We expats are skilled in many areas, it’s true. Be that as it may, there are two (yes, two!) things we excel at more than anything else in Luxembourg: throwing incredible parties and understanding the true meaning of ‘picking up where we left off’ when it comes to our relationships.
I suppose it’s because we’re all accustomed to the exhaustion and challenges that expat life brings, where often two or three months pass in between meetings, that we’ve had to learn we can’t allow time to come between our friendships.
I noticed it this weekend, when I attended a farewell party for a friend of mine, which is always a bit of a sad affair in itself, but to have arrived at the party and realised that nearly everyone there I haven’t seen in months? Well, it felt a bit embarrassing at first. To be fair, there is something about adulting where it’s normal to not always have time for even our closest friends. And yet, I realised whilst at this party that the reasons for our mutual distance as expats is because we all need the comfort and closeness of friends in a very transient community, yet are so frequently overwhelmed by our work and the difficulty of being a foreigner in an unknown place that we are often far too tired to do anything about our loneliness.
We trade nights out with friends for quiet evenings of solitude as we reflect on the language barrier we encountered at the supermarket whilst attempting to order the charcuterie we wanted; or the chance to give directions to a lost traveller because we can’t remember for the life of us how to say “GO STRAIGHT” in French…ugh. We struggle to feel excited about a Friday night movie with friends because all we can remember from the day is the stress we felt from arguing with our colleague because his meaning of the word ‘pressurize’ is not my understanding of the word ‘pressurize’.
By the time we realise it, so many months have passed, and that friend we were dying to catch up with? Well, they’re going through some of the exact same things as you and I. We may not always say it, because deep down, we truly love life as expats in Luxembourg; however, sometimes we just long for the ease of a familiar culture where a bad day at the office is manageable, and we can actually place an order at the restaurant in our native tongue without fear of using the wrong vocabulary. So we (eventually) meet our friends, guilty for our distance, vehemently declaring that we won’t let it happen again, yet worrying the entire time that we might disappoint once more.
So, time continues passing us by, and one Friday night when we force ourselves to get out and socialise, we arrive to see a friend standing there, equally apologetic and yet still so understandably sympathetic towards our mutual loss of time. Simply because they too have been fighting to make a foreign place less unknown and more home-like to them. We embrace in that familiar feeling of ‘they understand me’; laugh together about the fact that after months apart, it feels like nothing has changed in our friendship, and enjoy an evening of reliving the reasons why we love to live a life of expatriateness (is that a word?). See, the beauty in this is, nothing even needs to be said, there is simply the mutual awareness that neither of us is alone here and that someone else understands why we ‘disappeared’ for all those months.
We smile at each other knowingly, then we turn to the music and laugh, talk – heck! – even dance the night away… Because if there’s one thing we’re certain of here, it’s how to enjoy a good party with friends, making up for our time apart, together.
…that is, when we finally work up the gumption to make it to the party in the first place. 😉