Living abroad: On friendship

I think it is quite natural for people to search for friends and soul mates. You can share your deepest secrets and the most embarrassing stories with a good friend. Our friends mean the world to us, they are our safe bubble. But what happens to these friendships when we move abroad?

Finding friends as an introvert is hard to even in your own country

The only crew I belonged to for a few years in my childhood was the Scout. But even though we spent a lot of time together, on weekend adventures in nature and summer camps, and we experienced a variety of situations, I never found a genuine friend for a lifetime here (but the first love, yes 🙂).

At school, I mean mainly at the eight-year grammar school, I got into a group of peers that I met every day and gradually we got to know each other. I think I tried to get along and talk to all of whom I found a good deal of sympathy with. In our class, I never belonged to any group of “class stars”. On the contrary, (and to this day my big thanks go to our class professor, who perfectly solved the situation when someone enjoyed bullying me for several weeks).

So I always had individual friends with whom we had common interests or a worldview. I had a great friend at the grammar school with whom we could chat and dance all night long, with another one we went to football and hockey matches, another friend I met at college, another one I found in my first “real” job at the bank, another in a bunch of my husband’s classmates from college, another in a family, another shortly before our move. Each of these friends is something special to me. We used to spend weekends together, go on various trips, but suddenly we moved to Switzerland.

Finding friends abroad is challenging but rewarding

Suddenly you find yourself in a foreign country where you know no one but your husband. Moreover, you are in a country whose inhabitants are known not to be totally open and where making friends is quite challenging because the locals will not immediately accept anyone (and even if you don’t speak their language).

I thought that when you move abroad with your children, integration and finding friends will be much easier because you can get to know each other thanks to the children. Whether at the playground or at the mom-kid lessons. But I soon found out that even in this filed it would be pretty difficult. After all, the local mothers knew each other, they had time to make real friendships with each other before you came along. They are laughing together, seeing each other outside the playground, going out together. Of course, they are very nice to you, you can talk about children, but anything too personal. You feel that you simply do not belong (and worse, you will never be). I tried not to take it personally, but still, you start to doubt yourself and still ask yourself what else you can do.

I had to accept the fact that making friends among locals in the new country takes time. A lot of time. Sometimes it is exhausting, especially when you know that you must always be “on alert” because of a lack of knowledge of the language. That you cannot be 100% yourself to not scare the other side (do not say any stupidity, unknowingly do some faux pas). But it will come. Sooner or later, trust me! And here it came!

But it took me four years, but maybe even five, to find my Swiss friends. I recognized this because of a few smaller or larger gestures that I think only friends make between each other ( I’ll maybe write some other time what exactly it was going on 😉). And thank God! I am so grateful for that!

A little luck never does any harm

Well, so that you don’t think I have been hanging around here for five years without friends. I certainly wasn’t.

Although I went to Switzerland with the original intention that I do not want to seek any people from the Czech Republic (because I did not want to be friends with someone just because fate had us in the same country), the first “foreign” language I hear after 2 months of living here was Czech! It was one winter afternoon when I went sledding with our kids. So I met Pavlina, who I introduced to you on this blog in this interview, and which became an invaluable source of information for me in our early months in Switzerland (and no, I did not make friends with her just because of that 😀).

A few months later I met Sylwia from Poland at the Mu-Ki Deutsch course (German class for moms and kids). Thanks to the course our German level improved (well, especially mine, because Sylwia was in Switzerland a year longer than me and still attended another course). In addition to the course, we started to meet with children, on running events and we quite often go out to have dinner at Café Fischer in Ersigen.

I got another great friend thanks to my blog! There is also a nice story behind it. Actually, before I knew Radka, I got to know her boyfriend. He and other teammates were the referees during the football tournament our son took part in. That was sometime in 2016. And a year later Radka dared to reach out to me through the blog and we found out that we have a lot in common. Thanks to Radka, I got to know several other Czech women who we meet from time to time to have a ladies´ night out. I admit it is sometimes a great relief to speak about our “problems” and situations in our native language.

But it is certainly not that my friends here compensate for those I left in the Czech Republic.

How difficult it is to keep a long-distance friendship

When we were moving to Switzerland, I was afraid to lose my Czech friends. I didn’t even have Facebook because I thought it was a waste of time (oh, my old self 🙂). I was afraid that the saying would come out: “out of sight, out of mind”.

In the end, it was these friends from home (and my family not to deny them merit) that helped me overcome my first year or maybe two here in Switzerland. We moved at the end of October, and already in April the first friend visited us with her son (even the “newest” with whom I made a friendship relatively recently before the move), in August came another with her family and then another… I thank them very much for that.

On the other hand, the paths of friends naturally diverged in life, that was clear to me. And unfortunately, there are such friendships that will not last. And it’s not necessarily because you’ve moved abroad. Maybe they wouldn’t last, even if we stayed in the Czech Republic. People grow differently evolve, change their hobbies, take different paths, meet other people, that’s just life.

Here is my advice

Do not be overwhelmed by vanity and harm. Even though you know it’s your friend’s turn to call you, but you just think of her, and you know exactly that you would like to share with her what´s going on. Or what you just remember at a given moment how she is and what she is doing, take the first step. Pick up the phone or write a message, it doesn’t matter.

You don’t necessarily have to be friends with someone just because he’s from your home country. I know the desire to talk in your native language and can be very tempting. But first, answer yourself the question if you would make friends with this person in your home country. If not, don’t waste your time and energy.

But this is just my point of view, it is up to everyone how to behave in a given situation or life and what they decide. I will be glad if you let me know how you manage to keep your friends, whether you live or not abroad.

Skiing with kids: Sörenberg
3 Swiss expressions that keep fascinating me

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3 Comments. Leave new

  • Itzi Herrero E Iriarte
    29.2.2020 20:25

    It so nice to read your blog Hana !!!
    So true about keeping friends abroad…
    I lived in so many places in this beautiful world 🌎 and lost lots og so called ‘FRIENDS ‘ !!!
    But i must say … i still kept the REAL FRIENDS!!!
    Every time you are in trouble or in a deep point in your life the real friends around the world will help you !!!
    And you know what Hana…. we just do that too with our real friends too !!!
    So we just enjoy our friends for life !!!
    Xxxx
    Itzi
    💚💋💋👍

    Reply
  • […] do not know if it is, as I wrote in the last post on friendship, that the Swiss just don’t let anyone close to each other and when they can really call a […]

    Reply
  • […] outside our apartment door. A beautiful gesture that made me cry. Because you realize what great friends you have found here in Switzerland, who do not forget you even in this strange […]

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