When we found this house in Germany I knew we were lucky because rented houses can be difficult to find but I didn't realise just how lucky we were. Apart from having a lovely landlord we have the most delightful neighburs and neighbourhood and it bears no comparison to the loneliness of our life in the other place. People have been so friendly, helpful and kind since we moved here eighteen months ago. After a couple of weeks one of our neighbours invited me for coffee and she invited some other ladies from the area so I at least knew a few people to say hello to. After a couple of months another neighbour invited us to dinner and she had invited 3 other couples from the street and this in turn triggered us being invited to dinner by some of the other guests who then invited different people and this helped widen our circle. There are several neighbourhood events each year – the canoe trip was the most recent and there had been a street party earlier. People aren't press-ganged into taking part in things but everyone is welcome and people have always made sure that Johnny and I are invited to neighbour hood events and then included in stuff when we're there. I am always impressed at how much trouble people take to involve us in conversations, to speak slowly and carefully, and generally ensure that we're not left out.
At the weekend we realised that we're not just included in events because of good neighbourliness but also because we've made real friends with some of the people here. We'd been invited to a neighbour's supper party for Saturday night and I had assumed that it was another neighbourhood event and had mentioned to Annette (hostess) about a couple of the other ladies we know and she said that they weren't invited as it was just for close friends to celebrate her husband's birthday.
I lived in the other place for four years and made no friends in my immediate neighbourhood and spent a lot of time feeling very lonely, but it also dented my confidence severely and made me question myself a lot. What was I doing wrong? What was so terrible about me that I couldn't make friends? It was so difficult and every overture I made was rebuffed. There was the famous time when my coffee machine had broken and I asked my elderly neighbour if he would be kind enough to make a 'phone call to the shop asking what I should do. He agreed to do this the following day but before he made the phone call I managed to get the machine working and went to explain this to him and thank him for his help up to now. I invited him for coffee and he said 'no' – he didn't expand on this so I said, 'well maybe not now but later this week or sometime' and he said 'no' again and then shut the door. He was perfectly nice and polite when we met outside and had offered his help previously but this didn't involve socialising. After a couple of years of trying to get beyond 'Guten Tag" I was quite convinced that it had to be me because it couldn't possibly be everyone else that was out of step, could it? Maybe I was too loud, too bubbly and bouncy, too pushy, too wrong.
Anyway, I moved here and discovered that it wasn't me that was wrong. Well, not all the time.