There are no strangers here; only friends you haven’t met. (William Butler Yeats)

I recently attended a wine and food party hosted by a group of lovely ladies with the International Newcomers Club.

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A group of eleven of us gathered at a spectacular apartment overlooking Iberipuera Park and cooked bruschette and pasta.

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Later, we  taste-tested (pounded back, in the vernacular) five lovely wines from Italy, including one sparkling white wine, a still white wine, a chianti, and two Barbera reds. Very elegant and great fun!

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Now, I will admit, I’m not a wine connoisseur. I don’t keep a book about every wine I’ve ever enjoyed (or not), or what foods and wines go together best. I know what I like, and I enjoy fine wines. But I’m likely to be just as pleased by a $15 bottle as by a $150 bottle. As a friend of mine used to say, “Is it red? Pour it in!”

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But the afternoon was about so much more than wine and food. It was about forging new friendships and broadening horizons. We didn’t need the fine wine and food. As far as I’m concerned, we could have been drinking fruit juice and eating popcorn and I would have been just as content!

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My recommendation for anyone moving to a new city, whether in your native country or abroad, is find the Newcomers Club or the International Newcomers Club in your area. There, you will meet people from all over the world who have gathered in search of friendship and support.

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Thus far in Sao Paulo’s INC, I’ve met people from Portugal, Germany, the Netherlands, Panama, Ecuador, Argentina, France, Italy, Brazil, Bolivia, Guatemala, Australia, England, Ireland, the Philippines, and from all over the United States. Everyone speaks English, but it’s great fun to hear people find those with common languages and hear the sound level rise accordingly, as they eagerly converse in their native languages.

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We have dining opportunities, and service opportunities, and travel opportunities through the club, which opens my horizons so much more than simply hanging out with the folks at Tom’s work (which is fun, of course).

At the wine and food party, I met a woman from Paris who was a French version of a dear friend of mine, in looks and energy. What fun to speak with her and get acquainted! Another woman is from Panama, and two are from the Netherlands. All at one little afternoon shindig. Then we had Californians, Virginians, Arizonians, Michiganites, and other Americans living abroad and (mostly) loving it.

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Most of these ex-pats are here because of their husbands’ jobs and are themselves unable to work here due to visa and employment laws, so making social connections is vital to staying sane, even if they have children. For me, it’s a heavenly chance to meet women from around the world and build my knowledge of other cultures and mindsets.

Fear makes strangers of people who would be friends. (Shirley MacLaine)