Sunday, 14 February 2016

Expat friendship

I think this quote reflects perfectly the kind of friendship expats experience through their journey abroad. The hard part is that sometimes, you don't anticipate who, from your new friends, will be part of your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime...

As an expat you're going to meet a lot of people. They'll come and go and that's life. Maybe you'll be the one to go first. Or like me, you'll be the one who stays and sees everybody go. I don't know which is the hardest to be honest, but I've had the feeling many times that it was hard to see someone go because the one who stays has to live with the memories of the other person in his everyday life.

You pass by a pub and you remember that crazy night out. You see something online about the Giant's causeway and it reminds you of that road trip you took together. You pass by the house he or she used to live in and you can't help but think about the many house parties you went to...

On the other hand, the person who leaves goes back to his home town, catches up with family, friends, goes back to study or work, but you're not part of it. You never were so it might be easier for them to move on. I have fantastic memories of my internships in Scotland and England as a student, but I know for a fact that when I came home, although I was nostalgic the first few weeks, I moved on pretty quickly.

I'm going to break it to you. The majority of friends you make while abroad are temporary. You might get along very well and swear you'll be friends for life, but the truth is, you might only be friends because you're sharing the same experience. In reality, when one of you goes back home, you realise you have less in common than you thought. You message each other once in a while, "like" each other's stuff on Facebook but that's as far as it goes and before you know it, there's not much to say anymore. I might be a bit cynical but I really doubt you can have a long term friendship with someone you've spend time with for only a few months, unless you regularly meet back home or if they come to visit.

Having said that, I'm still good friends with some people I met in Ireland and who have gone home. But not many, maybe 4 or 5. And the weird thing is, it wasn't always the person I thought I would keep in touch with.

Friendship works in a strange way. Sometimes people you almost forgot come crawling back into your life. People you weren't as close while abroad become closer once they're gone. Friends you wanted to keep so much become almost strangers.

All I'll say is keeping friends as an expat is hard. So hard that at some point, I didn't want expat friends anymore. Too much to deal with. But at the same time, I've learned so much from every person I've met that it would have been a waste not to invest in the relationship.

What about you? Do you think maintaining a friendship as an expat is hard?