I have been spending quite a bit of time thinking and reading about being an “expat.” Now, what differentiates an “expat” from an “immigrant” is an entire other discussion, so for our purposes I’m using “expat” to mean someone who changes countries more from desire than need. In any case, the psychology of expats is very interesting – why do we do it? what are are psyches like in our our new country? should we be a diagnoses in the DSM-5? (I’ve actually been toying with the idea of eventually writing a scholarly paper on the topic.) But for now, one area in particular has me puzzled….friendships.
Soon after we arrived and I started attending events with other expats, I noticed people seemed to be fairly concerned with figuring out whether I was a short or long-termer. Apparently, as I’ve discovered from talking to enough folks, this is a pretty common phenomenon. In the world of expats people come and go and some folks are very weary of “wasting” time with someone who might be gone 6 months from now. I find it really strange, though I have read about it on several people’s blogs I like/respect (some examples here and here). Nothing I’ve read however really explains it in a way I can fully wrap my brain around – it’s usually about the pain of people leaving, but there’s got to be more to it than that (or not?)….
Personally, I have already had this experience happen twice – I have met two lovely women, each of whom was just here for a short period of time. While they were here we had great fun – walks and talks and lunches and dinners and soakings in the rain. Maybe you’re different, but I don’t have a zillion friends, so when I meet cool people I want to hang out with all I can think is “yay!” They are both gone now (one home to CA, the other to continue her/her hubby’s adventure in Turkey, now Botswana). Do I wish they were still here? Of course! Am I sad they are gone? No doubt! Would I ever turn back the clock and un-meet them? Not in a million years!!! How amazing to have made new friends, have more folks to commiserate with on Skype, get to learn about countries I know nothing about, get cool little gifts from California and Turkey, and so on. So, here are my queries to expats and non expats:
Expats: If you subscribe to the “I only make friends with people staying _____ long” philosophy, can you help me understand that point of view? Or if you have any insight at all, would love to hear it!
Non-expats: What do you think: