How to deal with the curse of expat friendships
Whilst nurturing your friendships at home, possibly attempting to befriend the locals, you might also want to create a circle of friends amongst the expat community in your new country. Initially, the latter might be the easiest of the three, but long term it can prove challenging to maintain those friendships.
Fellow expats, whether novices or seasoned, are just as interested in making friends as you are. They share the difficulty in making local friends and seasoned expats have experienced losing expat friends who either repatriate or move to yet another country.
After a while, you become an expert in making new friends in the expat community, but there’s also a risk that the constant befriending someone, deepening and cultivating the friendship and saying your goodbyes begins to take its toll on you.
Making new friends requires energy and seeing them leave or being the one to leave yourself can cause feelings of grief. For some expats, this is so painful that they withdraw from making friends all together and as such lead a lonely life. It doesn’t have to be like that.
It can be hard to put into words what expat life does to you. Regardless of personality and interests, expats share a common experience which others can find hard to understand. They need each other to wave off feelings of loneliness and of not belonging, to explore their new country as well as support each other with the many challenges of settling in. As such, sometimes expats make friends whom they don’t necessarily have a deeper bond with other than “just” sharing their current life situation.
We all want life long friendships, but perhaps accepting that the friends you make as an expat can be as temporary as expat life itself, takes the pressure off and enables you to enjoy and appreciate the time you have with these people more. The ones you have developed deep bonds with will remain in your life regardless of the distance between you whereas the transitory friends probably weren’t meant to be more than just that. Enjoy them whilst you can and allow these friendships to fizzle out when time is; the wonderful memories are yours to keep forever.
First published in Aug 2020; re-published Jan 2023