“I Need More Friends Around!!!” is one thing that keeps coming to my mind lately.
Practically there have been many seasons in my life when all my friends were abroad and I was the only one left in Pakistan. But there wasn’t a time when I had to consciously think of making an effort to have new friends. I guess one of the reasons was how our work people fill up that social need and some of them make it to our friend list too luckily or unluckily. And since I was working full time and managing my career ambitions along with a family to take care of and a child to raise …my work people were mostly my people I could hang out within office hours. And those far away abroad friends I could connect as they visited Pakistan.
Packing up my well-settled life from Lahore in 2017 (where I was too busy to make it to social commitments due to my work-life) to come to Canada also meant long-distance friendships from my end too as my habitat was being changed. Coming to a new country, a new continent far from friends, family, places that you know is overwhelming for anyone no matter you are alone or with family. It changes you inside out as a person and how you think no matter you accept it or not. life is not a piece of cake as it makes you adaptable to the lifestyle it also ravishes you in terms of relations and connecting with those in your life.
But this time it was different. I was finding it hard to be a person who was keenly looking to make friendships. Making a friend as an adult was a TASK that needed the strategy. It was harder than what it looked like.
Here are some of the challenges I felt while going through new friendships abroad
Are You In The Same Boat:
Going out and making friends is an essential part of the social survival guide when you move abroad. The web is full of tips on how to make new friends as you move to a new place. It’s not that I had not done this before I had lived alone in Dublin for a year for my Studies and when I landed I knew no one and at the time when I was leaving back for Pakistan a lot of strangers were in my friends list and connecting with them wasn’t big deal as most of us were in the same boat…students and coming to a new country for study, looking for friends.
Friends Are the Family You Have Around:
Friends are actually the family you choose when you are living as an immigrant. The challenge gets real when you have to choose your social circle based on not only how well you connect with someone but how well you connect as a family. Since you won’t have your extended family around so these friends will be your family in the foreign land. This means keeping in mind more factors while you are making a conscious effort.
We all can feel a little lost once out of our comfort zone. The spouse or the family we are living with know us well there is no new effort required to blossom the relationship as its required for new friendships with high expectations. I should admit that I had become a bit of a recluse because I found it hard to connect and small talk with people who didn’t have common interests. I would prefer a quiet day at home rather than going to a loud gathering of strangers.
People Sharing The Same Routine:
It’s very important that people you are trying to be friends with sharing a similar routine as you. As living abroad means a lot of other tasks can be on your plate and hence sometimes taking out time to meet up can be a challenge. And a person with a busy routine can’t be blamed. For me, any after work socialization was a hard thing especially with work colleagues as I had a kid waiting for me at home. Understanding each other’s routine and priorities are 2 times more important in the foreign land than it was in the homeland as everyone comes from a different culture.
Challenge Of Saying Good-Bye:
As an immigrant, you might come across with someone and get very close to them but they decide to move back. Or you decide to move to a new place hence the challenge of saying goodbye more often makes you think why invest emotionally in friendships? Because at the end of the day no matter how grown up you are it affects you.
Sometimes getting into the comfort of the daily grind is easier than looking for people who are looking for friends too. And trust me this keeps you so hooked up that sometimes you don’t get time to think about it. It happens with me mostly.
I strongly felt I was unable to connect with many around because I was at a stage of life where drama had no place in my life. People say maturity comes with the age but I think it comes with exposure. Therefore, I got very conscious of what vibes I got from the gathering and if I am coming home with a positive feeling or not.
Technology is a mixed bag of good and bad. The global connectivity has got us closer to a few while distant from many as well. The vortex of Instagram can take your hours and you wouldn’t even figure out if you missed being with a friend. The ability to connect with old friends is easier but with the time difference, it might just be virtual rather than vocal. The virtual life that has its own comfort zone, therefore, talking to people at your convenience is one factor that makes it hard to connect in real.
“Me Time” philosophy lately has made everyone realize to spend time with themselves. This doesn’t only help you in maintaining a relationship with you but also encourage you to do some moments of self-reflection. And also in the busy grind when you want to breathe “Me Time” is what you can do at ease rather than coordinating and planning to meet up with pals. I am guilty of doing this but #donotregret it 🙂
But that being said, it doesn’t mean the effort should stop because of the above listed challenges. I will continue striving and put myself out there.
Can any other immigrant relate to this? What were your social challenges as you landed a new country?