It doesn’t matter how long I live in the UK, how often I automatically order mushy peas with fish and chips or how British my accent gets, I’ll always be an expat. It affects how I see the world, decisions I make, the way that my life is lived and the wanderlust that infects my soul.
Deciding to leave behind years of memories, in-jokes and ties so deep that you know what your friends will do before they even do it – is a big decision to make – even if it’s slightly less hard to give up the embarrassing nicknames that you seem to pick up but never really shake off.
And this can be even just as true when you move to a new city. You have to slowly work at setting up those connections, hoping that the friends you make at that time in your life need a kindred level of companionship and have a similar sense of humour.
This time of year always gets me thinking about how intense and wonderful expat friendships can become. It makes sense to connect with people in your own tribe; I’d categorise them as slightly mad adventurers with big hearts and wicked senses of humour – it so just happens that like mine, their hearts are often embellished with a variety of flags.
Also an unusually relevant side note: how on earth can it be my eleventh anniversary of coming to the UK?
You find yourself starting new traditions. Taking on a love of Thanksgiving (though I’m lucky enough to have been inducted into the cult back in my university days), celebrating Diwali by lobbing paint at friends and inventing new holidays like Sinterthanksgiving (a combination of Thanksgiving for our American friends, Sinterklaus for our Dutch friend and a random bit of Kiwi).
You find yourself going to Hen parties for people who make you smile on a daily basis over t’internet and you’ll plan holidays around the fact that you’ll manage to catch up with someone who has started a new expat chapter in a new land. And you’ll usually get a local’s tour of an amazing new city and stop for a beverage somewhere delectable.
These friends make expat life amazing. And they have become my family. We have laughed, we have cried, we have attempted to solve cultural puzzles and we have established new lives in incredible, challenging new places.