One Cup of Coffee Syndrome
By Sue Ellson
As many of our regular readers know, Newcomers Network subscribes to a variety of online email groups.
In June 2003, our Founder responded to the following post:
Sometimes I feel like I have a “desperate for conversation” sign that makes people flee.
Response by another person
This really made me laugh! I, too, have this feeling often as I am walking down the street and feel like people’s eyes get a little larger when they look at me and then turn away as quickly as possible.
Response by Sue Ellson
I would like to share a story with you about this sensation. I moved from Adelaide in South Australia to Melbourne in Victoria (the state next door – about a nine hour drive)
In Adelaide, whenever I went out, I would usually either see someone I knew or recognised. When I arrived in Melbourne, everyone appeared to be staring at me, most of them wore black clothing and I did not recognise anyone.
One day, I was walking through a department store and guess what, I recognised someone. I smiled at him and he smiled at me. I was so happy for the next two days. I tried and tried to remember who he was, and then it came to me. He was an actor off television – Brett Climo!
I felt so silly. But I guess that it is an important point to make. If you cannot have someone ‘recognising’ you on a regular basis, then you can lose the feeling of being ‘yourself.’
As to the ‘desperate for conversation’ sign – I have labelled this the ‘one cup of coffee syndrome.’ In Adelaide, I had known most of my friends for a very long time and our conversation could be described as ‘meaningful’ and interesting.
But when you come to a new location, people will ask you out for coffee, you go, and then you start talking in the same way as you did before and they say ‘wow, she’s a bit heavy’ and avoid you like the plague – so only one cup of coffee is ever drunk in company.
So the strategy I now use and recommend is to keep any ‘first conversations’ light and meaningless! Talk about the weather, current affairs, local sport etc, but not how you wish you were back home or it was ‘better in Paris’ or whatever.
Also, I recommend that newcomers start or continue a hobby or interest – that way you can talk about the hobby or interest rather than yourself and you are less threatening – and you have something to talk about that the other person is interested in. You can explore this topic in depth before getting on to the ‘deep and meaningful’ stuff.
I hope this helps any lonely hearts out there. The other tip is – find other people who have moved rather than locals who are born and bred in your new location.
These people will remember what it was like when they moved and will be far more empathetic. All of my new friends have come from all over the world, and we all agree, Melbourne is Marvellous!
Response to ‘one cup of coffee syndrome’
Laugh out loud, except in the Foreign Service!
At any gathering of diplomatic spouses who are new to each other, you can expect at least a few conversations on the subjects of either My Twenty-Seven Transcontinental Moves and Things That Got Broken Therein, Our Career Goals and Frustrated Aspirations or Intestinal Parasites With Which I am Personally Familiar!
But, as Sue points out, don’t try this with the uninitiated. (Though it’s rather fun to try it on the newly initiated to the Foreign Service!)
Response to ‘the Foreign Service’
Oh, — this just made me laugh! It’s SOOO accurate. I must add that there is usually a “Homeleave from Hell” contest, as well as worst plane flight on a third-world carrier.
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