Oasis Magazine Articles

When Your Friends Move Away

April 25, 2012

It’s hard for those who stay here year after year, watching their expat friends come and go. After the summer, when school is back in session, it is obvious that there is something missing - their old circle of friends! 

 Saying Goodbye

It’s never easy to say goodbye to your confidant, your partner in crime, your stand-in spouse, your encourager, or your texting buddy. The lasting bonds that are created while living overseas are some of the strongest we will ever encounter. This is because of the situations we are in when building the friendships. It may never be the same after moving, but there will always be a connection between you that cannot be broken. 

You are still here with the day-to-day life and left missing your friend. It’s important to start the transition by saying a proper goodbye. You know how to do this, I am sure you have been doing it for years. Making special time with the person, giving a special gift as they go, telling them what they have added to your life and actually acknowledging that you will be sad once they move. 

 Mourn the Move

Sure, you can pretend for a while that they will be coming back, but eventually the realization sets in that they are gone. It is a loss and it deserves a bit of attention. Don’t push it away or stuff it down. Doing that might make it worse. Allow yourself to experience being sad, angry and even lonely. Write about it, talk to others or cry if needed to get it out. The bonds are strong here and sometimes having that person close to you move leaves a large void.

Continuing the Relationship

Although your relationship is likely to change when the move takes place, there will still continue to be a bond there. Some expat friendships find it hard to stay connected through the change. Of course Facebook, email, Skype and phone calls can help. You never know when or where you might have the opportunity to get together. Often friends move some place closer to you or they are in town for a visit. My favorite instance was a chance meeting with a friend in an airport. If possible, try to get together for a reunion. I just met up with some women from Cairo and it was wonderful. Just listening to their experiences since Egypt and sharing memories from while we were there together was amazing.

Attitude is Everything

The really hard part is figuring out how you want to move on.  It can often feel overly difficult to start building relationships with new people. Some of you that have lived in Egypt for a long time have disengaged from even trying to meet the “newbies.” It can be frustrating to put all of this energy into these friendships and then have people move away. You may start to feel like you have “been there and done that.” To the long-term expat it seems like so much work to reach out to new people. Of course that is one way to look at it. There are other attitudes to approach the situation though. One possible attitude might be to consider this as an opportunity to “Start Fresh.” A chance to change some of the relationship patterns you have fallen into in the past. For example, you might feel like you put more into relationships than you get out of them. This is your chance to set the boundaries with the new relationship that can help change the role you take on. Another approach might be that this “New Blood” or “New Energy” can keep you energized about life here. Seeing things from the newcomer’s eyes can be similar to seeing things through a child’s eyes (not that they are children but they are looking at things for the first time). It can help remind you of what you love about being here. It can even help you see new things that you haven’t seen before even if you have “been there and done that.” Perhaps you could approach the new friends from the perspective of “What Do I Have to Lose?” If you know that people will eventually move on, you can connect with them, have a good time and not worry about what will happen when they leave.  Another perspective could be “Look in My Backyard.” We often assume that when our friends move on, we have to develop relationships with people who just moved here. What about connecting with other expats that have been and will be in Egypt for a while? This may mean reaching out to different groups than you have in the past. You could start to network with people through social clubs, visiting different night life areas or reaching out to someone you have seen around all these years, but for whatever reason, never ran in the same circles. These are just ideas to approaching the situation from different perspectives. I am sure you can come up with one that fits best for you.

 Ask Yourself Powerful Questions

What do you really want from your life here in Egypt? Do a check on the goals and values that are important to you and the way that you are currently living to them. Do you need a change? If so what do you want instead? Does letting new people into your life honor your values of friendship, creativity, challenge, adventure, curiosity or continued learning? What type of energy or role models do you want to bring into your life, right now?  What is your level of satisfaction with the friends who are still here? If you are satisfied with the people you have in your life maybe you don’t have to reach as far out. If you are not satisfied and feel you want more, then you should look to cultivating new relationships. 

 As They Go

So these next few months as people move, do your best to honor the relationships you have made, but also take time to find out what you want next. Try a different perspective towards building friendships. Consider the parts of your life that need attention and investigate what you can do to help increase your level of satisfaction in these areas. I look forward to hearing how it goes.  


 Heather Ramsey, MA CPCC PCC with The Coach 4 Me, LLC (www.thecoach4me.com) is a certified professional coach with both a business and counseling background. Many of Heather’s clients are accompanying spouses or single women who are looking to get the most out of their careers as well as their overseas experience. She partners with them to create a vision of what they want and then provides the support and accountability necessary to bring that vision to life.

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