A Friendship of Global Minds
For expats, it’s important to establish a circle of friends — but meeting new people and expanding one’s social network is equally important for those who are locals or global minds. And today, as people’s lives have become busier and more complicated, it’s become a necessity for most of us to not only stay in touch with old friends but to continually make new friends at different stages of our lives.
After exploring a few events and activities at InterNations, some of our globally minded members have formed surprising friendships with people from their own countries — and even from their own small towns! Here are a few of their unique stories that remind us that close friendships can develop in unexpected ways.
A Chance Encounter: Childhood Friends Reunited
One evening in October 2017, as Beatrix was enjoying a welcome drink at the tenth-anniversary InterNations event in Aachen, Germany, a woman standing beside her asked what she was drinking. When she looked up, she was surprised to see an old high school friend whom she’d lost touch with thirty years earlier. “We know each other!” she exclaimed. “Where have you been all these years?” It turned out that she and her long-lost friend, Carola, were both attending an InterNations Event for the very first time.
Even though Beatrix and Carola had grown up just thirty minutes away in the small town of Jülich, in all these years their paths had never crossed. And now they had run into each other at a large party with more than a hundred guests. What were the chances! They spent the next few hours catching up, filling each other in on what had happened in their lives.
One of the things they bonded over was their love for mingling with people of different cultures. Carola had spent a few years as a child living in the United States, while Beatrix had recently been an expat in Abu Dhabi and missed the international group of friends she had had there. Meeting at this party after all those years turned out to be the perfect timing as they were both experiencing transitions in their personal lives — and so they just clicked on many levels and had a really nice evening.
Over the following months, they attended other events together in nearby communities, such as InterNations Düsseldorf, Cologne, and Maastricht. Then in the summer of 2018, they decided to be Consuls for the Aachen DinnerNations Group and host activities together. “We are foodies and wir essen uns durch Aachen (we eat our way through Aachen).” Beatrix, who is now an Ambassador in Aachen, explains, “It’s always a very nice evening. We always have a lot to talk about, and from time to time new ones are joining us for the first time, and mostly they stay. The idea of a dinner group is really nice”.
Ever since that fortunate first event — which for Beatrix and Carola was a very good start to joining InterNations — they’ve spent much of their free time together, going out and meeting new people. “Since this party, we have become very best friends. Carola is my so-called best friend forever. Really, it’s a much closer and deeper friendship than we ever had when we were young — it’s really great”, says Beatrix.
So, you never know who you will meet at your next InterNations Event! Instead of a random stranger, you could end up crossing paths with a long-lost friend.
An Unlikely Pair: Two Nottingham Locals, Originally from Germany
Whether you live abroad or not, being friends with people from your home country can have its benefits. You can connect over your shared cultural experiences or speak to one another in your native language, which can be really comforting, even if you’ve been in your adopted country a long time.
This was the case for two of our members, who are now co-Consuls within the Nottingham Community. Christel and Ilonka first became friends online through InterNations. They were drawn to each other not just by their shared backgrounds — they are both originally from Germany and have lived in England for a long time — but by their shared interest in being part of an international community.
Shortly thereafter, they met in person and discussed how they could organize activities that would give the members of their community more ways to connect with one another. In the spirit of being more inclusive, they had the idea of organizing activities that more women would attend. “We were both interested in organizing some daytime events because there are a lot of women out there who don’t want to go out at night by themselves,” Christel explains. “We wanted to provide something for everybody.” So, they brainstormed ideas on the types of activities they wanted to organize and where those activities could be held — and they just clicked from the very start.
Co-Consuls don’t always become best friends, but for these two spending so much time together organizing the activities they love has really strengthened their friendship. In the beginning, they hosted activities separately, but now they usually host them together. “We’ve just become each other’s comfort, and so we do it all together now,” says Christel.
Sometimes it’s the people who are the least like us that make the best of friends. And rather than choosing friends who are exactly like you, it’s often a better idea to surround yourself with friends who think differently and challenge you in positive ways. Although Christel and Ilonka have a lot in common, they have very different personalities. Christel describes Ilonka as “quite different from me. I am quieter and observe people.” And Ilonka is the conversation starter: “If somebody at one of our activities is a bit shy, she tries to include them, and I sort of continue the conversation, to link all the members,” says Christel. “So, although we’re very different, we complement each other quite well.”
When they are not hanging out in person, they are talking to each other over the phone and planning their next activity. “We’ve got three groups going. The way we organize them, roughly four weeks before the event, is we talk about what the focus should be, what everybody would like, what would suit the members who always come, and how we can attract new members, and then we decide on a theme for each of the groups.”
Aside from planning their activities, one of the main things they have in common is their fondness for meeting people from all over the world. As Christel puts it, “the best thing about having international friends is being in good company all the time.” Christel and Ilonka particularly enjoy the diverse people of all different ages and nationalities who attend their activities. One of the regulars of their book group, for example, is a man from Egypt who has taught them a lot about his culture, and even about Egyptian cooking. Another attendee was a woman from India whom they helped with a few contacts for her charity, getting her further settled into life in the UK.
When we asked Christel what she liked about organizing events for an international community, she said, “you just see and hear a lot of other people’s experiences that you don’t normally hear . . . I would say that our groups and events have changed people’s lives, enriched them, and just given them more possibilities to go out and be together rather than being on their own.”
For Christel, being Co-Consul with Ilonka has been her own life-enriching experience. As she puts it, “With her bubbly personality and outspoken mind, Ilonka has drawn me into a circle of lovely people, who I would miss very much if they weren’t there.”