Expat friendships: are they different from non-expat friendships? What are your friendship experiences like, overseas and “back home”?
The friendships I have formed as an expat have been some of the best I’ve ever made. But are they so strong because I was an expat? Or are they strong simply because we were “in the same boat” at the same time, all having babies, raising toddlers and, for some of us, working part-time? A situation that could have been the same “back home”.
I am back in the UK at the moment and thinking about friendships here. (I don’t say “back home” because I don’t really know where “home” is anymore, having moved so much).
I feel the friendships I have made here are not the same depth as my expat friendships. Is that because my children are older? Or is it because we don’t have that “living overseas” connection? New friends here thought, because I’m British, that I knew how to live here. I really didn’t at first. I’d never been a mother of school-age children in the UK before, never lived in this part of southern England before and never run my own business here before…lots to learn and discover!
Subconsciously I gravitated towards non-English expats, or migrants, from around the world living in the UK and other British people who had moved “back home”. We had in common the struggle of living somewhere where we didn’t entirely understand what was going on … and that felt, and still does feel, good.
On the downside, I think aligning myself, so to speak, with “foreigners” and returning expats may have alienated me from some people here who have never lived more than a few miles from the village they were born in. They see me as an outsider, who perhaps might up and leave any time, so what’s the point in getting to know me… they may be right. I know for sure that I won’t live in this place forever – though it absolutely fits the purpose for now.
I think expats with children have the closest friendships with people they have shared the joy and angst of raising a family overseas with. What about single expats? Is that you? What forms the bond between you and your best friends? I’d love to know, so please send a comment below.
If you are missing your old friendships and struggling with expat life at the moment, here are a few blog posts that you might find helpful:
• Expat isolation and depression – do you need help?
• How to have a calm and present expat life
• ‘We Might Be Moving…’ Tips For When You Don’t Know Whether You’re Staying Or Going
• Expat life lessons: How to say the hardest goodbye