I am still in touch with through social media, and it is very interesting to follow up on how each others’ lives have evolved after working as au pairs in America.
To be continued…
(Next Wednesday: Read about Kathrin’s challenges and move to New York City.)
Image: Copyright©Anne-Kathrin Schulte; Edited by CaliforniaGermans;
Disclaimer: Names in the story have been changed to protect people’s privacy
Anne-Kathrin Schulte, is a contributor for CaliforniaGermans.com. She writes on her personal experience of the American Dream as well as on working as an au pair in CA. She was born and grew up in Düsseldorf, Germany, where she completed her degree as a state-approved Kindergarten teacher. After her au pair engagement in the US and a quick return to Germany she decided to attend university in California and moved back to the United States. She lives in Southern California since 2011.
If you would like to contact Anne-Kathrin, please send an email to californiagermans(at)gmail.com and place her name in the subject line.