14 Aug 2023


by John O’Brien

Being the new kid on the block.

The awkward giggle, the too soft or too firm handshake, the clumsy corona-shuffle, the strained conversation as you test the waters – all these joys are part of meeting new people. How elegantly you do this may influence how far that relationship goes.

New job, new people, new expectations


Perhaps you have moved to a new area and want to get in with the locals. Or just make a few new friends so that you can feel more at home where you already are. Maybe you’ve joined a community group or a sporting team (these are remarkably similar in function). Once you’ve negotiated the first impressions, how do you integrate more deeply into a new social setting? How do you manage transforming the crucial first meet into a lasting bond?

And that doozy that so many of us go through: meeting the in-laws for the first time. Remember, they have generations of in- jokes, jealousies and petty feuds already well established. You are the interloper, an intruder on their familial turf.

As you get bombarded with questions from every side, determined to put on a good show for your beloved, you have to stay cool but think quick. It’s worth having a variety of short anecdotes in the quiver to make yourself look good. Remember there are fine lines to offense, so read the room before unleashing your bawdiest tales.


At the very least, you should pay homage to the family’s elders. Smile and laugh at their jokes, no matter how lame. Unless, of course, everyone else is laughing at, rather than with, them. Then, it’s totally your call whether to join the pile-on or stand in solidarity with the old dear. Results may vary.

Having a painful family member is unavoidable. If it’s a blood connection, you’re stuck with them. If you married in like above, that discomfort is part of the price. Either way, it’s up to you to find the best approach to deal with this imbalance.

First day jitters

New jobs are always nerve-wracking. Day one on a fresh gig can be as daunting as the first day at school, and your parent likely won’t be there to wipe the snot from your nose. As you get shown around the premises, being introduced to the team whose names you will initially struggle to remember, it can feel very much like you are on show. Because, for this short period, you are. Smiling, watching your manners and generally being humble will get you a long way towards acceptance. Best leave your spikier sides sheathed until you’ve established yourself. Your presence and performance over the long run will be the ultimate arbiter in how well you integrate there, but it helps to get off to a good start.

After you have settled into your workstation, write down a quick list of those colleague’s names and anything about the workplace or company that you want to know more about. In the first few weeks, try asking each one of those people about just one of those topics. Softly, softly but showing a genuine interest in the other person, their role or zone, will help you to blend into the team quickly.

Postcode unknown

Moving into a new area is a challenge not limited to sweaty removalists and endless boxes. Quite apart from geographical unfamiliarity, the culture of an area can be unique and challenging to understand, let alone assimilate with. Especially so if you’ve moved to a distant region or even more ambitiously, another country.

You can’t pick your neighbours. They are tricky to avoid when you aren’t seeing eye-to-eye. Many an otherwise idyllic home situation has been ruined by malodourous relations with the next-doors.

They might be noisy, offensive or otherwise get on your nerves. Due diligence could have uncovered this before you signed up to move there, but sometimes dumb luck can see an unruly neighbour move in after you’ve set roots. Or be extremely quiet until the day you arrive, when they unleash their favourite decibel generators and start testing the boundaries of civility.

If you do get lucky with adjoining residents and want to deepen the bond, contact those that you get along with to organise a street party or local event. It’s a little more involved than ‘popping in for a cup of sugar’ but infinitely more rewarding over time. When things go wrong and you need a hand more quickly than external services can provide, this investment of your time pays itself off.


It’s the social media era but all those likes and followers are empty compared to a good bond with a real life human. A strategy worth trying is making meatspace contact with otherwise online only friends. If there is someone on your platform / server / hangout that you like the vibe of, and you’ve identified that they live in a similar area, send them a polite DM to see if they’d be interested in catching up in person.

Note, don’t be offended if they firstly say no. The keyboard gives great strength to the socially awkward, the autists and introverts who have a difficult time talking with people in person, whether new or familiar. They may not be ready to make that jump.

They will already have studied this deeper and longer than someone more socially adept and should have a good understanding of what already works for them. Give them the room to open up at their own pace.

The similes of congruence

Integrating into new settings is comparable to integrating electronic equipment. In both, you must work out which aspects are compatible and which not. You’ll need a basic understanding of the language and protocols to deploy v1.0 of your pairing. As you test it for strengths and weaknesses, you can learn what works and what doesn’t before iterating a better version.

Like a work install, grow your personal network one step at a time. Fitting in is not always easy, but neither is life.


Published monthly since 1991, our famous AV industry magazine is free for download or pay for print. Subscribers also receive CX News, our free weekly email with the latest industry news and jobs.