Friendship 5 years into expat life
It’s the final week of the school holidays, and I’m pondering while the kids are busy with their friends. Whilst they have fun and enjoy the diverse friendship groups they have built, I am sitting here wondering how on earth they have easily constructed a group of so many friends, each and every one so different in many ways! Children seem to have a talent for making friends regardless. I love that about them. I love the attitude they have toward making friends, and hearing the shouts of “sure, come and join in” I can’t help but wish adults were more like that!
I often chat to the children about how different our lives are to what we left behind in the UK, and it always comes back to ‘friendships’, mine and theirs. We all still pine for our ‘mates from home’ and talk fondly of the friends we miss.
Recently I’ve been aware of the importance of true friendship to them. I can see the kind things they do for their buddies, and I hear the way they talk about them too. I can see how, over time, they have carefully filtered their friendship group and worked really hard to nurture particular friendships, which I’m certain they’ve done without really thinking. How amazing is that!
I love that they have embraced every minute since we arrived down under, and although I never imagined that we’d still be here 5 years on, and I hadn’t considered we’d be building a future in Melbourne, watching us all with our newest friends, makes it seem so worthwhile.
Being 11,000 miles away from family and friends can make or break you!
The past 5 years have made us rely on each other for things that maybe in the UK we would have leant on someone else for. It has made us raise resilient kids who shine through new beginnings and it has taught us we’re pretty good at making new friends after all. For me, it has reinforced how much more important my friends, new and old, have become to me.
It’s no secret I’ve always been precious about my friends back in the UK. It has been the constant pull for me to up sticks, go back and slot into that old life we had before. The friendship thing has been hard for me, and still is today.
This summer however, I feel like I have turned a corner. I have realised for the first time since arriving in Australia, I can stop searching. I don’t need to keep looking, because I am completely content with the awesome men and women I call my friends here, and I am determined to make an even bigger effort to let them know just how much I appreciate them.
For a long time, friendship here was about making sure I have someone to help me, and if they come with a sense of humour that’s a bonus! I was looking for the friends I could text: “can you grab him from school, I’m running late” or “are your kids free to play today” because let’s face it, I took my two away from their friends and I’m feeling the guilts.
As an ‘expat’ the hunt for real friends can feel overwhelming.
Friend hunting is like online dating only with a much more critical audience, and ‘mums’ are far less willing to give you a go!!!
“Should I be funny Liv?”
“Should I be serious Liv?
“She’s English, she’ll be a laugh” ***Not always the case BTW
“I have to like her because her kids are in my kids class..”
“She has lots of friends so I should try and join her crew”
“Oh god I don’t even like Taylor Swift but now I am broke, and at her concert because I needed to fit in.”
**Yes, I’ve tried most things when it comes to sussing out potential friends.
I remember laughing with my girlfriends in the UK about getting a T-shirt printed with “I love gin, be my friend” and just wearing it to the park to see if I could ‘pull’ a mama. Probably would have been a quicker way!
5 years down the road, I’ve got friends who I can really call friends.
Now I have friendships that have grown, and mean so much more than the random play date because our kids like each other, or the “can you grab her for me please” text messages.
I have made sure that I’m not swapping numbers with someone just because I feel pressured into it. I’m not hanging with people just because our kids get on.. although that helps massively. I am happy to have created a group of ‘gal pals’ who are amazing, not just because they offer me support, but because they are interesting, talented, kind, generous, creative, funny, smart, brave…. and will drink wine with me at the drop of a hat!
The thing is, I was basing everything on first impressions and of course, “what do my kids get out of this?” However, friendships aren’t about first impressions, and my friendships shouldn’t be about what the kids can gain from it, it should be about me too!!
New friendships shouldn’t be one bit like online dating, they are about far more than that. They are built over time, between people who don’t feel any pressure at all to be anything other than themselves.
So, if you are new to a country, the new mum at a school gate, or you’re looking to switch it up a bit, my advice is, give it time.
No great thing is created suddenly, and all great achievements take time. You’ll know when you’ve found your crew!
Have you found your crew? Tell me how you found the whole “friendship” thing!