“If you wanna be my lover, you gotta get with my friends
(Gotta get with my friends)
Make it last forever, friendship never ends”
I was 15 when Spice Girl debuted this song in the late ’90s.
Life and friendships were about as uncomplicated as the lyrics to this catchy song.
Fast forward 2 – (several years) and I’m miles away from everything that was my life back then.
Hey, even the Spice Girls have loooooong gone their separate ways.
Lately, the topic holding my thoughts: is the one of losing friends.
Following my move, a couple of friendships have fallen by the wayside.
It’s true, moving abroad changes your inner world as much as your outer one.
Spending time in new cities, nestled among a different culture to the one you spent a lifetime completely immersed in.
How can it not?
It’s fair to say: Living abroad shapes your world and alters your perspective.
(Although…..to be fair, you-know-who (the pandemic) and the lockdowns weren’t too dissimilar in that regard).
When considering a life abroad, chances are, you will pore over every 101 expat handbook.
Each one states – or rather, warns:
“you’ll lose friends”
I vowed to prove each one wrong.
After all, most of my good friends – my tribe, are not the type of humans requiring daily check-ins and coddling.
Call it blind optimism or whatever but I planned to maintain two lives.
One here and the other, in my “old” life.
How hard can living your dream life be? I thought
New adventures: learning languages, overcoming homesickness and navigating through reams of red-tape…
soon answered back.
And here we dispel myth No.1
Granted expat life, as unconventional and as magical as it sounds, does have its challenges. (Yes, really). But once you settle into it, it is still life.
You still have to work, or study, pay bills and go about day-to-day life.
Living abroad is “one of those” life experiences that can be hard to relate to.
Unless of course, you’ve experienced it yourself.
Take a conversation with someone knee-deep in the same old routine about your new life on a picturesque sunny island, such as Malta. (as is the case for me).
Expats Versus Non-Expats
As I said already, even though expat life is still life, everything about it sounds magical.
What you say: “Shopping in 40C heat”
What people hear: skipping on a beach.
What you say: “Commuting to work”
What they hear: Strolling along the beach
What you say: “Managing your chores”
What they hear: “Sashaying on a beach”
What you say: “Tearing your hair out trying to open a bank account”
What they hear: “On the beach”
What you say: “Sorting out your residency card”
What they hear: “On a beach, whilst eating fluffy melt-in-your-mouth ice cream”
Even expats in some way imagine life will be this dreamy (every day) too, at least I know I did.
Why We Lose Friends?
Here’s where I get a little deep.
I am a believer that as humans, we act as giant mirrors. What you see, is what you are, right?
How beautiful you are, how easy you are to laugh, being liked, having your opinions validated etc.
But what about when insecurities and negativity are reflected back when something changes:
Failed opportunities. Regret. Feeling stuck. Unfulfilled. Lost perhaps?
Yes, it’s the darker side of humanity. Hardly anyone talks about and even fewer people admit it…
even to themselves
To an unconscious mind, your life changes can rub people up the wrong way. Sometimes you (unwittingly) stir up resentments that simmer away beneath the surface.
Be mindful that it can work both ways.
That said, drifting apart, breaking up with or losing friends is not limited to travel. Change is the true culprit here!
Think about it.
Of all the people you have encountered in your lifetime:
- The little friends you played with every day one epic summer and pinky promised you’d write.
- The ex-colleagues you pencilled in for fortnightly 2-4-1’s at a swanky rooftop bar
- The fun party friends who settled down had children and now excitedly coo over scribbled works of art and different brands of powdered milk.
How many people from your past are you still in contact with?
One constant in life is change.
Okay, you bet I now see that losing (some) friends when you move away is inevitable.
And it’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Post Friendship Break Up Expat Tips
I began writing this post in my journal… from the beach of course! (ha)
Joking aside, I thought I’d add my own take on the 101 expat guide to losing friends.
Here’s my advice:
- It comes down to living in the present moment. Remembering your why and becoming knee-deep in your own
- Don’t get me wrong, yes this means maintaining the friendships you hold dear but open to meeting new people. (where you are)!
- When things end. Learn to let go. That doesn’t mean you can’t mourn them. Sometimes easier said than done but do try to move on.
- Often we pore over events, resisting change (loooooong after they have passed). Before we know it, we are wasting energy and missing new opportunities that lay in front of us.
So, next time you’re invited to do something, remember…
the answer is always yes!
Finally…becoming friends with the best friend ever!
And last and not least, learn to become your own best friend.
Even if you have a million friends, the best and most nurturing friendship you’ll ever have (like ever, ever) is the one with yourself.
This has been my biggest area of growth since moving abroad. Ending my dependence on others and leaning into myself.
And nothing stopping you too!
If you have any other tips, please feel free to share them in the comments.
Love and light,