My friend Maple-Syrup explained her theory of expat locationships at the top of steep stone stairway that clung to the wall of Rumeli Hisari fortress in Istanbul. We had the place to ourselves one sunny September morning and had stopped to catch our breath and admire the stunning Bosphorus view.
You meet a lot of new people when you become an expat and unlike real life when you have months and years, a lifetime even to build solid friendships, when you’re on a posting friend-shipping is process you go through over and over again, at speed.
There are the kindred spirits. Conversation with them is easy. You become fast and firm friends. You can imagine them fitting in totally with any old friends you left behind in your home country. Wherever and whenever in the world you are you can pick up where you left off. It might be that you have a similar sense of humour or comparable staying power on the dance floor. But finding a posting pal doesn’t always happen, or you do and then they leave, or you leave.
What you find is there will be some people you get to know and the common link is location (and probably that you arrived at the same location, at the same time when you are clueless and friendless). Similar aged kids, shared nationality or language can help, but are not prerequisites. The point is that all things being equal, in any other time or place you probably wouldn’t have been friends with this person (the chemistry isn’t there) or you would never have met (different social or work scene). A friendship by default. I agreed totally with her theory, but liked the fact she had given me a name for it. The Expat Locationship.
But then occasionally a locationship, the one you thought was fleeting, turns out to be a slow burn and against all the odds develops into a real and lasting friendship withstanding time and distance, whereas other apparently solid as a rock soulmate friendships are squashed into a packing box and get broken during the move, it’s only when you arrive at your new posting that you make that discovery.
It’s a bit like our mug collection. If Mr Incredible jets off on a business trip, at the very least, however pressed for time, he’ll bring back a mug. An odd little tradition. We have a varied and changing selection. Every time we move one or two will get lost or broken, just like our expat friendships, whereas others survive move after move after move.
You never really know which expat friendships or locationships will stand the test of time and survive the journey. Like our mismatched mug collection you will probably end up with a broad, eclectic range of friends. I really kind of like that.