We all need that special person, or for some, more than one, other than the dearest hubster after work. Someone who you can have a proper adult conversation with. A person you can ring up for a quick coffee catch up or someone who will just be there willing to lend you an ear during those difficult days or have silly conversations and jokes with. A person who can come over and bring you a much needed hug or look after the kids for a few minutes just so you can get something done; you know; like a shower… We all want someone to call “My Person.”
At the best of times I struggle to make girl-friends. I’ve always been around the boys and some of my closest friends during school years, were all boys. Not because I fancied them or anything like that, but just because they’re less of a mission, less dramatic and less to fuss about petty things. And as an expat, it seems to be quite the trick to get right. And even more so being completely new to a very different country.
There’s only so many Facebook groups you can join. Only so many you can follow. And only so many posts you can comment on and extend an invitation to meet up. Not all invitations get accepted and that’s ok too. Good grief, I’d never be home or able to do my own thing if all were accepted.
And then the awkward moment arrives and you meet up with a stranger. So much for your parents’ advice while being a child of “Don’t talk to strangers”. And the conversation usually goes as follows:
“So, where are you from?”
“How long have you been here?” (Shock and horror that we’ve only been here for 4 months)
“What does your husband do?”
“How long are you staying in Qatar?” (See, that right there is where some are already planning on whether this friendship can go anywhere or not)
Then it varies between “Are you settled in?” and questions about the kids.
While the kids play or do their own thing, small talk gets made, which I don’t mind as that’s how you get to know someone more. And then you have the awkward goodbye’s and “thank you’s” and “we should do this again”. Sometimes there is a next time and sometimes not and that’s okay too. The search just continues.
I know and I understand that when you struck up a friendship as an expat, you always are aware at the back of your mind that this could most likely just be a seasonal friendship. I’ve seen it too often that friendships sink like a ship when one party travels to another country. And I’ve realized, with myself that it takes a hell of a lot to get passed my wall. Once in, I won’t let you out.
I’ve also come to the realization that not only are you coming from a very different country and its culture, than myself, but you also have your own way of doing things which you think are right. And even though I don’t judge them or frown upon them as it is your decision; people with the same way of doing and thinking tend to stick longer together. You know, “Birds of a feather” kinda thing.
So what are your options? Sit for the duration of being in a new country all locked up with your kids and house work and your only adult conversations are on the internet with people miles away from you, who also have to get on with their own lives as well as happenings of their own country? OR puck up the courage and put yourself out there?
Well, I choose the latter. I hate having cabin fever and I know I can be a great friend for someone too.
Here is something that I learned a long time ago and I know it can help anyone, in any relationship; even marriage and/or work:
To be able to understand someone, you need to be able to communicate to them about something you both have reality on (something in common) and then only your liking for each other will expand.
For example: I find it very easy to talk to someone who has the same parenting styles as myself and who doesn’t judge or make me wrong for something. We have something in common and can easily share ideas. We understand each other and like to be in each other’s company.
But turn the table around and try have not only a friendship, but even just a conversation with someone who completely disagrees with you on how to bring up your kids or disagrees with everything you do; constant clashes and there will be very little chance that you’d want to be around that person again.
So in a new country, being surrounded by people with different backgrounds and from all walks of like is obstacle number 1. Then there’s the fact that you are at some point the “newbie” who has to try get into a group. And just like at school for a new scholar, you are faced with the groupies and cliques; they exist here too. Then from that pool of “potential friends”, you now have to suss out someone who thinks and acts similar to you or at the very least allows you to stay who you are. And once you’ve gone through those stages, then only you can have someone to have coffee with more regularly, bar you can talk about more than just one topic and don’t forget about the constant struggle to get together due to the kids’ schedules and bad nights/days.
It’s not easy, but it is do-able. You have to go out of your comfort zone and that in itself is a growing point, even if just for yourself. As for me, I’m getting there slowly.