Expat Friends

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There’s a certain cycle that (I’m guessing) most people have with friendships when they live abroad. I’ve already written about how one can make friends when living in a different country, but actually once you’ve made those friends it’s still pretty tricky and probably not like making friends back home. (But I wouldn’t know…I’ve not been back home making friends since the start of uni…)

I’ve been fairly lucky here in Germany because my office has many strong social groups. It’s often a bubble that’s hard to break out of, but at the same time I feel I’m closest to my colleagues; both the ones from the UK team and ones from other language teams. We may be a little weird and geeky, but we’re good deep down ;)

So, here are the stages of expat friendship.

Stage 1 – BON VOYAGE!!!

The night before you leave for your foreign country, you gather up all your home friends and say goodbye to them. They know you inside out and backwards. But you’re so excited for your new adventure.

Stage 2 – OMG are you new here too?!

You get to your new home, and find other people in the same situation as you. For no other reason than you being in the same situation, you become friends – joined at the hip. You do everything together, and experience all the new things together.

Stage 3 – OMG why am I friends with you?!

Stage 2 lasts for a few weeks, then you look at your new friends and realise you have nothing at all in common. Why can’t they just be like your home friends?! Your home friends wouldn’t be idiots like them. They’d be so witty and clever and know exactly what to say. You Skype your home friends every day for a week.

Stage 4 – Where can I get more friends?

You start to venture out of the small comfort zone you’ve created. Perhaps you seek out new hobbies, go to meetups, take a language class. You dedicate a lot of time and effort into looking for new people to hang out with.

Stage 5 – This stage may be a repeat of the 2nd stage, where you find people who are equally bemused with their initial friends, but then after a while you realise that the only thing you had in common was your common bemusement. Either that, or friends you made that you were pretty fond of have finished their internship/course/marriage and have moved away.

Stage 6 – You spend months carefully pruning your garden of friends, weeding out ones you wonder what you ever saw in, saying sayonaya to ones leaving the country, and picking up lots of new ones on the way. Then, and only then, you may have a good, artificially made group of friends.

The above list may not be true for most expats. It’s been my experience here in Germany, and it’s similar to my experience in Japan (it’s just that in Japan I was a lot more limited to who I could make friends with). I’d say the hardest part is the end of stage 5, where you find someone you like but their timeline in that place differs from yours.

I found myself being really cynical and, when I met someone new, I assessed the amount of time and effort I would “invest” in that person. It’s a horrible way to think, I know. It’s just really hard when you meet someone and you really hit it off and you want to be BFFS with them, but they are at the end of the time they’d like to spend in the place because maybe they just can’t get over culture shock, or maybe they just don’t like their job. But at the same time, you love the country and love your job and don’t plan on leaving for a long time. It’s hard.

At the beginning of my time in Frankfurt I kept on getting attached to interns from the banking world. They are a really cool bunch, but they’d be gone in a few months.

There’s also something else you may want to take into account – why is this new friend an expat? You’d be really surprised to find how many people are apparently escaping from something back home. It’s not a bad thing. But it often means that the amount of crazies in the expat world is very, very high. Sometimes the crazy doesn’t show itself for weeks or months. But it’s often there. One day you look at your friend and think “my God, were you this crazy all along? We do I hang out with you?!” We need to find likeminded people so we can match our crazy and become good friends.

As always, I’ve love input from you all! Have any of you created strategies for making friends abroad?

The Liebster Award

Over a month ago, Wie Sagt Man gave me the Liebster award and because I’m crap, I forgot to pass it on. This seems to be one of the less time-consuming awards and all I have to do it pass it on to 5 more people.

These kinds of awards can be annoying and seen as chain letters in the blogging world, but I think it’s a nice way for me to show off some blogs that I’m really fond of.

I did a little googling and found a nice post that explains the origins of the Liebster Award – funnily enough, it came from Germany!

So here are the five bloggers I tag!

Confuzzledom – This is not a pity vote since she had some scary dentistry done recently! This blogger has a really nice way of writing about her experiences in Germany and often I’m sat here nodding furiously because I know just what she’s talking about!

Claireabelle Makes – I’m not crafty in the slightest to I live vicariously through her crafty blog. Plus, she’s in Cambridge so her photos are great for me – feels like I’m back near home again!

Deecoded – A gorgeous Filipino lady living in Singapore whose blog I only just found recently. Sometimes I find a blog and just think that if we met up, we’d be super best friends instantly. I feel that way with Dee. Hopefully I can make my way over to Singapore again soon so we can hang out!

Beauty Expressions by Luchessa – I started following Luchessa a while back, when I was very into beauty blogging. Since then I’ve sort of cooled down and stopped following most of the bloggers, but Luchessa is much warmer, lovelier and friendlier than most beauty bloggers so I always take time out to read what she’s been trying out. Not only does she know a LOT about beauty, but she’s also a leading example of how to get your blog out there and she makes me want to try harder with my own and make more of it.

And lastly, Diaries of an Essex Girl – I’m sponsoring Kate’s blog this month because I randomly found her – another British blogger in Frankfurt – and decided that it would be a real shame to not reach out and become friends with her. I love the sheer variety of posts she writes; there’s something for everyone, and although her expat posts are the ones that speak to me the most, I really appreciate how honest and open she is with her story of weight loss.

The reason why I pass forward these awards is so that I can share a little slice of the blogs I love right now. I hope it can be passed on some more so we can share our favourite reads! <3

Japanese New Years Cards

In Japan, at New Years, people send out lots of these postcards, called “nengajo”. They are kind of like Christmas cards, only families send out HUNDREDS of them – ranging from generic ones, to custom made ones with photos of the new baby, the wedding, or any other news they wish to boast about.

My very talented friend Joanna is making GORGEOUS Japanese New Years cards – hand made with her very own calligraphy skills.

How cool would it be to send out cards as original as this, this year? If you’re interested, check out her shop on Etsy!

Ben Southam Music

 

I have such amazingly talented friends, and I love to show them off when I think they are super awesome. One super awesome friend of mine, is Mr Ben Southam, who is an amazing musician.

What makes him super amazing is that this month, alongside my blogging every day NaBloPoMo, and our friends’ NaNoWriMo, he is creating a chorus version of a different popular song every day! Here are my favourites so far -

This is my favourite because I suggested it. And I don’t know about you, but I am very rarely ready for this jelly.

Elton John. Amazing.

He also does a lot of his own music, which you can hear on his YouTube channel, but also on SoundCloud.

But if you all went to go check him out, I’d really appreciate it. Because he is super awesome!

Inspiring Blogger Award

So, I have been awarded the Very Inspiring Blogger Award from the wonderful I Talk You Talk Languages. This is my first award like this so it’s very exciting!

Apparently, I have to-

- Display the award logo on your blog. - Link back to the person who nominated you. – State 7 things about yourself. – Nominate 15 other bloggers for this award and link to them. – Notify those bloggers of the nomination and the award’s requirements.

 So… 7 things about me.

1. I usually blog from my bed. I’ll sit in bed on a weekend morning, eating pancakes and fruit, and blog until my fingers fall off.

2. I tell people I started studying Japanese because I wanted to make more Japanese friends. The real reason is that I really fancied this Japanese guy who was part of an exchange programme in my hometown and I wanted to go to Japan and find him. Turns out I did find him and we met up again the year before last. He’s still pretty hot…

3. I started studying Chinese in the memory of a Chinese student of mine who died. He went to the Japanese JHS that I used to teach at, and when he died his parents had even more trouble because they didn’t understand a word of Japanese. If it hadn’t been for the councilor at the school who just happened to be Chinese (very very rare for a foreigner to work in a job a Japanese person could do), then they wouldn’t have been able to communicate to arrange the funeral, speak with the school… or all those other things. I realised that it’s really important to know languages – it sucks being scared and lonely in a country whose language you don’t speak. But if you’re in need of help and you don’t speak the language then it must be the worst. I hope I can put my languages to good use some day.

4. I don’t miss much from home other than the people and the shopping. The British highstreet is a wonderful place.

5. I have a balcony of plants that I’m trying to keep alive. I suck at keeping things alive. I have killed 2 sunflowers and 3 lavender plants, but my hibiscus and my two tomato plants are doing ok.

6. I can make a mean curry.

7. At 6th form (the last two years of British schooling that are not compulsory, where students study and take exams in order to go to university) my French teacher told me that I “just couldn’t do languages” and that I should give up on Japanese because if I couldn’t do even French, how could I do Japanese. Although his words don’t fuel my linguist spirit, having experienced such a shit teacher I made it my mission to never be like that to my students and I always told them that I believed in them. Some of the students I cared for the most were the ones whom the Japanese teachers had given up on. I made sure they knew that they had it in them if they just found their dream, just like I did.

And then my nominations… I don’t think I’ll do 15 because I want to pick people that write really inspirational things. Quality over quantity, you know!

1. Right back at you, I Talk You Talk Langauges! This lady is a freelance Japanese translator in Japan and writes the most amazing accounts of her life in Japan. I read her stuff and can really relate to it on a level that makes me feel like I’m right back there again.

2. Mode & Stil – My blogger buddy Ines writes in German (you can cheat and use Chrome’s translations if you like…) but she is a really inspirational fashion and beauty blogger. I’m really glad I found her.

3. Clareabelle Makes – A crafty lady who makes me want to be much more crafty too!

4. Lost In Travels – A lovely couple living and blogging from South Korea. I love their stories of their kindy kids and just general Korean happenings.

5. Beautiful Smudges – A British beauty blogger in Germany – who writes in German as well! Anyone who has the motivation and drive to blog in another language, and who is brave enough to put their skills out there in public is ok by me.

6. Exploring Maybeland - My friend here in Frankfurt who is inspirational on an emotional level. She’s had some hard battles recently but she’s one heck of a strong woman. A true inspiration.

Wow, only 6! I think that’s enough, though. There are other inspirational blogs that I read but they are pretty big already and I doubt they’d care if little old me came to give them an award…

Happy Saturday!

Mutiger Montag

So my German blogger buddy Ines who is an image consultant came up with this amazing idea of having “Mutiger Montag”. Mutiger means “bravery” and Mutiger Montag is all about wearing something – be it clothes, accessories or makeup that you wouldn’t have the guts to usually every Monday. I think we all have things that we bought but sit there collecting dust because we don’t have the bravery to use them.

In Japan I was really brave with my style – from knee high socks to shorts, I really pushed the style boat out. Here in Frankfurt, women really glare you down when you wear something out of the ordinary so I find myself wearing lots of plain clothes all the time. So I for one am glad that Ines had this awesome idea!

 

Despite the fact that I told her I’d totally be up for Mutiger Montag this week, I totally forgot until Monday morning but I did find these big earrings that I bought and never wear – I don’t think big earrings like this are a little too big for me. I prefer studs right now, especially for work.

It’d be really cool if people would jump on this idea and wear something a little extra snazzy every Monday. If you have a blog, please send Ines links so she can see that her idea is setting off! I’d love to see what people do as well. Let’s all be mutiger together and start something amazing!

Friends and Stuff

Through a WordPress Freshly Pressed link, I came across the book MWF Seeking BFF. I’d just finished reading Cloud Atlas which was a Christmas present (it’s a door stop of a book…) so I bought it on my Kindle.

I didn’t imagine how much of an impact this book would have on me… it’s about just being in a place that isn’t the one you grew up in – and just feeling lonely. The woman (blogger Rachel Bertsche) tries to find her new best friend in Chicago by going on a long list of friend dates. Some are good, some are bad, some are terrible.

The reason this book is so addictive to me is because I feel exactly the same. Making friends in a new city is difficult. You don’t know anyone outside work, you don’t know where to go to make friends. But making friends in a different culture is 100 time more difficult.

I was really down in Japan while on JET. There were other foreigners around but I didn’t feel that they were the types of people I would choose to be friends with if I had the choice. I felt so low that I even overlooked a girl who eventually became my best friend there. I just had given up on everything. I thought maybe dating someone would “cure” me of this feeling, so when a lovely Japanese guy fell for me, I went with it in the hope that I would grow more fond of him. Needless to say, I didn’t and I feel so bad for leading him along like that since he is the loveliest guy.

I got to the stage where I just hit rock bottom and needed to be pro-active about it all. I worked really hard on language exchange sites, Mixi (a Japanese social network) and in person too – going to everything I was invited to. I managed to get a really nice group of friends and along with the new JETs that came in that I was very close to, I felt so much better and not lonely at all.

But now I have to start all over again here. Having spent most of my free time up until now with Mister, now that we’re not together any more I feel like someone has yanked away my crutches. I do feel lonely and where for the autor of my book is searching for someone who will just drop everything and go for a manicure, I am looking for someone who I can just text “hey something stupid happened” and get a reply, or someone who will just be happy walking around while taking photos with me. Someone for last minute dinner, or to go to that cafe I found with.

The book states that a person can handle 120 friends at a time – of which 50 are the closest. In the past month going through a heart-breaking break up I have come to realise how many people around me are in that 50 person space. But I don’t think I have all 50 spaces filled. MWF Seeking BFF has really motivated me to build up my friendship circle and go on more girl-dates.

I highly recommend that book to anyone – it’s slightly chick-lit-y but has lots of sciencey stuff in it too which makes me feel I’m not reading drivel haha. It’s easy to read and I bet most people – if not most women- will identify heavily with it, as I have.

The Nintendo Life

It was my dear friend’s birthday yesterday, so I took him to dinner. He also works at Nintendo. As we ate we sighed and wondered why there is such a thing as the Nintendo Bubble; why is it that people who work with us rarely have lives, friends, love outside the people we work with.

When I first joined the company (only 6 months ago now) I was determined to make local friends, German friends, people to hang out with outside of work. It was at my birthday party in October that I looked around the table of 20 or so people who had gathered to celebrate with me that I realised that I should stop trying so hard and accept that I love the people around me.

The people who work at Nintendo are COOL. Like, properly cool. There are so many amazing people with so many different life experiences and skills that it’s hard not to be in awe there. One of the most amazing things is how many people can not only speak their native European language, not only English fluently (so much so they can spot mistakes in my English in an instant!) but also speak Japanese as well. How I’d love to have 3 or more languages…

Another reason why it’s just easier to have in-house friends is that it does pretty much take over your life, even when it’s not a challenging project. The current project I am on, despite  not being involved enough for me to feel the stressful parts, is controlling me so much that I am dreaming about it, and thinking about it and the contents as I am walking down the street. When we have get-togethers the boys usually talk nothing but video games, so much so that I feel so sorry for the few non-Nintendo wives who have to put up with all the boring shop talk haha.

And then, it’s good to be close to people and be able to talk openly with people who know what kind of troubles you are going through. The current project is very different to my previous two and I’m finding more than before that I have to work harder to bridge the gap between my co-workers who have years of experience and myself. Being able to talk about this over Sunday brunch with people who have been there is so nice. We are unable to talk about most things to do with work as, of course, we work with so much delicate information, so I can’t just phone up my mum and tell her all about it. 

There are about 400 people working at our office in Frankfurt. Within those people I only interact with very very few people, but everyone is so nice and friendly even if we don’t know each other by name. It’s like a secret club we have going on, where we know all the secrets and have secret handshakes and all that. I’m sure I could never get bored of the Nintendo family.

So I don’t mind being in the Nintendo bubble at all. It’s a pretty cool bubble to be in.