Making friends when you’re an adult is hard. I hadn’t really thought about this until we moved from the UK. I don’t remember having lots and lots of friends when I was younger but I remember having specific groups of friends at specific times in my life.
I couldn’t tell you how we became friends. I imagine at some point we discovered a common ground and the friendship grew from there. These were friends from home, school, Uni, hobbies and eventually work. The point is I don’t think there was a conscious effort to go out and meet people, these were people I was seeing on a regular basis and the friendships grew in an organic way.
I think as people get older they possibly don’t want lots of friends. They’re quite happy with the friends they already have and they don’t have the energy or inclination to put the effort into meeting new people and cultivating a new friendship. This is fine if you’re already in a situation where you have your circle of friends but, if you’ve just been dropped in a foreign country with no other acquaintance than your partner then this is not a good news for you.
Expats – expats tend to gravitate towards each other. They understand your predicament because they’ve been there and in that moment of being the new kid on the block they’re literally a safe port in a storm. You bond over PG Tips (english tea) and where to buy a decent sausage. But, I found it hard just having expat friends. I think I felt that if I was really going to make the most of living abroad and to integrate fully I should have friends from that country. But here’s the thing; ‘natives’ are much harder to befriend. They have to deal with your language limitations, your cultural ignorance (they basically have to explain everything to you) whilst trying to work out what kind of person you are, if you actually have anything in common and if they have the time and energy to become more than an acquaintance.
It’s an exercise in vulnerability to put yourself out there hoping to connect with someone and being shut down for no apparent reason, especially when you have introvert tendencies and the putting yourself out there is an effort in itself! But when you find a corker, it’s absolutely worth the effort.
So I cherish the friendships I have made whilst living abroad and I am thankful I got to meet these fantastic people.
I am thankful for the friend who scooped me up the first day I went riding and has been looking out for me and feeding me pasties ever since, the friend who shares my obsession with food and horses and is not afraid to dish out a good dose of the truth when necessary and the friend who has the BUSIEST SCHEDULE EVER (and the biggest horse) but has found the time to write and publish a novel and achieved what no other person has been able to do – actually get me to write.
So friends, you know who you are…..I seem to have something in my eye so I’m off for a kleenex.