FRIENDSHIP WITHOUT BORDERS
“For me, friendship is like the air I breathe: I can’t do without it,” says psychologist and expat consultant Erica Mirochnik. Here she celebrates the joys of international friendships and shares some tips on how to connect with others abroad.
“Living far away, I have learned to appreciate even more what friendship means in my life, and the many forms it can take. That’s why friendship without borders is so important in the life of an expat.
There are lifelong friends, friends you meet along the way during your studies or your jobs, and friends you meet during your time living abroad. And just as some friendships at home are forged through common interests, those friends you meet while living far away from your country of origin follow the same destiny: the same concerns, the same shared experiences.
It doesn’t matter if you meet a person who comes from the opposite of the reality you know – I would say that’s even more interesting. It’s also interesting to surround yourself with people with whom you share traditions and language in a completely different environment.
Finding connection and a shared experience
You pack up your house, say your goodbyes, travel, settle in and then you look around, and suddenly feel isolated… until you connect with someone. No matter the reason, the important thing is that connection takes place.
It can happen to you like it happened to me on the first day of adult lessons at the Alliance Française: we were six women sitting in the cafeteria, speaking Spanish with different accents and different expressions. In an instant, our eyes met and we knew that Spain, Paraguay, Chile, Argentina, Colombia and Mexico said “present”. And we were proud to be their ambassadors. Despite further relocations for some of us, these friends are still part of my life.
Some years later, I would pick up my children from the neighbourhood nursery school, following the same routine: us moms would greet each other with a big hug, take the kids to the park, have a snack together and go home singing. Language was not the common ground but the attitude. And just there, when the local language wasn’t our own for either of us, we ‘saw’ each other and connected because life is made up of those moments for which you will be forever grateful.
I can sum up what I think about this by reminding you of the motto of Mamás Por El Mundo: “what makes things better is the connection”.
“Friendships help sustain our life abroad more than you might think”
And what about your long-time friends, those who support you from a distance? You will always find a way to preserve that bond (via WhatsApp or other means): you find a way to preserve the friendship and grow, as you did when you were near to each other. Because that bond transcends borders. It’s not easy, as it involves care, dedication and, above all, time. But you will realize that it’s your best investment.
Factors to consider when cultivating new friendships:
- Positive attitude: the desire to meet new people.
- Get out of the house: friends don’t come knocking on your door; you have to go out and find them.
- Open-mindedness: different cultures have different interpersonal codes and you can learn a lot from that.
- The best part: discover that friendship has no limits and that there’s room inside of you to share with people you have never met before and who will surprise you every day.
- The hardest part: seeing new friends leave. This doesn’t mean you’re no longer friends, but that you have more excuses to travel to other destinations (this is also part of the positive attitude!).
Don’t underestimate the impact that friendships can have on your day-to-day wellbeing abroad. But also, don’t feel you have to know how to do everything; living abroad is a new experience and you will find your way one step at a time.”
This article is translated and published with permission of the author. Find the original article here.
PHOTO: Priscilla Du Preez/Unsplash
Did you find it easy or tough to make friends in your host country? What tips would you like to share? We would love to hear in the comments below!