There used to be a sign up at my secondary school –
Friendship is like an egg:
hold it too tight and it cracks;
hold it too loose and it drops.
I am guilty of the second of those two – I find it difficult to stay in touch with people I don’t see frequently. I think I never learnt how to do it. I’m often not comfortable on the phone, and I have never formed the habit of messaging my friends in between seeing them. And moving away from the UK has made me more aware of it. Facebook is talking great for seeing what friends are up to, but it’s so easy to feel like you know what’s going on when actually it’s just superficial.
I read an article recently about friendship from the New York Times and their definition of a close friend was someone you have contact with almost every day. By that definition my only close friend is my husband (and my children); which I found a bit depressing when I thought about it that way. So I have decided to try harder to stay in touch with people I don’t see. Especially friends with whom I can’t stop talking when I do see them. There are many people I care deeply about and want to remain friends with.
I was always a bit hesitant with friends in the UK – waiting for them to contact me as I didn’t want to come across as pushy. I remember at school sitting in the sixth form common room with a group of friends waiting for one of them to directly talk to me before I joined in the conversation. And I sat silent for the whole 15 minutes break til our next class, as no-one noticed. Now I’m trying not to care that I’m generally the one making plans and just go ahead and contact people who I want to see, without waiting for them to do something as it’s “their turn”.
I am also still getting to know people here, especially the other parents at the school gate. Though my Dutch struggles with general chit-chat as it can be on such varied subjects! I don’t (yet) have any friends with whom I speak only Dutch, though I do try to speak Dutch when I can. Often I stand and listen to the other parents chatting and try to follow it, though the general level of English is so high that I can always switch to that if I need to.
Though Facebook does help you find new people when you move – especially the fellow foreigners. Some of the closest friends I’ve met in the Netherlands I first met in groups on Facebook. Others I have bumped into and heard talking English. Though one downside of being ex-pats is that the ex-pat community is transient and move away. Over the summer was the first time one of my new friends has left. So that’s another person to keep in touch with! Which I really hope we do as we got on well.
So in summary I am putting in a concerted effort to hold my friends closer by being more proactive in contacting people. This is one step beyond my previous goal of merely replying to people, so this shows how important other people are. And when you get a message from me I look forward to hearing back!