The Enduring Power of Friendships

The Enduring Power of Friendships

You don’t move to the other side of the world and a year later still have the same friends. You gain some, and you lose others. That’s just how it is. And obviously moving to the other side of the world is a factor specific to expat life. But actually, when you think about it, some friendships evolve and grow whatever the circumstances of life, and other friendships fizzle away to unfamiliarity no matter how hard you try.

Since moving to Singapore I’ve found the changing dynamic of friendships to be magnified. At home I have a core group of friends. Home being the UK that is. And these are the friendships that seem to be immune to the passing of time, miles apart and timezone differences. These friendships are based on a solid bedrock of years spent surviving an all girls high school together.

I won’t lie, there have been some SPECTACULAR fall outs over the years. One of my closest (and longest enduring) friendships is with someone who I spent a large amount of my teenage years hating the guts of. The feeling was mutual so she won’t mind me saying that. And we laugh about it now that we’re a decade older (actually about fifteen years older, yikes), and now that we know drinking shots with one another is WAY more fun than firing shots at one another. The wonders of growing up.

But that’s just one example of a friendship that has endured. There are so, so many others that have fallen by the wayside. And it’s not that I don’t still intrinsically care for the lost friendships, of course I do, but life changes. Friendships change. Singapore happened. And I’ve changed.

Before I moved here I was clinging on to so many friendships. But since introducing the added complexity of distance and a significant timezone, those fractured friendships have finally broken off. I’m not quite so brutal as to go on a Facebook friend purge, I enjoy seeing these people’s successes in life, but I’m not about to start trying to rebuild what’s no longer there. Although I must admit I did go on a savage Facebook unfriending mission once and got rid of all the girls from school who made me feel like shit then and made me feel like shit now. There was something terribly cathartic in wielding the power for once, and cutting them out of my social media life (and for the most part my actual life) once and for all. But you can’t miss what you never had, and they were never real life friends anyway.

There are others though, others who have shared life defining moments and experiences with me or I with them, who I’m not really friends with anymore. I know what they’re doing in life, where they live, the names of their boyfriends / fur babies / pet house plant. But I don’t KNOW them. I couldn’t sit down for a drink with them and it feel like no time had passed since we last saw one another. It would be awkward, and in that silence would be the deafening realisation that we’ve neglected our friendship until it’s come to this. Two strangers who know each other very, very well. 

But then there’s the flip side. The new friendships that blossom. And at no point in my life has this been more important, or more cherished, than when we moved to Singapore. It’s not the easiest of places to make friends (see point 5. here). Or the easiest of scenarios (see here and here). But it is possible. Vital, even. No man is an island, right? Well no woman is either.

I’ve discovered old friendships that have found new ground since moving here. And treasured brand new friendships that have come about because we’re here. The expat friendships that throw random people together. People from different countries, cultures and backgrounds who happen to end up in the same place at the same time. The new friendships are so different to those which have lasted since childhood. But then, because of and alongside my new friendships, my children are forming some of their most meaningful childhood friendships.

And it’s so surreal to think that they’re only a little bit younger, a few years maybe, than I was when I met one of my other closest friends. Not the friend I mentioned earlier in the post. No this friend and I have had a far less tumultuous friendship over the years. Teenage years included. But it’s a friendship that has withstood and outlasted every other significant relationship I’ve ever had in my life (family aside). And recently, as I watched this friend marry her one, my little girl acted as her Flower Girl. So sweet, yes, but also it got me thinking… is that my daughter and her closest friend in twenty five years time? It sounds so corny and cliched, I know. But at the same time, could it be?

Could their friendship, one based on pool time frolics and movie marathons at age four, last the years? It’s definitely possible. And with the absence of family nearby, friendships are all we have to fall back on as expats. Both for grown up expats, and the mini people we have along with us for the ride.

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21 Comments

  1. August 24, 2017 / 4:03 am

    Friendships come and go, but the one that lasts will last for a life time. Thanks for sharing your feelings and thoughts with us.

  2. Priyadarshini Rajendran
    August 24, 2017 / 4:49 am

    Beautifully written. I have a few friends from school too who were not really close to me at that time!

    • The Expat Mama
      August 24, 2017 / 12:05 pm

      It’s funny isn’t it how friendships can grow as everyone grows up? It’s a running joke among my friends that we’re so close now but barely knew each other for YEARS at school!!!

  3. August 24, 2017 / 6:28 am

    I called an old friend who I had a falling out with and just let her know that I was grateful for having her in my life at that time in my life and it freed me of any hard feelings left. So sad to see friends go, but sometimes friendships go for new ones to blossom. loved that point!

    • The Expat Mama
      August 24, 2017 / 12:03 pm

      Definitely agree with this- sometimes you just have to make peace but ultimately draw a line under the friendship. At the time it can feel so cut throat though!

  4. Joanna
    August 24, 2017 / 6:47 am

    I hear you! I’ve lost so many “friends” since moving abroad. Well it comes with time as you’ve been abroad only shortly and I’m already away for 13 years. However the strongest ones always survive!

    • The Expat Mama
      August 25, 2017 / 1:10 am

      I can’t imagine how different friendships must be after 13 years away. But as you say, the strongest ones always survive…

  5. August 24, 2017 / 7:09 am

    So very true! Happened to me when we moved to Germany! Thanks for sharing!

  6. August 24, 2017 / 8:57 am

    I did go on a savage Facebook unfriending mission too and I really bonded with this post but really the strongest ones always survive. This also happened to me when I got married and moved. Thank you for sharing!

    • The Expat Mama
      August 25, 2017 / 1:13 am

      There is something to be said for a good Facebook friend cull!

  7. August 24, 2017 / 11:36 am

    As an expat living in Austria, I get exactly where you’re coming from. Going home to South Africa, we are very jealous of our time spent with friends and family, so it’s no use wasting it on people who we don’t have anything in common with anymore. It took us a long time to make good friends in Austria, but the ones we’ve made are probably friends for life.

    • The Expat Mama
      August 24, 2017 / 12:06 pm

      Completely- my time at home is so precious and so treasured that it’s only spent on those I hold closest. I guess that’s an expat thing maybe? But also I’m with you in that the friends we’ve made here are friends for life, and friends we’d trek across the world to see in years to come

  8. August 24, 2017 / 11:33 pm

    Oh I totally can relate. My move wasn’t as drastic as Singapore but I moved 500+ miles from one state to another and it was definitely hard! You have to manage huge stresses and change just from moving on top of trying to manage all sorts of relationships – new and old. Thank you for this post it made me realize to not hold on so tightly to expectations and it’s ok for some friendships to evolve or fizzle. Now, it’s on to the next chapter – Making friends in a completely new place where you don’t currently have any. Fingers crossed!

  9. August 25, 2017 / 12:37 am

    I love this post! I actually don’t have many close friends at the moment, life has been crazy and I haven’t really been looking for friends. Being a military wife, I’m afraid that shortly most, if not all, of my friendships will be long-distance/internet based.

    • The Expat Mama
      August 25, 2017 / 1:18 am

      Ahhh I can’t imagine how tricky it must be for a military wife as you guys move around SO much. Coincidentally, some of our closest friends in Singapore are a military family so we all know they’re going to be moved on in a year or two’s time, and it probably is at the back of all of our minds.

  10. August 25, 2017 / 1:06 am

    My best friend moved to Munich, and it’s a struggle to get our girl chats in. We’re also both wives and mothers, so life makes consistent communication difficult. It doesn’t change that she is my best friend, however. If we need one another, we’re a text or phone call away. True friendships, even if there are times when you don’t talk, endure distance.

  11. August 25, 2017 / 1:49 am

    People come and go … But the memories last forever. Beautifully written….thanks for sharing your feeling..

  12. August 25, 2017 / 2:45 am

    Old solid friendships built over the years are what seem to get us through tough periods of life, including moving away. The reunions are sweeter as time goes by 💕 – Cori

  13. Jenn H.
    August 25, 2017 / 3:02 am

    I have similar experiences from moving across the country…definitely not as difficult as moving abroad but it’s been so interesting to meet new people in my new home and try to stay in touch with friends back home. At least technology helps make it easier!

  14. August 25, 2017 / 1:15 pm

    My childhood friends are all living in another country, on a different time zone across the globe but we have tried to remain in contact, even if it’s just once a month. True friendship has no distance or time limit.

  15. August 25, 2017 / 2:10 pm

    I love this! Friendships sometimes have their seasons. True friends will last all seasons!

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