Totally Frenched Out

From the blogger formerly known as Samdebretagne

Friday, October 10, 2008

Friends by circumstance?

This is a post I've started and then stopped for almost a month now, unable to find the words to fully express what I wanted to say. And it's definitely something I've often considered over the years, having gone through cycle after cycle of assistant friends in Bretagne. While I enjoyed meeting *most* of the people I've met during my five years there, there was only a small handful of people that I think I would've been friends with back home in MN. And then last night, I was thinking about my wonderful Parisian friends - there are so many that would never have traveled in the same circle as me back "home", that I never would have met had I stayed in Minnesota, yet I'm so lucky to have them.

But I've met people who've tended to discount these "friends by circumstance" friendships, as if they hold less weight than their so-called "real" friendships from back home. I acknowledge that it's true that people, when thrown into unfamiliar situations, normally tend navigate towards the familiar - hence all the expat blogs, groups, meet-ups, etc. It happens all over the world, no matter which language you speak or what country you live in. But does that mean these friendships are any less important? Or that these people are any less your friend? Not in my opinion. My new friends come from all walks of life, from several different countries, from very different backgrounds than my own, and I love them for it. I'm still not being as clear as I wanted to be, but all I know is that I'm a long way from cookie-cutter Scandinavian-filled Minnesota of my youth, but my life is so much richer because of it.



Blogger MISS YURI said...

i've been thinking about this, too! i don't think that you, alisa, and leah (hi ladies!) would naturally have met and hung out with me in the u.s. but i really enjoy all of you!!! it's awesome to have friends who don't always see things the same way as you do but who have complementary personalities.

October 10, 2008 at 1:00 PM  
Blogger misplaced texan said...

I was just chatting with a classmate about this yesterday. So far, I haven't come across anyone that I've met here that I would discount as a friend. I agree, the personalities of my friends here are really so much different than my friends at home, but for me, it doesn't make the friendship any less spectacular. Having so much in common as a foreigner here, I think, is enough to build a lasting friendship from. And, I'm so happy for having found y'all!

October 10, 2008 at 1:55 PM  
Blogger Emily Marie said...

Haha, I think about this all the time! It's cool that familiarity and similar experiences can draw people together who normally wouldn't have met or hung out. I think it's good to experience new groups of friends outside your "normal" social circle. You know, change things up a bit. That's what life is all people, new friends, new experiences. And thank god for the internet, I'd be quite friendless if it weren't for blogs!!

October 10, 2008 at 2:03 PM  
Blogger Antipo Déesse said...

You are a poet!

October 10, 2008 at 2:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i grew up being, and with, expat(s). filthy work, but somebody has to do it. diversity is heaven (and, come to think of it, vice versa). enjoy!

October 10, 2008 at 4:31 PM  
Blogger from cali said...

Aren't all friendships sort of "friends by circumstance?" The people back home you met due to the circumstance of where you lived, the same with friends from school or work. A shared experience can form a strong bond or not!

October 10, 2008 at 5:24 PM  
Blogger eastcoastsnob said...

It reminded me of a connection I made with someone during my assitantship and considered him a good friend. I thought we shared a connection and when he would say things like "oh I'm just using you guys (us assistants) for your friendship" I thought he was kidding. But it turned out he wasn't. After a few months he met people he really considered true friends and stopped talking to me (and others) only contacting me when he had no other choice. It was a sad set of events that led to me just saying "oh well". I'm curious to know what happened for your create this post.

October 10, 2008 at 5:54 PM  
Blogger Anglofille said...

I'm in a situation, as a student and an expat, where I meet a lot of different people, many of whom move on quickly to other places, as students and expats often do. In my experience, the vast majority of these people have viewed me as disposable -- I'm a friend by circumstance and once their circumstance changes, they simply move on and forget I existed. I've invested time in "friendships" with people, thinking they were real friendships but then I learned otherwise. So I am being much more careful now about the effort I make in being friends with people. This is something that has been on my mind a lot lately!

October 10, 2008 at 7:05 PM  
Blogger Our Juicy Life said...

I think it's wonderful, what a great experience to meet people and allow them in your life even though you might not be freinds with them in the US..that doesn't matter, your not in the US, you are in France and a different person. Most people will never have the experience that you and all of us are having by living in a foreign country, embrace it and love your new freinds, who probably will be friends for life.

October 10, 2008 at 7:36 PM  
Blogger TreeFeathers said...

I think "from cali" summed it up really well. All friend are friends of circumstance, one way or another. Just be happy that you have such an exciting variety of circumstances in your life that gives you the chance to meet so many kinds of people!

October 10, 2008 at 8:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't really get your post...

Cos if someone was friends with someone, whether it be by circumstances or not, and were good friends...then they would just be normal friends regardless right? But if someone was just hanging out with someone for the sake of not being alone well then that's not really a true friendship so the person that refrains from that isn't exactly doing a bad thing? It's kind of the same that you wouldn't hang out with people back home you don't like. Why would you do that because you're in a foreign country?

I've met two people 'by circumstances' that I would totally and absolutely be friends with back home. But if you do meet by circumstances but wouldn't be friends back home then whats the point if you catch my drift? I've always felt it's better to be alone than in a group of people who don't click with, because it's usually the fastest way to make you feel more lonely that way!

October 10, 2008 at 10:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh sorry, I think I misread your post...

I reckon when you actually do find people you click with abroad the friendships are even more dear to you because you feel like you had a chance in a million in meeting!

October 10, 2008 at 10:58 PM  
Blogger Eileen said...

Living abroad and making friends in France changed a lot of the way I view friendships, kind of to the opposite degree of what you're talking about. You never know when you might run into someone again or when they might the only person around who you know. When I left France a lot of my friends were leaving too and I tried to make it clear that I didn't think that that meant the friendships were fleeting.

But I guess it also depends on your luck. I met some great people abroad. And I learned how to click with more kinds of people than before. But I really can't say either way whether I would have been friends with them back home because I was a different person then and I was looking for different things...

I think if someone gets the sense from you that you don't automatically consider them a temporary friend, then they may reciprocate. That has been my experience anyway.

October 11, 2008 at 1:08 AM  
Blogger Leesa said...

Hi Sam,

I have a lot to say on this matter... I am sooo thankful for all of my wonderful friends here in France and also... in Europe... The people I'm friends with here are the kind of friends I'd be friends with at home, we're all kind of alike in one way or another.. at least-- we're all non-smokers!! (Heheheh). I've always had people (friends) coming and going - some friends I've had since childhood and others, I've just randomly met at some coffee shop in my town (back in San Diego). But the thing that really draws me to my American friends (or Anglophone, rather) is that I had really NO friends at all when I first got here.. other than good friends who lived in other parts of France... Anais was my very first "friend" here in Paris and we met on Myspace about 6 months before I got to France.. I am sooo thankful for my friends here.. I can't tell you... Sometimes, I feel closer and more "sister-like with my friends here than back in the States... It just depends on the person.. But, there are most definitely VERY cool expats/French people living in Dept. 92/75 whom I would not have met if not just by chance... Heck .... I even met my hubby by "chance..." Call that luck, destiny, what you will..
I like to think of the poem that goes around the internet via email from time to time...
Friends for a Season... It's so true...
We're just so blessed to know many, many nice people that we like to be around.

October 11, 2008 at 7:42 AM  
Blogger Leah said...

This is something I think about a lot too(hi back at ya, Yurster!) But as someone else mentioned above, I'm a different person now than I was back in the states. Some of what I look for in friends has changed, ie certain things are more or less important than before. It's true that the majority of my friends here are very different from my friends "back home", but a lot that is because my friends back home never could be my friends in France. They just would never be here in the first place. Does that make sense?

October 11, 2008 at 5:27 PM  
Blogger Alisa said...

that's funny because i came back here to post a comment and found that leah had written exactly what i was feeling! (hi leah and yuri!)
you're definitely not the same person you were 7 years ago, so of course you wouldn't have the same kinds of friends here as you would in minnesota. likewise, maybe you've drifted apart from some of your friends there because of those changes.
i like the fact that i have such a mix of friends - people that i met from all over, but i have something in common with each of them. whether it be that we were both living abroad, we both liked french, we both liked the same music, had the same friends, etc. so i also kind of agree that the 'friends by circumstance' is irrelevant, because all friendships are like that, really.
but, i'm glad i was one of the randoms you met and became friends with :)

October 12, 2008 at 3:27 AM  
Blogger misschris said...

Interesting post Sam. I think that the friends you meet as expats are kind of like war buddies. It doesn't matter that you're from all different backgrounds and ages because you see the world differently together and that makes an instant bond.

Afterwards I think there are two kinds of expat friendships--one you meet and go through the whole "what do you think about living here..." thing and then you sort of have nothing else to say to each other, and then there are the friendships that you get beyond all that and you stay friends. I have drifted through a lot of friendships while living here and the deepest ones were ones where I had a little bit more in common with the people than just a "hey speak English too!" thing.

Friendships also take lots of work too and those friends where I made an effort to keep in touch here and sent cards and celebrated birthdays and such have been the deepest. I move a lot so this hasn't been easy!

As for back home I don't really fit in that much back home with old friends. I have maybe one close friend who still gets me but she travels a lot and has a pretty big world view so I think maybe that's why. Most people I click with back home have lived in Europe or traveled to France a lot.

October 14, 2008 at 10:43 AM  
Blogger Quantumhollapena said...

This is from a while ago, but I'm still catching up so I'll comment anyway...

I totally hear what you're saying. I've felt that way several times in my life, and mostly when I was traveling alone around the world somewhere. Especially when I was in Australia. Even College is a lot like that bc every year you've got new friends (even if they're added to the same group) and every year people graduated and left, lots of which I haven't seen since. However, I cherish every friendship I've made in my day and try to do my best to keep in contact with those I felt closest to. I tend to be a bit bad at that, but I still think of everyone often and dearly. You included, Sam! I miss you!

March 30, 2009 at 9:18 PM  

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