One of the blogs I’ve recently found and become a big fan of is “Mummy in Provence.” (Side note–she does a series called The Global Difference in Baby Making, featuring guest posts from expats around the world…FASCINATING reading if you’re at all interested in the topic). This past Sunday, she did a “stream of consciousness” post questioning whether expats are fickle friends or not. It’s been several days since I read (and commented) on the post, but it’s stayed on my mind.
Are expats fickle friends?
My gut reaction was that to some extent, yes we are. We disappear for travel, sometimes for a month or more at a time. We know that our friends could leave at the drop of a hat. The basis for friendship is, I think, far more liberal away from home than it might be in our home country. And, at the end of the day, my longest friendship in Singapore is about 18 months old, whereas most of my friendships in Boston are between 6/7 and 15 years old (and go back before marriage, kids, etc).
With social media, haven’t made as much effort to have a large social circle, the way I might have 10 or 15 years ago. I’m pretty on top of many of my friend’s lives, thanks to facebook, twitter and skype. Thanks to that and this blog, they’re keeping up with me. When I was in France in 2000, few if any friends had home access to email, and I made far more effort to get out and make local friends than I necessarily have here.
Then again, I don’t know that that was entirely fair. Thanks to expat life and expat contacts, I’ve made friends that span several continents. Today I had a friend generously let me place an order in her home country that she’s willing to take the time to ship on to me from her house to save me money (compared with direct international shipping). I wouldn’t say that’s superficial…that’s an unecessary and very sweet gesture.
The other thing I wasn’t thinking about is that expat friends are the only people who can really relate to the expat experience. Unless you’ve actually lived abroad and gone through the culture shock of being an expat, the frustrations, the excitement, the adaptation…all of that, it’s difficult to fully relate. Our expat friends serve a vital purpose.
What do you think? Are expats fickle friends? How are your expat friendships different from your home ones? How has the changing social media platforms affected how you make friends as an expat/maintain them (if at all)?