The fleeting beauty of expat friendship

While on short-term assignment, it’s likely that partners will repeatedly make friends with fellow expats only to learn that they will soon be moving on. But instead of developing a cynical mindset toward short-term friendship with other expats, they should look on the bright side.

Commitment issues

Surfing around the internet it’s abundantly clear that many seasoned expats have come to view expat friendship with a ‘glass half-empty’ attitude. In some cases, the glass might even be drained entirely. They lament that there’s no point investing time in a relationship when living in a culture of constant goodbyes. Some expats develop a ‘no strings attached’ mentality. Read: ‘Sure we can hang out but let’s keep it casual.’ The relationships they tend to develop with other expats, as a result, are cordial but uncommitted.

A family affair

With no close friends (certainly nothing compared to the friendships they have back home), it’s inevitable families will rally together when overseas. Assignments can prove to be an incredibly bonding period of life for expat families and that can be a wonderful feeling. But when their partner is at work, and kids at school, expat partners need to be proactive in forming new social and/or professional networks.

In the same boat

Of course, friendships can be forged with locals but it’s natural to gravitate toward other expats when overseas. A fellow expat can help you feel at home, point you in the right direction or give you advice in your hour of need. When making friends with an expat, they’re likely to understand any frustrations you might have. Thus expat friendships are likely to form and flourish more quickly. Expat friends are all in the same boat; it’s just that they’re destined to disembark at different points.

Living in the moment

So partners shouldn’t be disheartened when an expat friend announces they’ll soon be leaving. It will happen; no assignment lasts forever. Expat partners should be conscious that there’s nothing to gain from a cynical mindset. Instead they should try to remain generous and open-minded throughout their assignment. By choosing to live in the moment and make the most of these fleeting friendships in a foreign land, everyone can still come away with memories that last a lifetime.

Photo: Brendan Gray – Flickr

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