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How to Make Friends When Moving Overseas
Episode 1917th October 2023 • Have You Thought About • Dhruti Shah
00:00:00 00:25:40

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Ali Shaw is a senior producer working at the BBC. But is foreign news producing as glamourous as it sounds and how do you deal with having to make friends all over again each you move? Then there's added challenge of parenting from overseas.

Transcripts

Dhruti Shah:

Hi, I'm Dhruti Shah, and this is my podcast Have You Thought About? Thank you for joining us for season two. I'm a writer, and I love to find out about what passions people are pursuing. And also what makes them tick. The podcast is for those who are at a reckoning and tired of being told you can really only one focus on one thing that makes you you. In each edition, I'm going to

Dhruti Shah:

You're about to hear me chatting with Ali Shaw, a BBC senior producer, a seasoned traveller, and someone who knows what it's like to parent from afar.

Dhruti Shah:

Hi, Ali. Now, we met when we were both at the BBC used to work for the corporation, but I left to try my hand at freelance and see what else is out there. But we met while both of us were working in roles in Washington, DC and the North American Bureau, I was so happy that we became friends. But what I want to really find out about first is more about the experience of moving overseas and how you

Ali Shaw:

Really good question. And it's a struggle, a bit of background, it was 2019, I was a single parent, and my youngest was about to leave to go to uni. And I always kind of done programmes, rebuilt programmes, because I knew what my rota was, and it just kind of, you know, it worked. And then when my youngest was about to go off to uni, I was like, Oh, what a midlife crisis, whatever.

Ali Shaw:

So it was like, I'm going to leave, I'm gonna go and move to America. And I'm going to live on my own for the first time or since I've been a student. It was challenging and brilliant. When I first got there, it was exciting, right? So that gets you through the first few months, because everything's new, everything's shiny. I'm a massive West Wing fan and a political nerd. So I literally walked

Ali Shaw:

Also, I was there during COVID, this brilliant American adventure where I was gonna go home every three months, or someone was gonna come out and I got lots of visitors and I travel America blurgh, kind of didn'thappen. So that kind of limited that sense of lack of escape. I remember walking down the mall, and there wasn't a soul in sight. And that just added to that kind of heaviness of, Wow,

Ali Shaw:

And so it was trying to find people outside of that loop, which was the main kind of stumbling block. I remember thinking I'll be alright, if I can find my coffee shop. And it was Gregory's across the road from work. And I remember going in they said to me, What kind of coffee do you want first thing in the morning? And I was like, Oh, can I get a cappuccino? And they're like, right okay, what kind

Dhruti Shah:

Very exciting, but very lonely at times as well in terms of trying to make friends and not knowing anyone. Gregory's - the day I left again because they were so nice. They gave me some freebies cause I was going in so regularly, but I wasn't the full fat milk woman. I was like a hot chocolate all the way like constantly hot chocolate hot chocolate chocolates. But I think it's also

Ali Shaw:

It's a ballsy move. I mean, that's vulnerability to do that. I'm not sure if I could have been that vulnerable

Ali Shaw:

Yeah.

Dhruti Shah:

.Yeah. I went on a hike to Rock Creek Park. And there was a woman who had a dog, German shepherd. And so I went up to them. I said, I really like your dog. You want to be my friend, and we're still friends. And she writes to me from DC. So that worked, not always there was another lady and we were like, should we be friends? And then it didn't work out. We don't speak to each other

Ali Shaw:

I had met a lovely, lovely friend, Laura, and also Alexandria, and that was through connections of other people. And my partner came out to visit, he wanted to meet a friend of a friend. She happened to be his wife. We went along for dinner one night, and she's a force of nature. I mean, this woman's terrifying. You know, I'm like, she's like three levels up. So we got Chattin, and we got

Dhruti Shah:

Oh,

Ali Shaw:

I bet we get because she went to the spa. And it was just like, she's like, Oh, it's amazing. You have to come and I'm like, oh, because we were drunk. And I'm like brilliant idea, yeah. Oh, my God, I actually had to do this. No. And I was terrified and went along. And I'm like, what? Women's only right? Oh, we got to the changing room. And she's like, we got these like, jump suits to

Ali Shaw:

Like, I am scared to go to cinema on my own. I've never done I admire people who can do it. I've never done it. I bought tickets to the Hozier - was playing down at the wharf. And I love him. And so I was kind of watching the tickets. Finally, on the day that he was playing, the price dropped, and I'm like doing this. Big girl pants on right, bought ticket, they got home. And I was like sat on the

Ali Shaw:

And I go to the door, young boy says to me, oh, have you got any ID? And I'm like, No, I've got my bank card. I'm at a concert and I am seasoned enough to know I'm not bringing a handbag. No, I don't have any ID or you can't drink then- my spot a theme, which you know, like that? Well, that's not I'm not walking in there and being sobre. No, I'm here on my own - I'm going to the bar. So I was

Ali Shaw:

And there's a group of women here. And there's a space and I just did that. this is obscure and random, I'm sorry, do you mind if I just come and join you? You can join me because I'm here on my own and I'm like come away in. We rocked it They all knew every song from the first note or the first verse didn't mean and we just danced the night away and they gave it larvey which is a Scottish

Dhruti Shah:

I mean, a lot of this is sort of, you know, in your personal time as it were and beyond the word but you are a seasoned foreign producer. You know, you've done some hardcore stories. So that element of confidence - when I'm dealing with my journalism, I can pretty much do anything. It's like yeah, I'll interview anyone. I'll be able to do anything. But when it comes to my beyond

Ali Shaw:

In my head, the way I do it is, I can be like, they work because I'm confident, I know what I'm doing. And it's clear, and there's a system and it works. And I'm confident. And then it's almost like, that's such a big part of my life. And you know what it's like, specially when you're living in a foreign bureau and you're on call pretty much all the time. That takes so much out of you

Ali Shaw:

See, when I'm at home, I have a Jenga approach to cupboards, I can just throw it in and shut the door. If the door doesn't open again on me, that'll do, because do you know what I haven't got time in my life to just organise stuff. And I'm a bit like, my ideal holiday would be I go away, and someone makes all the decisions for me. So I don't have to go what do I want for tea, you decide... there's

Dhruti Shah:

But

Ali Shaw:

The world has changed. I changed friends that I thought pre-America, I would still be in touch with not, that was interesting. Who kept in touch and who didn't? Who made the effort and and who didn't, which is kind of that natural filter as you go through life. Don't you? You always take a few friends with you and you lose a few friends. And that's every phase of your life. You bring

Ali Shaw:

anyway, I came back and we got married six weeks after I got home. So when I first got back, I was just like in like, oh my god, I actually organised this wedding. And it's been six weeks time. So that kind of keeps the buzz going when I got back and then settling in and then we just got house and we just moved. And that was all brilliant.

Ali Shaw:

But I'm now in a new phase when I was sitting in DC and I knew I was coming home. I was like, like, what is it I want to do when I come back?

Ali Shaw:

Not What job do I want to do? But what is it that I've learned about myself since I've been out here that's important to keep going populist work. When I spoke about what actual job I was doing. The most important thing was, I want to work when I spoke, I want to work with a good team. And that will make me happy. And the job is underneath that. So I did so I came back.

Ali Shaw:

And I am working at Scottish Parley- Holyrood now. And I love it. And my priorities have shifted slightly. And because I've got this new life, now better life. And I've got my husband and I've got a new place. And I've got the job and the commutes no bother at all. And I'm working with the core people where I feel like I'm home. Because I used to work at Scottish Parley years and years ago.

Ali Shaw:

But there's that sense of back in my hometown and knowing where to go and get your shoes reheeled Just no one off the top of your head the shortcut when the traffic hits, stuff like that you underestimate is important to feeling grounded and have made new friends. I meet new people every day, because he's got a whole circle of mates who got a circle of mates who got a circle of mates, and

Ali Shaw:

I strive for normality, quite a lot. Just kind of feel like I've found my groove where things are normal. And it's like, something horrible will happen soon, obviously because I'm a natural pessimist. When it is is because that's a natural thing, isn't it? Things are good and well, what's gonna go wrong to ruin it? So far? Touch wood got some desk. It's all going ok - apart from the menopause.

Ali Shaw:

Very very delicately put Dhruti, Brain fog the biggest thing for me, especially when I'm working in news and it's fast turn-around, and I just can't think of words. I can't think of names; I just have blank sometimes. And that but, I'm very open with people around me, and I'll be the first one to shout oh So I can't remember people's names that I know really well, I'll stare at them like you.

Ali Shaw:

But it's kind of hard at work. And when your self esteem and confidence goes up, but I think and then there's the imposter syndrome, that kind of creeps up on you slowly and slowly. And then you kind of come back and you're like, we'll be able to do this, we can do it. But like, Can I do it? Can I do? I'm not sure? Or if that changed, or what? We'll be able to do that. And so that competence that

Dhruti Shah:

See I'm like I think you would be good. I think it's just a difficult time at the moment in the UK. If I'm perfectly frank with you. That's what I would only say consider that is just whether you'd want to go freelance necessarily in the UK, because of the cost of living crisis - not because you're not good. As I said, and I keep saying it, you are literally one of the best

Ali Shaw:

The other thing that says drugs are good. I ran towards HRT early on. So I'm on HRT, uh, it's just a wee patch, you change twice a week, brilliant, and then oestrogen on a daily basis, and for a while I was on testosterone, which was brilliant. Because that's the testosterone, do you know what it was - it was because we were in America, and it's the health system there. So went to the

Ali Shaw:

Alright, bring it. It was brilliant. But when I came back, I have really good NHS doctor that I registered with pretty much gave me identifical stuff and just went well, they will take your blood will measure you from here on in, and we'll just carry it forward. And it's been amazing. And I haven't struggled to get it. You know there's been a shortage of various hormones stuff I haven't

Dhruti Shah:

Although we do check other things as well, though, we do make sure that other people are around, people can be checked.

Ali Shaw:

And on the app, they asked you about all your symptoms, and then you can measure it like three months later against the same symptoms and stuff. And it just gives you a hint of the progression chart. So I found her very helpful and use that as a reference to navigate my way towards it. When I was listening to one of things, She's like the earlier you get on it, if it works for

Dhruti Shah:

Fantastic. So there's quite a lot going on there in terms of being able to navigate life but also embracing different elements and perhaps sort of seeing what the next chapter could be. And just finally, one more thing if that's all right, what would you say overall, makes Ali Ali?

Ali Shaw:

Oh that's a tough one. You got to be authentic. You gotta be yourself; gotta to have the confidence to be yourself. Right? There's no point in being anybody else but you. You got to be honest, because if you're not honest, it's going to bite you on the arse. Kind of guiding principle in life, like to think I'm empathic and have the compassion to see someone's perspective. And I've

Ali Shaw:

And every time we second guess it bites us on the bum. Trust your instincts and have the confidence to listen to it and be guided by it. And maybe that's a woman thing, and maybe that's a sweeping generalisation. But as I've gotten older, I've realised that every time my tummy tingles, there's a reason and I'll stop and take a beat. And then something will fall out.

Ali Shaw:

I was gonna ask you about that like, like, I don't know if I'm gonna I feel like I'm going through perimenopause at the moment. When like hot flushes clumsy, but that just could be me anyway, how are you navigating? Menopause perimenopause as an experienced woman of certain years? How are you coping with that?

Dhruti Shah:

The amazing Ali Shaw, who brings us together, travelling, motherhood and so much more. Do you have an interdisciplinary life because I'd love to hear from you. And maybe we can chat on my podcast that goes with my newsletter, which is called Have You Thought About and can be found via www.dhrutishah.com. Please join me next time for a fun conversation with another guest who likes to