“Just sleep over.” She said with a smile as she went to refill my glass.
At that moment her husband walked in from work.
“Hi family!” he said, tongue in cheek as he saw his own family sitting around the table, along with myself, and my two kids.
We’d become somewhat of a fixture in each other’s homes over the past year, and with my husband out of town looking for our new house, in our new country, I was happy for the company. My arm was easily twisted for an overnight-er when I was reminded that with my departure date looming, we wouldn’t be able to do this for very much longer. The Champagne was refilled, and happy squeals erupted from the kids as we announced we were having a sleepover party.
I never thought that when I became a grown woman with a couple of kids my life would still include adolescent style pyjama parties. But then again, I never though that I’d be an over-educated housewife living in the South of France either.
I was rounding the end of my 5th year living life as an expat and my Champagne drinking partner had just finished her 1st.
“I can’t believe you guys are moving.” said my friend and fellow Canadian. That’s what probably made us fast friends. Not just because our husbands can talk hockey, or we both have a strong love of maple syrup(which they do, and we do), but there’s something special about a friend that comes from ‘home’ when you live an ocean away. It becomes so easy to connect that before you know it, you’ve become part of each others family and the husbands are no longer surprised to arrive home from work to find an extra 3 or 4 people gathered around the table for dinner.
I’ve moved twice in France, and with our departure for SE Asia right around the corner, I’m about to go into my third round of setting up life and making new friends—expat style.
Maybe it was the Champagne talking, or maybe we just felt like pointing out the obvious, but we got onto the topic of how different it is making friends in a country that’s not your own.
My friend was telling me how when she first got to France she didn’t want to call me because she figured I was busy with my own life, and didn’t want her to be bothering me. Little did she know, I knew of her pending arrival long before she landed and couldn’t wait to meet her in ‘real life’ so I could add her to my roster of friends and introduce her to everyone else.
One meeting and a Canadian-style taco dip later, and it was settled. Our families were going to be best buds.
I think my new friend and I saw each other 4 or 5 times in that first week that we met.
Now, if you’ve never been in an expat situation you might be thinking that we were both pathetic and clingy to spend so much time together after just meeting. But if you are an expat, or have been one in the past, you’re probably thinking: JACKPOT!
It’s not everyone you meet that you click with so easily, but when you find someone that you get along great with, AND you speak the same language, there’s no reason to play hard to get! These friends can quickly become your daytime husband while your real husband is at work. You call them if you need something, you help them if they’re stuck. Maybe you go to the gym together, for a walk, to playgroup, or heck, if you’re bored, you can even run errands and go for groceries together.
I can’t help but think this doesn’t often happen at home. Woman spend time together, and make friends, but those friendships don’t normally stem from speaking the same language as another person. At ‘home’ it isn’t normal to move countries every few years; so there isn’t the same empathy and understanding of what it is like to start over…and over again. People would think you were weird if you struck up a conversation and gave someone your phone number to hang out, just because you heard them speaking English. But in the land of the expat, this is perfectly acceptable behaviour.
A unique part of being in an expat community is that the ‘trailing spouses’ often find themselves with a lot of time on their hands to navigate the new country they’re in, making it easy to quickly connect with others in the same situation. Think of your first week of university when you made friends and thought, ‘Okay, this is who I’m going to hang out with for the next couple years.’ It’s not far off from that–minus frosh week and dorms.
As I head into my third act of friendship making, I can only hope I’ll be as lucky and successful as I have been in the previous 2 scenes. As an expat I’ve made instant girlfriends at baby-groups, yoga classes and grocery stores that have left me with lifelong wine drinking partners across the globe and an eclectic melting pot of vocabulary. Is it stroller, pram, pushchair or buggy? I don’t even know anymore!
To my expat friends that I’ve gained along the way, and the ones I haven’t met yet; thanks for being fast friends. Keep on welcoming in the new girl, because just like me, you might be next.