The narrative of my book is about expat friendships in Romania.
The importance of friends is glaringly apparent in an expatriate situation. All manner of different people are thrown together in a cultural pot, stirred and shaken, heated up under pressure, then presented on a plate as a beautiful and life-giving friendship. In fact, in this situation, they can feel like more than friends: They are your family away from home.
I came across this psychologist’s explanation of the word ‘friend’ whilst doing some research:
What draws people together as friends?
- Common interests. This probably ties us closer to our friends than many would like to admit. When our interests diverge and we can find nothing to enjoy jointly, time spent together tends to rapidly diminish. Not that we can’t still care deeply about friends with whom we no longer share common interests, but it’s probably uncommon for such friends to interact on a regular basis.
(Me: Unless you put in just a little bit of extra effort, you lazy old psychologist!)
- History. Nothing ties people together, even people with little in common, than having gone through the same difficult experience. As the sole glue to keep friendships whole in the long run, however, it often dries, cracks, and ultimately fails.
(Me: I know, I keep poking my nose in… This point is particularly apparent in a stressful expat situation. For example, when I lived in Romania, I couldn’t even speak to the lady I was trying to buy milk from – anyone who turned up with milk after five days without a cup of tea was my instant best friend. I disagree with the last sentence completely, by the way – I’m not sure I would want to be this psychologist’s friend!).
- Common values. Though not necessarily enough to createa friendship, if values are too divergent, it’s difficult for a friendship to thrive.
- Equality. If one friend needs the support of the other on a consistent basis such that the person depended upon receives no benefit….it can’t be said to define a true friendship.
(Me: Only had to read the first 5 words of this one. I’ve heard them called “emotional vampires”. Isn’t that a great description? Now, I’m wondering if that might describe our psychologist friend here….)
What makes a friend worthy of the name?
- A commitment to your happiness. A true friend is consistently willing to put your “happiness before your friendship. It’s said that “good advice grates on the ear,” but a true friend won’t refrain from telling you something you don’t want to hear, something that may even risk fracturing the friendship, if hearing it lies in your best interest.
(Me: I’m sure they’d say it nicely though, Sir Psycho…)
- A true friend won’t ask you to compromise your principles in the name of your friendship or anything else. Ever.
- A good influence. A true friend inspires you to live up to your best potential.
I really feel like I want to add two more here.
What do I love most about a friend?
- She or he just understands me and does not judge me.
- She or he laughs with me – a nice big belly laugh, really often and really loud, so much so that people openly stare at us. They’re envious, of course.
Although making friends in an expat situation is an extreme circumstance, thinking back through my life I have not needed such a push to make good friendships. I’m blessed to be surrounded by the perfect amount of friends. And they have just walked into my life in the local suburb or school, whilst travelling overseas, or in the bubble of motherhood. One of them I even found when I was just four days old and she was born and placed in the tiny hospital cot next to me.
Writing about good friends, thankfully, comes easily, due to my own great big treasure box of personal gems. I love you all.