Dear Alma, I can’t break into the home team

Dear Alma, I can’t break into the home team

Dear Alma,

I have been in an orchestra for a short while. It’s an excellent group and I worked hard to achieve this position. The orchestra is not in my home country, and I quite good at the language spoken at orchestra. I am trying to socialize and speak with the native people but my language just isn’t quite good when they speak fast or use phrases I don’t know. So naturally I end up in a small group of people from my home country. And we are isolated from the rest of the group. It’s natural, I suppose, but I very much want to become a part of the real group.

Alma – what should I do?

On the Outside

Dear On the Outside,

Many of us have been in this situation before, whether at work, at school in a new country, or by dating outside your native language group. It’s never easy, and I am happy to see that you are making the effort. I know that there is an easy way out for you because there is a small group who speak your mother tongue, but I advise you to not give up, keep trying, and put yourself out there. You will be happier in the long run, your new colleagues will appreciate your efforts, and your experience in your adopted home will be richer and more fulfilling.

A couple of small notes – try to keep your first conversations with smaller groups of people (under 4), and in a quiet area (not a busy restaurant). Try not to stop the flow of the conversation, observing and remembering things to look up later. If in a one-on-one conversation, don’t hesitate to ask for repetition, slower speed, or clarification. In my experience the 10-20% of the conversation which includes colloquialisms is really the part that stumps me. Try to understand and learn these little details, and push yourself to use them. If you are incorrect in your usage, someone will most likely help you to understand the ins-and-outs. If you can find a good tutor, by all means do that. Also, listening to music in that language, watching shows, and listening to the news will help you find the flow and process more quickly.

I lived in another country for quite a while, and found it draining and defeating to get out there. Especially when people will just switch to your language. But I did my best, forgave myself of all the millions of mistakes I was making, and eventually found a kindof of flow that would allow me to break into that new culture. It was worth it.

Don’t give up! You can do it.

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