I know what it’s like to move to a new city and not speak the language as well as you would like. When I moved to a new country many years ago, I wish I had known who to turn to for help. But that was before the internet and social media, so I had to figure things out on my own. I had many failures and successes along the way.
Maybe I can save you from some of the "growing pains" that come with moving to a new country where the language and the customs are different from your own. In fact, this article is dedicated to providing some practical ways to build your support system here in Houston.
What is a support system? A support system or support network is a group of friends, family members, and other members of the community who can help you with both practical and emotional matters.
The good news is that building a support system in Houston is easier compared to many other locations. That is because...
Houston is Big and Friendly.
Houston is the largest city in Texas. People come from all over the world to live and work here, so it is diverse in terms of culture, religion, race, politics, and beliefs, which makes it a fun and interesting city. There is something for everyone here: museums, a vibrant art and music scene, amusement parks, nature trails and centers, and first-class schools and universities. In other words, you’ve come to a pretty cool town, in my opinion.
There’s more good news in that, in general, people here are friendly. When you are jogging down the street or walking your dog, people usually make eye contact and acknowledge one another with a greeting.
One of my former students from Korea was so surprised when while standing in line at Walmart, a customer standing next to her started a conversation! This is Texas culture. Of course, there are always exceptions, but if you expect people to be friendly here, you won’t be disappointed.
But, You Can Still Feel Lonely.
Despite being surrounded by 2.3 million people (the approximate population of Houston), you might feel lonely sometimes. This is perfectly normal, but the only way to counteract loneliness and homesickness is to build connections with people. If you're an introvert like I can be, this can be challenging, but don't give up so fast. Read through all of the ways and see if there might be one option that would work for you.
8 Ways to Build Support
Meetups are groups of people who share an interest and meet in person on a regular basis. Meetups happen all over the world, and more importantly for you, all over Houston. You can join a meetup to improve your English or a meetup to network with others about business topics. There is a meetup for everything!
2. Fitness groups
It’s hard to feel lonely when you are at the gym, in a group exercise class, or a running group. Not only are you surrounded by positive energy and motivated people, these same people might become your friends outside of class, or at least an acquaintance with whom you can talk. You can read about my positive experiences with both yoga and Zumba, but, better yet, download the MindBody app and find a class that you can visit.
3. Religious or Spiritual Centers
Houston is amazingly diverse in terms of language, culture, beliefs, and religion. This is the one thing I love the most about Houston, and the characteristic that makes me feel most at home here. I hope you will love this aspect too. No matter your spiritual beliefs, there is a place for you. Even if you have no specific beliefs, there is a place for you! For a searchable database of religious and spiritual centers in Houston (and other metropolitan cities), check out the Pluralism Project managed by Harvard University.
4. Business Support
I work with clients who are have built their own businesses here or are in the process of doing so. Houston has many business networking meetings and small business assistance for those who want support in this endeavor. My local library, along with others in Houston, offer small business help by SCORE, which is the nation’s largest network of volunteer, expert business mentors, with more than 10,000 volunteers in 300 chapters, according to their website.
Volunteering can be a rewarding way to contribute to the health of a community, and it can also be an effective way to meet people with similar priorities and interests. Not to mention, it's a fantastic way to improve your English and your confidence. If you are ready to dive in, Volunteer Houston can connect you with an organization you believe in. My personal favorite is working with homeless animals. In fact, Bay Area Pet Adoptions and similar organizations are always looking for volunteers. If you are interested, I might just know who you can contact.
6. Online Emotional Support
Moving to a new city and starting over can cause both happiness and sadness. If you feel like you need someone to talk to about the emotions that you are experiencing, sites like www.talkspace.com and www.betterhelp.com can connect you with a therapist during this big transition. There is no shame in needing professional help, and a compassionate therapist can be one of the most important people in your support system at times.
InterNations is an organization that is committed to connecting expats in cities all over the world. No matter where you are from, there are most likely people in Houston from your hometown. Having people in your life who really understand you and know where you came from can be life-changing. If you are looking for inspiration and connection, check out the InterNations Facebook page.
8. Cultural Organizations
You might have guessed that with all of its diversity, there are many culture-specific organizations in Houston. HoustonCulture.org offers a directory to help you with your search. From the Asia Society Texas to the Deutsche Samstagsschule and everything in between, there is probably an organization that represents you.
This list is just the beginning. I will continue to grow it and look for resources to share with you. If you have other resources to add, please let me know! There is no reason to feel lonely or disconnected in Houston.