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Enforced socialising?

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by Susanne12345, Sep 30, 2018.

  1. Susanne12345

    Susanne12345 New commenter

    I'm in an overseas British school in a relatively large department. I have a good group of friends and have always preferred socialising away from work to get away from that "teacher talk" pit fall, especially as I have very different hobbies than my colleagues. However, in my current setting there seems a culture of enforced socialising and I have several times been called out (in front of the whole department, during meetings) for not attending these socials (which are often arranged ad hoc) or for not drinking/leaving early.

    I really have no interest in going at all, I attend to not put a strain on my relationships with colleagues. I wouldn't socialise with them at all usually, they're nice enough people and good teachers but very different to me (values, interests, lifestyle). I recently was called out by my HoD for not answering her texts over the weekend regarding a social event I'd already said I wasn't going to as I had plans with my partner.

    Am I going mad or being a psychopath? This seems very odd. Surely my weekends are mine to do with as I please?
  2. aypi

    aypi Senior commenter

    29 years, 3 social events.
    One Dance-fun
    Two meals for retiring HODs.
  3. pepper5

    pepper5 Star commenter

    Hi Holly

    My first reaction is think that is all weird.

    If I were you, I would look for another post - don't rush to do it, but just quietly start looking.

    Of course go to one or two socials to ensure you show you are willing to mix and get to know your colleagues, but people shouldn't be put under pressure. You are entitled to have a life away from teaching. I can see, however, that if you are in a country far away, the context is somewhat different and perhaps people do a lot more socialising so they are not so lonely as their extended families won't be there. Perhaps more is expected.
    agathamorse likes this.
  4. SCAW12

    SCAW12 Occasional commenter

    Yes think it's because you are overseas in an international school like pepper5 said. Are you using your real name and photo on here? Are you hoping your colleagues read this? If not, perhaps change them.
  5. sbkrobson

    sbkrobson Star commenter

    Not going to social events is your call, but it sounds as if you need to develop a way of opting out which satisfies the others that you're not being stand offish. Having plans with your partner is a good one.

    Although it is your call, I'll be honest, your thoughts in the opening text make you stand out to me as somebody who could easily come over as standoffish. you repeat the fact of having"different hobbies" but show no interest in those hobbies or interests of your colleagues. It makes me wonder how you can possibly say you know them if indeed you have not attended many social events. You also imply that you have attended, say, one or two gatherings but then left early. There's a disconnect here between what you say you want and how it looks to others-perhaps you need to look at this disconnect. Perhaps it would have been better not to go in the first place than to have left early.

    If you didn't answer texts, as per the quoted bit here, it is pretty easy for others to interpret arrogance.

    On a more abstract note, I have done plenty of stints abroad, and am probably similar to yourself in that I have always wanted to get out and about, see things other than work, branch out of the expat scene etc. I don't think it is unusual for this sort of mindset to be looked upon with a sort of resentment. Many employed expats are fundamentally unable to diversify in how they spend their time, creating a bubble of security and camaraderie with colleagues in a location which is far too "other" for them to want to fully experience. Crudely put, it's the Brit abroad who seeks out only the other Brits and the chip shop. I suppose a sweetener to this situation is that you could gently suggest that they go see some of the things/places/people that you have enjoyed. Help them out in this.

    I do think your post shows a lack of willing to get to know these people. Almost as if, dare I say it, you secretly relish your otherness. As previous post, it is up to you if you manage this, or if you look for something else.
    Maybe you are essentially a free lancer. That's yours to discover.
    All meant kindly.
  6. sbkrobson

    sbkrobson Star commenter

    O, ps, I just looked at your posting history-you're having a busy morning on here...
    You come across in your other posts as very worldly. You've taken this job and are excited to experience what that part of the world has to offer.
    Some of the responses on other threads where you have posted today exemplify the "disconnect" that I mention above. Many people are happy to know the ME without having been out and about in it ie they don't really want to know it. And equally many people are magentised to working in the ME because of the quality of working package. You don't seem to be somebody who went there purely for that reason.
    You also state that you're only there until July-don't let the issue of socialising (or not) spoil the limited opportunity. But equally, don't sully your name with your independence where the larger number don't seem to possess that attribute. It's a balance I suppose.
    agathamorse and pepper5 like this.
  7. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    Time for a social lie. Your partner has a severe allergy and you like to be at his side as much as possible in case of emergency. You have attacks of tinnitus and these are exacerbated if you're exposed to lots of concurrent conversations in confined spaces such as restaurants. Be creative.

    I just say I have Asperger's and social situations bring on a panic attack.

    I haven't been diagnosed but I do hate socialising so I think my own self-diagnosis is accurate. And I may be a sociopath for all I know. I don't care. I never knowingly do anyone any harm. I just like doing a good job and then pleasing myself!

    Either tell a fib or be honest (in a nice way).
  8. JosieWhitehead

    JosieWhitehead Star commenter

    It may well be that this is the norm where you are, but it isn't the norm here in the UK - or in Canada where I worked. Why don't you speak to someone - especially the person who is calling you out and explain your situation. Be friendly with them but firm and tell them the reason why you don't wish to attend.
  9. CWadd

    CWadd Star commenter

    You need to be a little more diplomatic. Don't ignore texts - just respond politely. But if I were you I would maybe socialise with them perhaps a little more. You say you don't attend to not put a strain on colleagues - but by refusing to attend you're straining the relationship. Keep your friends outside, but perhaps be a little more amenable to spending an extra half hour with colleagues sometimes. Bear in mind that when the **** hits the fan, supportive colleagues are worth their weight in gold. Being isolated in a department is not fun.

    I wouldn't tell lies about your or your partners health. Chances are the truth will always out: "Holly, thought you were Aspie and hated large crowds. Why were you in that ex pat nightclub...?"
  10. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    So. Not only do you have to go.

    You have to drink.
    You can't leave early.

    You can't simply show your face. No. You must behave as they behave!

    No way!

    Oh, they also call these get-togethers at short notice!

    Tell them outright. Tell them once.

    "Sorry, I have such a busy life. I'll come when I can but it won't be very often."
  11. FrankWolley

    FrankWolley Star commenter

    Maybe mention in a meeting with Department members that you are going to 'digital detox' every weekend for the rest of term for charity - would they like to sponsor you?;)
    agathamorse and Bumptious like this.
  12. sbkrobson

    sbkrobson Star commenter

    I think there's a bit more nuance to the situation than that.
    OP is working in Oman in an international school and is an expat. As I said before, the cohesion formed by an expat group of colleagues is of a greater function than others-there will be plenty of people who simply do not know how to get through a day of not working without maintaining the formal links that brought them there ins the first place ie via their job. And it is quite easy for those people to misconstrue anything other than that as a rejection or as "standoffish".
    Working abroad carries its own neediness for some people, and rather than resolve that need by getting out and about and trying to forge an experience, they might choose to invest themselves whole heartedly into what they already know-colleagues. There's nothing wrong with that, but the perception of somebody who does their own thing wont be helped by that person simply saying "no,I don't want to join you".
    That's why I suggested OP additionally give some ideas about other things they might be able to get up to when not working. That removes what I feel is a sense of "threat" to them. Irrational, but I know it can happen.
    Just my interpretation, having worked overseas under various hats.
    agathamorse and CWadd like this.
  13. Jolly_Roger15

    Jolly_Roger15 Star commenter

    Socialising with colleagues can be fun, as long as you do so without talking endlessly about work. I have been to so many evenings that were catered departmental meetings. :(
    agathamorse likes this.
  14. CWadd

    CWadd Star commenter

    Implying that colleagues have dull little lives that are only livened up by socialising together whilst the OP is leading a full and busy one is not going to help the OP one bit.

    If the OP doesn't want to go at all, fine. But I reckon it can be conveyed in a manner that's not going to come over as putting others down because they want to socialise or making up stories about health conditions. A simple "Cool, I'll come for one drink" should suffice. Or even a "thanks for the invite, sounds good but I'm afraid me and partner are already, otherwise I would" could work.
  15. Susanne12345

    Susanne12345 New commenter

    Thanks. I think I may need to clarify: I leave at midnight for departmental functions as I live about 30 mins away from the area the others live in so it's a drive and to be honest, I'm an early bird not a night owl. I don't drink at all currently as I'm training for my first Iron Man which causes constant teasing or exclusion from conversations as my colleagues don't complete any exercise. I regularly get told I'm weird or peculiar for preparing my meals in advance and not buying lunch at work.

    I think you're right as to my "otherness": I like exploring, wadis, deserts, marathons, travel etc. I agree also that i may come off standoffish as I have little interest in the "expat bubble" as I've seen how quickly this can turn nasty in small settings. I really would love to stay longer in Oman but it's getting to the point where I dread these socials as I feel undermined, put down and teased because I live a slightly different lifestyle and end up sitting there at brunch feeling silly as everyone else is raving drunk or having nothing to add to conversation. I've done the duty driver a few times but it's tiring and just not me. I've tried politely explaining this but it's never enough.

    I'd just rather be on the beach with my dog, a surf board and a good book. I don't mind Christmas as it's festive. Just why oh why must it always be the same event involving copious alcohol?

    I think part of the issue is that my partner is a non-teacher and also hates these events. I always have to go alone after an issue that arose. This makes it seem less appealing.
    agathamorse and Bumptious like this.
  16. CWadd

    CWadd Star commenter

    @hollystephens I actually empathise with this.

    I'm a powerlifter and in the gym 4-5 times a week, and a non drinker. I had a comment this week about how my lunch didn't look too filling as it was a protein based salad from someone scarfing chips. Yep. Whatever. Plus I've learned to ignore looks when I get a lime and soda in a pub whilst everyone else downs pints.

    However, I think I may be a little older than you and have developed a thick skin. But I'm not saying you should. And boozy brunches are my idea of hell. Being in the garden with a book and singing birds is better. And I get the liking to explore.

    Which means I'm going to say I was perhaps wrong in what I said at first.

    Just start repeatedly politely saying "thanks but no thanks." I got the impression from your first post that you simply didn't want to go. But if they're ripping it our of you...yeah, I'd want zero to do with them too!
    agathamorse and Bumptious like this.
  17. sparkleghirl

    sparkleghirl Star commenter

    I sympathise with the 'otherness' but you have to be careful sometimes not to let that to come across as judgemental or superior. There's no better or worse, just difference.

    There's nothing wrong with maintaining your personal life separate from your school life but be aware that the expectations (and experiences) of your expat colleagues may be different.
  18. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    They're a bunch of bullies! Tell them you're too busy looking for a new job to be driving them round the country whilst they get p!££ed,
  19. phatsals

    phatsals Senior commenter

    I'm somewhat baffled by the need for analysis here. If you don't want to go, don't go, you won't be missed. Personally, I avoid these events like the plague.
  20. sbkrobson

    sbkrobson Star commenter

    If you've seen how quickly the expat bubble can turn into nastiness,then it is quite presumptuous. Pre judgemental. This is not just any old bunch of expats, this is a group of peoplewith commonality, albeit only work related
    These are individuals with a variety of backgrounds, interests and hobbies. You disparage their hobbies, but do you actually know them? You don't have to "add to conversation". It's more about just demonstrating interest. But your posts are actually quite dismissive of them as people. Maybe they sense this.
    I have huge respect for how you want to get out there and do things, and I'm not sayingyou ought to go and socialise if you really don't want to; but rather than write off your colleagues as non starters, why don't you take the line that perhaps they might be interested (and interesting!) if only you'd give them a little more of a listening ear?
    The issue of not wanting to go to these events is easy, but the issue of how that is received is something you ought to manage,because you can, and because I assume you'd hope to find the rest of your time there bearable.
    Perhaps you ought to repost this query on the overseas forum, asI do think it's a specific overseas dilemma. Maybe you'll get a response form somebody facing the same.

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