Canadian Expat Mom

The Expat Friendship

shutterstock_19144237Moving to a foreign country on the other side of the world, where you don’t speak the language is a challenge on so many levels that it can be hard to understand the difficulties one faces unless you’ve experienced it yourself.

While you’re planting your new roots, you’ll notice there’s something special about the people you meet.  There’s an instant bond between expat friends.  It’s like a regular friendship on performance enhancing drugs!

The reason being: We’ve all been there.

We have all had our turn being the new girl in a foreign country and we know it’s not always easy.  Expats share the experience of arriving to a new country, completely friendless and not being able to speak to the locals because of a language barrier.  We can relate to searching for doctors, dentists and schools in a language that is not your own.  We’ve all stood in the grocery store aisle, staring at the cans and jars, hoping something familiar is hidden behind the foreign label.  Somedays it’s a great adventure, while other times it’s all just too much.

Knowing the challenges we all face, while being geographically separated from family and friends back home, makes expat women fast friends, stepping up, and filling whatever role they can.

These amazing ladies with accents from all over the world, bring with them different life experiences, yet all share the common ground that they’ve been brave enough to leap into the unknown, leave their own careers behind and “follow” their husbands.  This makes for a very eclectic group of strong, independent women walking through the door of your new life.

Your typical expat circle of friends may consist of anyone from the former doctor, who you can turn to when your child develops a funny rash, the once event planner, that you call from the aisle of the grocery store when you need to choose a nice bottle of wine, the radio DJ that helps you put together a killer playlist, the geologist that can talk shop with your husband at your kid’s birthday party, the teacher that will assure you that your child’s reading level is just fine and the doula that will ease your anxieties about having a baby in a foreign country.

All these women are suddenly in your life, supporting you, helping you however they can and being your cheerleaders while your husband is at work and you’re making your way through life in a new country.

When your kids are sick they are there, dropping off medicine and offering reassurance.  If a family member passes away, expect them at your door with flowers and hugs, helping you arrange the fastest flights home possible.  You will drop your children at their front door when you go into labour at 2 am, and you’ll get home from the hospital several days later to find they’ve filled your fridge.  These women are amazing.  They are your family, friend, therapist and so much more.

So what do you do when one of these women moves.  And they will.  Often.  That’s the problem with the expat community.  You build supersonic friendships, knowing one or both of you will be moving away sometime in the not so distant future.

It’s sad.  There’s no way around that.  But that’s the circle of life in the expat world.  As you say goodbye to someone who’s been your BFF for the past 3 years, you find yourself welcoming in the “new-girl” with open arms.  This new recruit will quickly become the friend you never knew you were missing until she arrived.  She’ll be the one sending you off in a year or two down the road; laughing and reminiscing about the times you shared on the overseas adventure that has become your life.

And the BFF that moved?  Maybe she went home, or onto another foreign country adventure.  You’ll watch online, as her child, whose baby-shower was at your house, leaves on their first day of school in a country far away, and you’ll smile, looking forward to the time when your paths will cross again; whether it’s a fixed address, a visit, or vacation.  Forever you will cherish that friendship because she was there when you needed her; as you were for her.

And so continues the revolving door of amazing international women that grace the lives of us “expat wives,” leaving us with friendships we treasure, spread all across the world—which funny enough, no longer feels like such a big place.

11 thoughts on “The Expat Friendship

  1. Patsy

    And as the mother of one of those “expat girls” I can say that I have been grateful many times just knowing that these knew friend have been there for you when I couldn’t physically be there to console, help or just listen to your needs. And when I was their they treated me like their own Mom, taking me under their wing, those girls (and you know who you are) are indeed a very special lot. Thanks for being there for each other, you make it easier on us at home.

  2. Helene

    Had my bacon saved, as an English woman abroad in India with 4 children, by my dear Canadian friend, Tanya who was there through thick and thin. She has corrupted my kids forever too by throwing the best ever Halloween parties in the world ! In sickness and in health for richer for poorer with rats , bats cockroaches and king cobra baby snakes …. My lovely friend was there. As for me mostly just had good tea in a china cup on offer day or night! Miss those expat days

    1. Canadian Expat Mom Post author

      It’s those kind of friends that keep us going (and sane) in the craziest of times! ….and everyone loves a Canadian! 😉 Thanks for reading Helene!

  3. Seychellesmama

    Ahhhhh this is an amazing post I’m so happy you linked it up for #myexpatfamily I know every expat woman (and especially expat mamas) that reads this will nod along exactly the same way I did….all the way through!!!
    It’s all so true, some of it of course is bittersweet but the friendships made in expat life are truly like no other!

  4. Ersatz Expat

    Such a true post. Expat friendships are intense and I have made special friends in each posting. Like Patsy said I also remember the parents of my friends who looked after me as though I were their own (and the succession of friends who came to our house from time to time who thought the same of my parents). I see the same thing happening now with my children and their friends.

    The friendships can be very resilient as well. At my mother’s funeral lots of her expat friends made a special effort to come and say goodbye/support us.

  5. Eline @ Pasta & Patchwork

    This is all so very true. It’s incredibly hard to keep saying goodbye as we move on with our lives, but the intensity with which these friendships are built does make them last. I still count some of the expat friends I made in Japan ten years ago among my closest BFFs, and I love knowing that I could crash on their couch at a moment’s notice no matter where they are!

  6. Lisa Nolan

    Sounds like a dream come true! Until they move! Cherish the moment, what a special circle of mom friends you have! I can relate, being the mom of a Down syndrome child, and the special circle of families I have met over the past ten years!

  7. The Imp

    You’re so much braver than I. Seriously, I don’t know how you manage to move countries, etc and manage not to lose your mind.

    I’m so freaking introverted that it would take me probably until the next move to get out of the fetal position. The kids would have to dust me.

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