The boxes are unpacked, the house is functional, your partner has started her/his new job, and you have…nothing to do. Loneliness is prowling. The city is unfamiliar, and you don’t feel you belong here. Binge-watching TV shows suddenly seems like a comfortable life plan.
It takes time after you move to the US before you get a social security number, a driver’s license, a work permit — let alone a job, if you are looking for one. You used to have activities, friends, places to go, work, and suddenly your schedule is empty and you have no clue what to fill it up with. Not every solution will work for every people, but here are some which worked for me.
The first thing I did was to sign up on my local listserv. On my very first day alone with the kids, before our boxes had even arrived, I browsed through the Yahoo! Group dedicated to my neighborhood and found: a neighbor looking for someone to help her do some translations in my native language, a stay-at-home parent with a toddler looking for a playmate, and a donation of a bag full of Legos for my son to play with in our very empty house. Almost all neighborhoods have their own listserv: Cleveland Park, Adams Morgan, Moms On The Hill, InShaw, NewHillEast, Chevy Chase, etc. All you need to do is find your list, contact the group owner, give them your name and address to make sure you are from the said neighborhood, and you’re in. There, you will find announcements for all kind of neighborhood-related events, but also rants about dogs running off leash, shout-outs for local contractors or nannies, and the occasional online feud. Reading it is a nice way to get a feel for the atmosphere of your neighborhood, and also to practice some useful English — including slang. And you learn a lot about American habits and culture on the way.
The second thing I did was to grab an ID and a proof of address, and get a library card. The DC area is very well served in neighborhood libraries whose resources go well beyond children’s story times. Libraries are vibrant and community-oriented places where you can meet people and get involved in activities such as Coffee & Conversation groups, « Crafternoons », adult coloring, seminars, and even pajama parties for your kids. Check the bulletin board!
The third thing I did was to rely a lot on my partner. World Bank staffers are surrounded by people who had to go through the same baffling relocation process, so have your partner reach out to them. The Bank provides their staff with a lot of administrative information that makes relocation easier. So, if a trip to the WBFN office is too much for you, let your partner be your ambassador.
Finally, of course, there is the WBFN, a group of people just like you who are there to help and be your first community in Washington DC and even in country office locations. But if you are reading this article, it means you are already on that track...