One of the most difficult things about being an expat is making and keeping friends. Expat living can be a very transient lifestyle, people are always coming and going. It can be very rare that you are in the same place, with the same people for very long.
Here is how it starts, when you first move to a country, you try to be friends with any one who speaks the same language as you. Maybe they work with you, maybe you meet them in a classroom, or maybe you over hear them speaking English in a Starbucks and you start up a conversation with them. Whatever the reason, the commonality of language is the key factor.
You realize that you are only friends with that person because of the language. That they are a person who, in your normal life, you never would have been friends with. Sometimes that is a good thing, and you’ve opened yourself to a whole new kind of person and friendship, and sometimes it isn’t.
Then, you start to become more picky, just speaking the same language is no longer enough, you start to look for friends who you actually have something in common with, or dare in say, like.
And then once you’ve settled into a routine with this friend, coffees, shopping, even play dates with the kids you both have, it is time for one of you to move on.
What do you do? How do you deal with this revolving door of friendships?
Keep in touch! You never lose a real friend. They are always with you, and these days it is even easier to keep them with you. Facebook, Skype, text, keeping in touch is not as difficult as it once was.
Keep making friends. You can never have too many friends. You don’t need to replace them, just make room for everyone.
Keep your options open, yes you are no longer going to be friends based solely on English, but give someone who you wouldn’t normally be friends with a chance, maybe she is ten years older than you, or not married, but perhaps there is something else that that you two have in common.
Since I started my life as an expat I have had some of the most amazing friends, people who have been through all of the major and minor moments in my life with me. I am truly lucky.
In the last few years I have had to say goodbye to so many of these amazing friends, and looking towards the summer, I am dreading saying goodbye to two more amazing people.
This is the life of an expat.
You can’t close yourself off, as my grandmother used to say, every stranger is just a friend you haven’t met yet.