Are Expats Fickle Friends?

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)?

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6 Responses to Are Expats Fickle Friends?

  1. Thanks for linking me up!
    I think social media does make us lazier as far as making new friends is concerned. BUT! We do need to make friends where ever we are

    • Crystal says:

      Yeah, there’s nothing quite like realizing it’s the middle of the day for you…and that it’s the middle of the night for your “home” friends to realize that you need local friends (or need to reach out to them). Has happened to me, with the 12/13 hour time diff.

  2. Laura says:

    Certainly a lot of the people I’ve met and struck up friendships with has been via social media (particularly Twitter) and my blog. Whilst I have met people in a more conventional way too having had access to these has certainly helped me to meet people I may not have done otherwise. My expat friendships are different from those from back home but like you say we have that shared experience of expat life and the highs and lows that go with it. I definitely think you need that.

    I hope that some of those friendships i’ve made will last beyond my time in Singapore but I recognise too that some will potentially fizzle out once the Singapore link is no longer there.

    • Crystal says:

      I’m deeply grateful for social media, both in terms of keeping up with friends back home and as the medium that I’ve *met* many of my local friends.

  3. Dawn says:

    There’s no reason a friendship with someone you meet while traveling abroad can’t last. My best friend in all the world, since childhood, was only living in the US for two years in elementary school, which is where and when I met her. After she moved back (to another continent!) we wrote letters for several years, and I eventually visited her in her home country, and returned there to see her many times after that. I must admit that as adults we’re not that great about regular communication, but we are connected via social media, and when we do see each other (for example, each other’s weddings), it’s like we’ve never been apart. I think the endurance of a relationship has a lot more to do with the connection forged between the people – which is all about personalities meshing – than where they are, either when the friendship is formed, or later.

    • Crystal says:

      I hope to maintain my friendships after I go home, but we’ll see what happens. I’ve already seen someone who moved on drift away, which was sad.

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