For a year now, we have been living in Mexico, and many people ask me, whether I had made any friends yet. Well, I am lucky that by now, I consider our landlady my friend, although we hardly plan any activities together. Whenever we meet, though, we are chatting away, forgetting the time and she has indeed become very dear to me.
Other than that, the answer is no, we haven’t made any friends yet. Acquaintances yes, colleagues yes, but friends? They do not grow on trees, do they?
Maybe this is one of the most challenging issues of living the expat life. When you stay in your home town or at least your home country, you stick with the same crowd more or less forever. Some may come, some may go, but you already know where to go. You have your routine, you know that some of your friends are going to the farmers’ market every Saturday, while others go to the same bar every Friday night – it is a cozy life. And you don’t really feel the urge to find new friends, do you?
So here comes the expat looking for friends and those circles are already full. You don’t belong to the market crowd, nor to the Friday night crowd and it hardly occurs to anyone to invite you to join in. Now there are a few people who ignore that and just join in anyway, being invited or not. My husband and I do not belong to this category, maybe it is because we are from the North and they say that people from the North take a little longer to warm up, don’t they?
But even if after a while you meet people to sometimes hang out with, be it for a coffee or a glass of wine or at the gym, those people do not automatically become your friends, do they? I consider people friends when I know that no matter where I live, we will stay in touch. People whom I can call upon anytime. People who are around also in not so happy times.
For children, making friends is easy.
We go to the same school – friends. We both don’t like our maths teacher – friends. She also wants to have a pony – friends. I remember how I met my oldest friend: I was sitting on the pavement, she came along and sat down next to me. 30 years later, we are still best friends. How easy, huh? And how often does that happen to you in grown-up life?
Later, we become a little more particular, but as long as we share the same kind of lifestyle, it’s a done deal.
She is also single and lives in my neighbourhood – friends. She likes the same movies, the same kind of music, the same bars – friends.
But I find that at a certain age, it is getting more and more difficult. So why is that?
I believe it has something to do with the image we want to create of ourselves. I noticed that (and I used to do the same) whenever we meet new people, everything about their life is perfect. Their relationship – happy. Their job – fulfilling. Their financial status – carefree. We all strive to project this flawless commercial image of ourselves as if admitting that something in our life lacks perfection, makes us less loveable. We believe, that success in whatever area is the only measure for our personality. Thus, our conversations become meaningless. It is quite honestly boring. Because, come on, whose life is that perfect? Who is happy 365 days a year and 24 hours a day? Whose marriage is plain sunshine all the time? And whose job is non-stop fun and excitement and highly paid at the same time?
Only after a while when we know the other person a little better and we start to trust her or him, we reveal what really makes us us. Unfortunately, very often we are deprived of that opportunity after sharing meaningless and shallow details about our oh so perfect life – and by this losing our very personal touch.
I find that I establish the most valuable contacts when I don’t shy away from sharing who I am. And sometimes, it is amazing to see how other people open up and all of a sudden, become so much more complex. In the end, what do we have to lose? If someone doesn’t like us the way we are, it is better to know straight away and to move on. Precious time can be saved. And true, long-lasting friendships can be forged!