1. Don’t talk to your neighbors
This is true in the states, where presumably you speak the language, but it’s also true overseas, where the language can be a barrier. In Europe, it’s true that I don’t have deep philosophical conversations with my German neighbors, but I can pass the time of day with oma (grandma) as she pushes her young charge in a stroller, and I can also find out about buying firewood from her son. As for my American neighbors, the neighborhood grapevine was how I found out about someone PCSing out who had rugs and appliances for sale.
2. Don’t get involved at your kids’ school
Some of the deepest, most lasting friendships my husband and I have now developed out of relationships that were forged with the parents of our young daughters’ friends. Not that my husband isn’t social, but most of the friendships grew out of me meeting other moms, either at the bus stop or volunteering at the school. And at our new duty station, in a foreign land far from home, I rely on advice I get from other moms on everything from the best place to buy shoes to where to take piano lessons.
3. Don’t go to your spouse’s unit functions
While some unit functions really are “mandatory fun,” another place where I have found future good friends has been Family Readiness Group functions. Where else are you going to run into folks who can so completely commiserate with you about military life and your loved one’s work schedule?
4. Don’t volunteer for anything
I didn’t *really* want to do the whole Girl Scout thing, but my younger daughter was begging me. And without volunteering as a co-leader the troop wasn’t going to form. So here I am, a reluctant volunteer. But I met a whole new set of people, and I have learned things about the local area that I would not otherwise know.
5. Don’t use social media
While there are those who are cynical about Facebook and other social media such as Twitter, they have become a lifeline to me overseas. In Germany, there are Facebook groups devoted to travel tips, local installations, renting a house and shopping on the economy. Without my Facebook friends, many of whom, it is true, are virtual, I would not have known how to add salt to my dishwasher (a necessity because of the hard water), the best place to stay in Prague, or where to get snow tires for our car.