The importance of expat friendships – even though you know you’ll have to say goodbye

We’ve had a rough few months with goodbyes, losing some of our closest friends here in Doha. Changing the dynamic of what is left behind as we wave them on to pastures new. One family off to Singapore. Another to Switzerland.

expat friendships - two women cheers

We have new countries to visit and plans made to keep in touch. But realistically it isn’t the same as having them down the road available to pop in for a cup of tea.

And it’s hard.

So hard. Saying goodbye to people who you saw week in, week out. Who shaped your daily routine, shaped your life. Finding your way without them as they embark on the craziness that is settling into a new life.

You’re the one left behind filling the hole they’ve left.

Making new friends.

And repeating the pattern.

It’s a brutal fact of expat life that people do move on. Some are on fixed contracts. Sometimes new opportunities come up and people leave. Sometimes it’s just time to go home.

People come into your life and then leave your life.

Everybody makes an impact, leaves an imprint. Friends for a reason, season or lifetime.

expat friendship - two women in a box
photo by Najla Nabil

But sometimes I stop and wonder if I can do it all again. Build up the friendships, for me, for the boys, for the family. Invest heart and soul to have someone who may just leave again.

Do I want to put us all through that again. The heartbreak of saying goodbye, of helping the children through it, of helping myself.

And the answer is always yes

In the end anyway.

Expat life is cyclical. You find yourself on a circular path somewhere between fresh off the boat and preparing to leave. With friends coming and going on the way.

Those times that you pushed yourself out to every coffee morning going to try and meet someone like you. When, as a seasoned expat, you went over to the newly arrived mum crying with sheer overwhelm at everything they were facing. Swapping numbers with people. Rocking up at someones house when you only met them the day before. The neighbours you’ve met. The school mums who you see each day.

expat friendship - sensory light board curiocity doha the pearl

These are the people that make your expat experience what it is.

They have the ability to shape and change the way you look at your new country, they mould your experiences.

And I know that my Doha experience would have been very different without certain people in it.

It doesn’t matter that when we met we knew at some point we would have to say goodbye.

What matters were the nights out we had, the laughter we shared, the in jokes and the not so in jokes. When the children ran round giggling, riding bikes up and down the streets, dive bombing into the swimming pool. The days where you weren’t sure you could cope with another day away from all you knew, and they were there. Those days that THEY weren’t sure that they could cope, and you were there.

They are what matter, not that we have a “goodbye” looming.

Expat friendships.

Some may be fleeting. Some may only be for the time you are both in the same city, leading the same life.

But they make that life.

And some? Some are lifers.

You never know what category you fall into until you meet, live through the expat adventures and say goodbye at the end of it.

Yes, it’s hard to say goodbye, but I won’t ever let that stop me saying hello.

After all, how lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard?

brunch at new york steakhouse doha

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