Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Girlie Breakfast: Expat Bonding at its Best

About once a month, I eagerly run the kids off to school, kiss the hubby goodbye, and race out the door dressed up pretty for "Girlie Breakfast." This morning was one such occasion.

But it was special, because the expat bonding celebrated at these gatherings was extended to a new girl, and in a way, it was for me an example of friendship coming full-circle.

Less than a year ago, I was the lost and lonely "new girl" in town. Then I was invited to my first Girlie Breakfast. Nothing in the world could have done me more good at the time, as I was wallowing in the "overwhelmed new expat" blues.

It started with Rachel, a lovely British woman I met at an Expat Quiz Night (via MeetUp). Rachel reached out to me, the newcomer, and welcomed me to join her and a group of her friends the next morning at a beautiful little boutique and cafe very close to my home (Villa Landleben). I was a bit apprehensive about going, but also desperately in need of connecting with other women, especially anyone who could relate to my experiences as a mom in a foreign country. So I went.

And it was one of the BEST things I ever did! During the two or more hours we lingered over lattes and a splendid breakfast buffet, we talked and laughed like I hadn't done in months.

I left that first Girlie Breakfast feeling, for the very first time since moving to Germany, like everything was going to be ok. I was so grateful for the warmth and easy friendship of this group of near-strangers. They made me feel like part of a family and gave me perspective and hope. Over the next half year or so, I learned their individual stories, the reasons they came to Germany, the reasons they stay. Each month the group in attendance at breakfast may vary between 5 and 8 ladies who manage to get there between jobs, kids' appointments, household repairs, etc. In total, there are about a dozen women in the group. Each one is very different - who knows if we would even be friends in other circumstances. But here in this little corner of Germany, being expat moms is a pretty powerful common bond.

My new girlfriends, who hail mostly from the UK and US, all call this country "home." None of the women in this particular circle of expats are here on a temporary basis. Some, like me, are married to Germans. Others have expat spouses, too, but their children were either born here or have lived here long enough that it is the only place the kids feel at home; so the parents have put down roots and decided to stay for the long-term. I think that makes this group unique from many expat communities. And it makes it the perfect fit for me. I feel enormously blessed to have found them!

Now I am able to "pay forward" the tremendous gift Rachel gave me, when she extended that first invitation to breakfast....

Last night I was at a German Parent-Teacher Meeting for my son's 8th grade class. It was the first one I attended at his new school and I didn't know anyone. But then I realized the woman sitting behind me (the only one who had brought her child to the meeting) was whispering in English with her daughter. My son had mentioned a new girl from South Africa had joined their class. And she didn't speak ANY German. And they just moved here. Over the last week he'd mentioned the new girl and her family a few times and I was already feeling a bit sorry for their apparent struggles, never having met them.

I leaned over and asked them if they were new to the school. Bingo. I introduced myself as the American whose son had just come to school mid-way through last year, and we proceeded to chat and pass notes in the back of class like "bad kids" :)

I couldn't help but invite her to breakfast. I knew EXACTLY how she felt. So this morning, I swung by her apartment on my way to Girlie Breakfast and took her to meet the best expat group there ever was. And just like they had done for me, they welcomed her with open arms. By the end of breakfast there were hugs for the new girl and offers of any help she needs. She was so grateful. So relieved. And I know exactly how that felt for her, too.

She has a very tough year ahead for herself and her family. But every month or so, we've got Girlie Breakfast.

In between, we've got good old-fashioned Girlfriends (and Quiz Night, and Book Club, and Birthday Cocktails, and lots of other excuses for getting together!).

And like they did for me, these Girlfriends will do for the new girl: We've got your back. Welcome to the Girlie Breakfast Club!


  1. Perfect, I couldn't have put it better myself- think she wants to be one of the ten Puff's Power Girls, or is that a step too far?!

    1. Oh Verena, funny you should bring up our little dragon-boat team, as I described you to T* as our group's "anchor!"
      Not sure, but Puff's Power Girls might just scare her off :) Best we reveal our true colors one shade of crazy at a time!

  2. I love this idea so much!! I think I want to start something like this here in Linköping. It's especially tough to be an expat when you work from home - I don't get to see many people!

    1. Katja, you should!! You are a pro at networking and you know how important it is to have an expat support community - you'd be an awesome resource for other women and would have so much fun. Good luck!