The Expat Dilemma of Friends Coming and Going

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This time of the year is often filled with complicated emotions for expats. Spring is on its way and there are several holidays to look forward to, but at the same time the end of the school year is coming closer and a lot of families and friends will move.

To move abroad as an expat is fantastic and somewhat stressing when it comes to friends. To me it has been unusual to get that many good, new friends as an adult. Usually it takes many years in my home country before a person I just met become a close friend. When I moved to Istanbul, five years ago, I didn’t understand that I had to be much quicker! By the time I asked a nice lady out for lunch she told me that she was packing to move. And that happened again and again. My best friends in Istanbul I got the last year, when I had understood the unwritten rules.

Some of the rules are
“She seems nice.” Ask her if she wants to join you for a lunch or coffee immediately. If you still find her nice after the coffee, ask her for her number, WeChat, WhatsApp information or whatever app is the primary in your country.
“How nice that I was invited to a coffee by that lady”. Now you have to act! Don’t think that you are the newcomer after more than one month, or expect anyone else to pamper you more than once. Call her and ask her to check out a place you want to visit.
“I want to visit this place with someone, but how shall I choose one of the five ladies I just met?” Don’t! Invite them all even if they don’t know each other. That will broaden the network for everyone.
“It would be nice to join a group (book club, sightseeing, discussion etc), but I can’t find one” Start one!
“I don’t like to fix my nails or go to lunches all the time, I want something else.” You can be absolutely sure that you are not alone – just tell people what you want and the ones interested will join you. And praise you for your intitiative!

(Not so many men out there, but of course this goes for accompanying men as well!)

There are of course many more rules, but those are the ones that were hardest for me to catch up with. The common thread is ACTION – now!

So you follow the rules and get wonderful friends from all over the world. Then what happens, just when you started to enjoy life in this new country? They move! Usually at the same time. Now you might encounter even tougher emotions than the ones of loneliness and lack of friends you experienced when you arrived. To most accompanying spouses friends are an important part of everyday life. The worries about how life will be when you are alone again might disturb you. And you might not look forward to starting all over, inviting newly arrived ladies for coffee and find out which ones might be good friends next year.

I myself, try to first of all enjoy my friends all the way until they move. It’s very common that friends (especially children and teenagers) part before they actually have to part, in an unconscious way of trying to avoid the pain. Then I try not to envision what next year will look like. Some days it work, some days not … I try to stay open minded and believe in my own ability to develop my friend finding skills and trust that there are a lot of nice people out there also open minded and eager for a coffee!

What is your experience and how do you cope with it? Are you about to move or are you the one staying?