Most expats with any experience will know them; the Instant BFFs. You meet someone at a barbecue and before you know it, you’ve had the life story, the inside leg measurement, and even the rant about the woman who jumped the queue in the supermarket. You’ll absolutely have to come over the very next weekend, and why don’t we all go to Thailand for the summer? The nature of expat life can lead to friendships screeching into full-blown BFF ships without so much as a ‘What’s your last name again?’ but we’re wondering whether such friendships are good for us and whether they’re likely to last…
Being drawn to other British mums is natural, say experts, as we’re likely to be singing from the same hymn sheet on many fronts. “Many expats face common challenges and choose to emigrate for similar reasons, so they can tend to stick together as these common factors – and facing challenges together – helps forge a bond,” says Dr Yaseen Aslam, consultant psychiatrist and Medical Director of The Psychiatry and Therapy Centre in Healthcare City.
It’s also natural for things to develop somewhat faster than they would at home; you could well be keen to feel close to someone who makes you feel a little more settled, and you’ll be anxious to get your new friendship off the ground. And of course, we all want to feel like we fit in, with having friends definitely helping.
Superficial friendships however, can make you feel ever so slightly insecure; when you don’t really know someone as well as you’d normally know a friend back home, and you don’t have a solid foundation on which you’ve built your friendship, you may not have the confidence you’d have in a traditional home-country friendship.
British mum Sharon certainly found this to be true when she befriended another British mum from her son’s class. “I was over the moon when I hit it off with this mum and we got on so well,” she explains. “But then a few weeks into our friendship, there was the odd occasion when she didn’t respond to a text, or didn’t stop to chat at the school gate. I found myself wondering whether she didn’t really like me, whether she was trying to avoid me, even if she didn’t really want to be friends after all.”
What we often forget, says Dr Yaseen, is that there are many factors – such as sharing core values and principles – that are intrinsic to a deep and meaningful friendship and if they’re absent, this can lead to a fragile relationship. “Many expats form initial bonds with other expats as they support each other and share the challenges of adjustment, but without equality and a shared value system, it’s unlikely any relationship will truly stand the test of time,” he explains.
So does that mean we should all be living solo? No, most thankfully not. If you’re looking for something long-term then it might be a good idea to look deeper than simply both being expats together, but remember we’re all meant to have a variety of different friendships in our lives. Don’t forget that saying; friends are for a reason, a season or a lifetime! We raise a glass to all the special British Mums we’ve met along the way.