Expat friendship is a tricky beast, it can be fleeting, intense and surprising. If there was a formula for Expat Friendship, it would probably be: Timing + Location + Need + Luck + Desperation + Perseverance + Open mindedness = Expat Friendship. The Expat Locationship is a specific type of Expat Friendship that is driven a above all else by location, location, location.
The Expat Locationship
It’s something I’d innately understood, but didn’t have a name for until my friend Maple-Syrup and I stopped to catch our breath and admire the stunning Bosphorus view at the top of a steep stone stairway that clung to Istanbuls Rumli Hisari fortress. We, a Candian and a Brit, had become friends, having met at a mum’s night out. Small children + new location + a love of exploring our host city were the ties that pulled and bound us together for two short years. Locationship was her word, but it so perfectly articulated an unusual type of friendship.
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.
Location, Location, Location
What you find is there will be some people you get to know and the only 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, different hobbies, interests, different demographic). The expat locationship is 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.
Maple Syrup and I had more than location in common, but over the years and relocations our connection has grown distant and thin and other, solid rock soulmate friendships, were packed up during the move and broke in transit. Meanwhile, a handful of the most unlikely friendships, true locationships, that I assumed would be fleeting, fizzling out the minute we or they moved on, have turned out to be slow burning lasting connetions that have inexplicably withstood time and distance.
Why Expat Friendship is Like our Mug Collection
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.
Read more about Expat Frienship in A Friend at Hand.