The Balancing Act | Transient friendships in a foreign land

Some listeners and studio guests reacted with disgust (photo: iStock)
August 30th, 2014 6:55 am| by admin
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Much is written about the pain of overseas relationships, but platonic friendships have their perils too (Photo: Colourbox)

I knew it was coming. It was anticipated, expected even. And yet, it did not make the situation any easier to handle. 

A painful parting of pals
I have just come back home after saying goodbye to a very good friend – a friendship that was just a year young.  It was a friendship not just between my friend and me, but also between our families.

My friend and her family are moving back to the United States and I miss them already. 

I’m teary-eyed thinking of all the things we won’t be able to do anymore.

I can’t just meet them for coffee whenever I want, I can’t have relaxed conversations over long dinners, and I can’t plan trips to the park with our kids. 

We won’t be a part of each other’s lives in a way that only happens when you live in close proximity to one another.

I know the friendship isn’t over; it just has a longer travel time now. Yet, I feel a strange sense of loss.

I think this comes partly from being selective about the kind of friends I make and partly from being an introvert. 

Amity worth the agony
Making a new acquaintance, nurturing it into a friendship that’s solid and strong, only to say goodbye a short while later – that is the cycle I am expected to undertake as an expat.

And it’s hard. Asking an introvert like me to be actively social in order to make new friends time and again is a bit like asking a leopard to change its spots (okay, I’m probably exaggerating a bit).

Combine that with the fact that I hate ‘goodbyes’ and you have a recipe for emotional disaster. 

But, when I think about it, if I had to choose between not having this friendship at all and having it for just a year, I would choose the latter. 

Despite how I feel at this moment, I know my life here in Denmark has been richer, more beautiful and more settled thanks to my friend and her family.

We’ve talked about our struggles and helped each other through tough times; we’ve shared our joys and celebrated little triumphs along the way. 

Our emotive worries
Despite the impending sense of loss that foreshadows each new friendship, not attempting to make new friends would go against the very essence of why I moved to Denmark.

It would be to deny myself the chance to meet some amazing people – both Danes and expats from other countries – to get to know more about their cultures, and to experience things I’ve never experienced before.   

And I know that I’m not the only one who has to make peace with this aspect of living abroad. In the HSBC Expat Explorer Survey conducted in 2010, ‘emotive worries’ topped the list of expat concerns.

Some 41 percent of expats cited ‘re-establishing a social life’ (aka ‘making friends’) as one of their top concerns.

As I write this, I’m thinking someone somewhere in the world is mourning the loss of a friend to another country while another is rejoicing in the glow of a newfound one.

And the circle of life continues. 

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