Friday, August 19, 2011

Meeting People

Meeting people as an expat hasn't been difficult; but meeting people who can make up for the fact that my best friends are thousands of miles away, has been. We've been in Istanbul exactly a year now, and believe it or not, I'm only now starting to feel settled. Of course that's mostly because I threw myself into my new job immediately upon arriving (and I feel very 'settled' there!); during my non-working hours I was busy being a mother. And so I devoted little time to my social life.

Yes, I socialized at work with colleagues; yes, I arranged play dates for my toddler and enjoyed coffee with the other mothers; yes, I joined an expat womens' association; and yes, I joined a book club. But in my thirties, I've noticed one doesn't usually become instant best friends the way one did as a teenager or even in one's twenties; in fact, I've found that as an expat, such friendships never end well. Drawn to each other out of loneliness and relief of recognizing a familiar accent, it usually takes a few weeks or months to realize you would never have been friends with this person back home -- and for good reason.

One needs time to let friendships develop. But who has that time? When you're working, mothering, navigating a city whose infrastructure is such that small errands take hours ... Come evening, you only just have the energy to take a hot shower, have a glass of wine and go to sleep, rather than head out to meet people for dinner.

But perhaps none of this is unique to expat life; I'm sure my friends in Toronto report similar exhaustion. The difference, presumably, is that they've got old friends nearby with whom they can pick up where they left off when they see them once every few months.

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