Expat Friendships

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Expat friends are the best type of friends.
You meet them in the worst circumstances, find common ground amongst the crazy new experiences and revel at all of the exciting new opportunities that you have found.
But so often these friendships never last past a country, because as much as people hate to admit it, many expat friendships are merely a friendship of convenience.
A human companion that spoke your native language, understood the difficult times you were going through, and was there for the various cocktail induced happy hours, and the just-a-tad-past-midnight munchies that pretty much always followed.

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But that’s not always the case.
Sometimes you meet somebody that isn’t just there for the late night cocktail hours, but for the hungover breakfast the next morning.
Sometimes you leave the country in which your friendship was formed and it makes it everything but convenient.
And sometimes you meet somebody and your friendship lasts the distance.

I was lucky enough to find one of those friends.
Anna was one of the first “expat” friends I made, and her and just a few others were the only ones I really bonded with during my time in Bangkok. I’d met various acquaintances and gone to many a “networking” night, but whilst many people were surrounded with people that they looked vaguely interested in at those events, I found myself retreat. I’m the type of person that values substance over quantity, and I don’t believe that you have to like somebody, just because they’re an expat.

Anna’s back in England for a few months to spend Christmas with family and friends, (something that’s just never the same when spent abroad) and recently she made the trip from Cumbria down to the good ol’ south coast to see me. I have to admit I was a little nervous. I was unsure if it would be awkward, or if things would have changed much. But it turns out it was an unnecessary worry because within five minutes of her stepping off the train we were in a bar, G&T in hand, chatting away as if we’d never left Bangkok.

Making friends in a foreign city is hard and whilst it’s worth it, putting yourself out there can be daunting – even if you are enormously outgoing. So if you’re looking to make friends whilst living abroad, here’s my advice to you:

Say Yes.
Yes to coffee.
Yes to badminton after work.
Yes to going out for dinner at 10pm.
Yes to going to a karaoke bar at 3am after your after-work drinks.
Ok so maybe karaoke isn’t your thing, but putting yourself outside of your comfort zone and making friends with both locals and expats can not only broaden your horizons, but you may just discover how much you enjoy something new.

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Saying yes isn’t just about physically saying it, and you’re more than welcome to say no.
But changing your attitude and thinking positively when it comes to new experiences can really help get you out of the friendless funk that often comes with relocating abroad.

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The very first person I forced myself to meet in Bangkok was an internet stranger.
This internet stranger was a business man living between Bangkok and New Zealand, and before meeting him our exchanges were all but a few tweets on Twitter. But that all changed when one night he messaged to say that he was in town and him and a few others were going to Angel City Diner for some cheese fries and drinks.
If I’m honest I didn’t really want to go.
I would have been quite happy to stay at home, snuggled in a blanket and not risk the chance that this man was a total psycho who liked to tempt strangers with the lure of cheese fries and then kill them for being hungry.
But man did I want some cheese fries.
So I told S that there was a load of strangers going to the Diner, and that they wanted us to meet them and get some cheese fries.
He was a little skeptical, but I reassured him with the knowledge that I was a yellow belt senior in Choi Kwang Do (lol) and with that we hopped in a cab.

Walking into that Diner was the strangest thing I’ve ever done.
I didn’t really know what to expect, and it felt awkward looking for somebody you hadn’t seen except for their profile picture (in which he was wearing sunglasses – smooth move Jase!), but it became pretty obvious who he was when I saw this 6ft giant poking out from the booth because everyone in Thailand is in the 5ft marker.

Turns out he wasn’t a pyscho, and as far as I know he still doesn’t have any murdering tendencies. But that night I went against every English safety campaign I had been brought up with, but it was worth it, because not only did I not get murdered, I ended up meeting an amazing group of culturally diverse and interesting people,
AND I got those cheese fries.

And man were those cheese fries good.