Three Types of Friends You Can’t Live Without as an Expat
The Local Friend
There is no better way to experience a country than through the eyes of a local. The biggest perk of having local friends is that they know all the good places to go. Whether you are looking for a quiet beach to spend a sunny day, the best restaurant in town, or even a local shop with cheap deals, your local friend will soon become your go-to person for guidance. As you indulge in the local culture, mingle with your new friends, and begin to experiment with a new language, you will be too busy to even think about how homesick you felt when you first arrived. Your “soon-to-be” best friend will give you the little push you need to get out of your comfort zone and make the most out of your time in your new country.
Even if you are not in it for the long haul, the local friend will make a difference in your life abroad, and you will learn how to love your new home from firsthand experience. So don’t be shy about approaching local residents and make the first move — chances are, they will welcome you with open arms! Whether it is by joining a local club or saying hello to your neighbor, you will be a step closer to finding your must-have local friend.
The Friend Back Home
Relocating to a new country doesn’t mean that you should start from zero and never look back. The same applies to friendships. It is easy to lose touch with your friends from home as you settle into your new life abroad and meet new people. Make sure you continue to nurture your existing friendships even if it’s just by checking up on your old friends every now and again. This type of friend will help keep you sane and restore your sense of belonging during the tough times when you’re feeling homesick and lonely and contemplate why you even moved abroad in the first place.
However, one of the best parts about having a friend back home is that you have an excuse to go on vacation! Whether you’re visiting your friend, they come visit you in your new home, or you meet each other in a third country, you will get the chance to create new memories together and re-live what you most enjoy about each other. Also, as your friend from home already knows everything about you — from quirky habits to shameful memories of your past — you know that you can let your guard down and be yourself around them. They will still love you no matter what.
The Fellow Expat Friend
Living in a country with no family or local connections can be hard. Being constantly on the move and out of your comfort zone can be tricky for your friends from home or local friends to relate to. It is easy to see why people talk of the “expat bubble”. While it is important to not spend all of your time with other expats, sometimes it is very comforting to meet people in similar situations. Your expat friend won’t think you are crazy when you talk about not knowing where you will be in the next year and won’t think you are a snob when you talk of all the places you have lived in.
These are the friends that act like your family away from home: while local friends have their own established lives with childhood friends and family nearby, it will be your expat friends who will likely spend major holidays, such as Christmas, with you. You can really confide in an expat friend, as they are just as familiar with culture shock, homesickness, or the general annoyance with lows that come with being away from home.
Whether it is simply connecting over favorite TV shows or discussing news from back home, finding expat friends from your home country in particular can feel like having a little bit of home, abroad. At times, it can be comforting to know that there are thousands of people leading a similar life to you.
“A Journey Is Best Measured in Friends, Rather Than Miles” (Tom Cahill)
It is the people you meet on your expat adventure that really make the move worthwhile. Leaving your home and venturing into the unknown is daunting, but you will soon begin to build a global network of friends and get to learn about the world on a much more personal level.