So when are you coming home??? (Or: Maintaining Social Contacts)

I just got off the phone to my almost 98year old grandmother and as always, I have this terribly guilty feeling that I don’t call often enough.

Of course, there is the time difference that makes everything a little more complicated. I cannot just decide to call her at 3pm, because for her, that would be 10pm – not the best time to chat up an old lady. Calling friends and family has become complicated. If I feel like talking to someone in the evening, I can call the speaking clock. Now while that is a very friendly voice, I never get my say in those conversations. Not a good solution.

Most people like to talk in the evenings after their work is done. (By this I am ignoring all shift workers, my apologies.) But what is evening for people in Europe is midday for me. Gone are the days of spontaneous phone calls, nowadays we make phone or Skype dates. Where is the fun in that?

I have to admit that I am not a telephone person. When I finally pick up the phone to call someone, I can be sure that it doesn’t take long for the person on the other end to ask: “So when are you coming home again?” I always feel tempted to ask back: “So when are you coming to Mexico?” Let’s be honest, how many visitors we get abroad depends on our location. Somebody living in NY who thinks that people actually come to visit HIM (or HER) is floating along in a happy bubble that will finally burst once he (or she – not that I get sued here) gets relocated to Winnipeg… (Because people underestimate the beauty of Winnipeg, I might add for the sensitive reader in Winnipeg.)

Apparently, Seattle was not on the holiday wishlist of Europeans. (Yes, and I feel pity for them as I feel for everybody who has never walked the streets of the Emerald City.) Someone even suggested we might rather meet in L.A. What kind of a dumb idea is that? It is like me wanting to see my friend in Amsterdam, but since I know Amsterdam already I suggest meeting her in Greece. What the heck?

When we fly home, we do it solely to see friends and family, because – and that may come as a surprise – we already know our home town. I would expect it the other way around, too. But instead, being an expat for many people means that you and you only are responsible for maintaining social contacts (unless you live in NY, see above): If you don’t come home we won’t see each other at all. So get your butt over here, will you.

Of course, that is a spiteful generalization. There are those dear friends and family members who will always, always (if time and money are not an issue) stop by no matter where you live. Because they are interested in your new life. Because they want to spend time with you. Those are the people who are always more than welcome. The other ones I don’t care for too much, I have to say.

And this is one of the advantages of being an expat: You are able to separate the wheat from the chaff, and then you know to whom you are REALLY close.

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4 thoughts on “So when are you coming home??? (Or: Maintaining Social Contacts)

  1. This has been my experience as well. Not only is it entirely my responsibility to maintain contact with friends and family back home, they always expect me to come back and visit them, but have a million and one excuses why they can’t visit me. Because, you know, clearly travel doesn’t inconvenience me or my bank balance the way it does them…

    Yes, you can separate the wheat from the chaff, but it does get depressing to find out just how many of those people you were “close” to are the chaff.

  2. I will say that those people who have visited me in China have become even better friends through the last five years. It does separate things – and it’s amazing how much of relationships is built on convenience. Interesting post.

    • Thank you for your comment! I agree. A lot of friendships and also relationships only continue existing for their convenience – that’s a good point.
      When you are living abroad, you sometimes can be surprised who goes to length to see you and who does not. And though you might be disappointed in some people, others will all of a sudden become more valuable than you ever thought they would.
      It’s always comforting to know that other expats experience the same things!

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