29 November 2014

What is Friendship?

Thanksgiving fever has got me thinking. As an long-term expat living on the other side of the world to her family, friendship comes to mean something slightly different doesn't it, or does it?

friend  (frnd)
1. A person whom one knows, likes, and trusts.
2. A person whom one knows; an acquaintance.
3. A person with whom one is allied in a struggle or cause; a comrade.
4. One who supports, sympathizes with, or patronizes a group, cause, or movement: friends of the clean air movement.
5.  (Mountaineering) mountaineering a device consisting of a shaft with double-headed spring-loaded cams that can be wedged in a crack to provide an anchor point

Weird mountaineering jargon aside, is it possible to describe this epheremal thing? What is it about that one person that fills an indescribable void in your life, compared to that other perfectly nice person on the other side of the room who you have no spark with. Is it humour? It is shared interests? Is it having nothing in common bar your country of birth?

Short answer: I still haven't got a clue - and for a long time living in this country it totally eluded me. I worked in a couple of industries where the workday was so pressurized that spend a few more hours outside the office would have sorta felt like torture, let alone the fact that the English are a hard bunch to crack. This is despite many attempts to lure them into the pub - where I was led to understand that rambling conversations about football a friendship makes. Well, if you're an English bloke.

Growing up in your home country you have years and years worth of family, school friends, uni friends, work friends, random drinking friends, no good friends, and people that buck all definitions. When you move to a new country, denuded of these established connections it can be pretty tough and at times intimidating.

But here in the big smoke, friends can take on an even more important role; family. They are the ones who will call you when you sound blue, yell at you for a hare-brained scheme, plot world-domination with you, they understand homesickness and when all you need is a hug or a huge slice of Lolly cake, they'll make sure you're not forgotten, they'll remember your birthday, they'll lend you a shoulder to cry on and they'll offer to give you their cat when life really seems to suck.

And do you know what I'm grateful for this, and every Thanksgiving (eventhoughI'mnotAmericaninanywayshapeorformthoughIlovepumpkinpie)? It's my friends. The ones who brunch, the ones who just need to have a glass of wine and let off a little steam, the ones who attend charity-fundraising DIY afternoon teas, the ones who invite us to Thanksgiving feasts, the ones who I see at blogging events, the ones whom I go on holiday with, the ones who put up with the most bizarre ideas, the ones who comment on my little corner of t'internet, the ones who almost drive over ancient Tudor gardens on mad-cap castle hunting weekends, the ones who celebrate victories, the ones who commiserate failures, the ones who accidentally follow you to catch a train in the exact opposite direction to where you need to to, the ones to go to Paris for lunch with, the ones who read to the end of ridiculously long sentences, the ones who are family, the ones who pop in and out of our lives at the perfect times, just all of them.

What are you grateful for? (and Pumpkin Pie is a perfectly acceptable answer!)


  1. Lovely post, good timing when I was just sitting in my hostel in Cape Town thinking of you and how much I miss chatting to my lovely friends like you. I'm thankful to have had the chance to meet you and for all the experiences shared and friends you've introduced me to. xox

  2. No, no pumpkin pie! Can we still be friends if we don't share the same penchant for pumpkin infused desserts? :)

    I loved this post, Emma! It does puzzle me what makes one pairing of people work and another not. I've met folks here that tick all the boxes (like being similar ages, similar nationalities, even same choice in music), but yet I just can't seem to click with them. Then there are others who I've met and within 10 minutes I've known we'd be fast friends, even though we don't share as many commonalities as the folks that tick all the boxes. It must be that same chemistry that guides who we fall into romantic relationships with...I mean, look at me, I ended up with a very intelligent guy from the northern US who likes nothing better than playing or watching sports! You'd think we'd have nothing in common, and yet we've been together now for 12 years. :)

  3. Had to reply to this post Emma. I totally empathise with you in my up side down way being a Brit in NZ!! I know exactly how important friendship is when you're away from family and friends in a an alien country :-) What makes a friendship? Initially I made friends with the parents of my children's friends but that only goes so far. In the five years I've been here the real friends have developed from extra ordinary circumstances ; my mum being ill, my friend losing a child, my friend losing a father, friends who share my love of gardening, friends who I buy a coffee for on the rugby sidelines, friends who I lost touch with in London who re-appeared in my life when I pitched up in this land of the long white cloud. However the quintessential quality of a real friend is being there When It Counts. That's a friendship (not always sad times!) and I am so grateful for the friends that I've made here and for my friends in my other home :-) Your posts are fab by the way!

  4. Friends really do become family when your an expat! So thankful for my friends as well, and of course pumpkin pie!

  5. it is a weird thing to think what makes a person turn to a friend rather than just being a person. Thus far in Sweden a real deep true friendship has alluded me but everyone is always saying Fredrik is the least Swedish Swede so I think it is something with me that just does not get along with them but who knows.

  6. Strange huh, where does that line cross? I don't think so Bailie, you're so sweet - maybe you're just so different from the small-town locals they just don't know what to think?

  7. They do - and they also understand what you're going through!

  8. It is one of those things - and I think without a few good friends settling in another country can be so very hard. I guess as with most things it's just a matter of time.

    You're completely right - it's being there When It Counts when you know you've found a good 'un!

  9. Yep - I can have your share :D Opposites attract as they say!

    My and my Northern lad are very much the same - two very different characters - but like yin and yang possibly we all fit together properly?

  10. Straight back at you lovely - I'm so glad you're having such a wonderful journey home! We are very lucky people! xox

  11. Yep I often feel like a zoo animal they want to observe me but not get to close!


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