Old and New Friends: Finding Time

by Allison Ochs, M.S.W

New expats often ask, "How can I find the time to keep my old friends back home and also find new friends here?"

Unfortunately, this is part of being an expat. When I went home for the very first time, I remember not having fun with my friends. These were my high school girlfriends; I loved them, but I became bored. As I walked into my parent's house, the door slammed behind me, "Ali, how was it?" I slumped onto the couch. "They've changed!" My mom sighed, "No, they are the same; you've changed."  I follow them on Facebook and every five years or so I take the time to see one of them and realize: we will always have high school.

True friends will love you even after you've taken a leave of absence. They will get your stories, care, laugh and cry with you. I saw one friend after an eight-year break. It was as if we had never separated. I know I can go to her anytime, I am always welcome, and she will love me even if I don't call. Now that is a friend. Ask yourself: how many friends you do have time for?  Let go of thinking you need to hang on to all of your friends. If you have to work to remain friends, they aren't friends. Real friends love you and will let you soar while they wait for you to come back, loving you the entire time. Those are the only friends you should care about losing, and here's the best part: you won't lose them.

Two other pieces of advice:

— Don't spend all your time here playing tour guide or hotel for your friends. If you are in the mood for them to come and it’s convenient, that’s great. If not, just say “no,” or tell them, "Sure, you can come, but this is when I have time." If your free time here is taken up seeing the same sights over and over, you will never have the opportunity to make new friends: to make new friends, you need to experience life where you live.

— Don't spend your entire time Stateside just visiting people. Do whatever you want to do. Don't feel obliged. If they care about you, they will make an effort to come to you. If they don’t, either they don't care or they are just caught up in their professions and kids, and it will sort itself out in due time.