I often go through the stats page on my blog to see the search terms that bring people to my blog. One such phrase that caught my eye a few days ago was – ‘expat no friends’. My first reaction was sympathy for the person who had googled this phrase. Its not a nice place to be…and I know it coz I have been there.
A simple search of the ‘expat no friends’ tag on the web took me to scores of websites and blogs that talked about how to beat expat blues, how to make and keep friends, expat depression, why expats have no friends and a whole lot of other very very depressing stuff.
What no one told me (not even google!), when I signed up for this fancy expat-life was that as an expat in a new country, I would have NO friends – at least in the beginning which tends to be a rather long phase. When I say no friends, I mean the friends I make on my own and not the ones that K and I have met as a result of his work. Most expats will resonate with this feeling of forging one’s own friendships. It’s very important emotionally since in the past we have all had our own set of friends as well.
The internet offers a lot of advise on how expats should find their feet, re-invent themselves,be open minded, social, etc. etc. What it doesn’t say is where to meet like-minded people and once you meet them – how to be-friend and keep them!
I have been to several social events now and none of my ‘relationships’ from any of these events have gone past the second date! For the longest time I thought it was me. Maybe I’d lost what it takes to make new friends. But having met and spoken to numerous people, I realised that this was indeed a very common problem – not just for expats but even South Africans who had moved to Joburg from another city. Breaking into cliques and circles is a daunting task and takes perseverance.
Unless you are a regular at these social clubs, chances are you will only be making acquaintances for that one evening – which is what happened with me. But if you are lucky enough to want to meet even one of those people a second time or vice-versa, you should consider that a score – which didn’t happen to me!!
But thankfully nothing is constant in this world, not even my friend-less situation. As time has gone by, I have managed to collect a lovely, albeit small set of friends. Nothing came off my social club dinners and parties (a lot due to my lack of regularity, which I assure you was not out of laziness), so I ditched them completely barring a few events every now and then. My gym and pottery classes seem to have paid off and every now and then I get a chance to share some stories over a cup of coffee with some wonderful ladies.
Like I have said before, the life of an expat is not always hunky-dory. There are a lot of things that no one tells you about and you have to learn it the hard way. But despite these, I would not trade places – I see more pros than cons of being an expat.