Moving 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.