Finding community and building a social circle for yourself can be one of the more difficult aspects of making the move to a new city. For some, this is the thing that can either make or break the experience of making a new city feel like home.
When we made the decision to move to Villach, one of my biggest fears was that I would have difficulty making friends and finding a community for myself. When we arrived in Villach, I wrote down my goals for our first year and in all seriousness one of my goals was to, “make one new friend.” I am happy to announce that I have fortunately made more than one friend in my first year here and it was not as difficult as I had thought it would be.
Since Villach has a growing international community, I found that people were very friendly and supportive of new arrivals like me. When I asked questions, I found eager answers and when I needed help, people were more than happy to give advice.
Building community in a new home can be a difficult task, so here are my tips for building a strong community for yourself:
One of the easiest ways to find community is to say, “yes” to any opportunities that may arise. The international community in Villach is very active and a variety of invitations will inevitably come your way. I never would have thought I would have done a lot of the things I have said yes to (for example, a moonlit snowshoe hike up a mountain - what?!?), but by saying yes I have gradually built a community for myself as well as make some fantastic memories.
Carinthia has several international groups and clubs for the expatriate community. In Villach, there is the Carinthian International Club as well as Facebook groups such as Villach in English that organize fun and informative events. Get involved in these organizations by attending events and volunteering to help out. If there is a group you feel is missing, you could always consider starting your own (book club anyone?).
A common trap for international people is to get caught up in the international community and miss out on the opportunity of getting to know people from Carinthia. Part of the fun of living in a foreign country is to immerse yourself in the culture of your new home. By connecting with locals you not only learn more about life in Carinthia, but also gain insider knowledge on understanding the people, customs, and culture of Austria.
Every international person received help from someone when they first arrived and it should go without saying that it is important to pay it forward to the next new arrival. After living here a year, I take a lot of pride in being able to be a part of the support network for someone new. Offer to be the friendly face that gives advice and host a dinner party or two to make new arrivals feel like Villach is home.
Let’s be honest, making the move to a new city can be difficult for anyone and there is no magic spell for making instant new best friends. However, with an open mind and some positivity it is possible to find community far away from your home country. Reach out to people and ask for help when you need it, just be sure to return the favor when someone new asks it of you.
Chelsea Navarro is an American expat from California, USA.
She has lived in Villach with her partner and dog since February, 2016. She enjoys exploring the Austrian wilderness, drinking Villacher beer and traveling around Europe.