Moving Abroad-Making New Friends

Well the Truth is, we assume we know how to make friends, just because we grew up being convincingly social. But making friends abroad is different than making friends in First Grade. Finding true community when moving overseas can be as difficult as it can be easy. Many folks experience a tough time finding a peer group when they first arrive. Why  is it that expats need other expats?

When you travel, remember that a foreign country is not designed to make you comfortable. It is designed to make its own people comfortable.

— Clifton Fadiman

Most people when moving abroad  feel sure they can make friends with local people and assimilate into society. Luckily, Nicaragua is a country of friendly people. It is hard not to find  a Nicaraguan who wouldn’t extend their hand in friendship.

Between the excitement and the adventure of any move is the tedious packing, homesickness and a sense of rootlessness. Lost in a new city, country and culture, far removed from family and old friends, those first few weeks or months can be lonely. We need to find friends, and fast. This is particularly true when moving to a culture far removed from your own.  Nicaragua does have a culture that will take getting a little used to . There are many cultural differences that you will just have to accept and work through.

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And when you do find friends, they can quickly become a second family. Who will be the emergency contact at your child’s school? Who to ask for advice about doctors, dentists, childcare, and whose shoulders can you lean on when the culture shock hits hard? Who can you be honest with, without the chance of insulting? If we are really lucky, expat friendships can grow exponentially, from a shy hello in the supermarket, to ‘I-can’t-imagine-life-here-without-you’ friendship. Is it the impermanence of our lives that can make these friendships so close so quickly? Or is it the bond built on shared experience from an outsider’s perspective? Either way, expat friendships can make life seem ‘normal’ again. Who can you be honest with, without the chance of insulting?

Maybe it’s in our differences that we find our similarities. We are foreigners and we have all felt like strangers in a strange land. Every expat has to cross a cultural divide. Sometimes this divide is a challenge, with vastly differing attitudes to behavior, time, social norms, religion, gender differences… the list goes on. For a foreigner, this can impart a real sense of adversity, and  yet friendships can develop out of this. And while we won’t be friends with every expat  or local we meet, if we can find a shared laugh, a shared sympathy, some common ground, despite our differences, it makes the journey that much easier, and that much more fun.

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