Finding the Right Words: Cultivating No-Fear Friendships In Your Expat Life

Diverse, international women friends drinking coffee together and laughing.

Do I have to do this AGAIN?

I sometimes hear that expat life is a lonely life; that our relationships remain on the surface and that the constant moving leaves us longing, but unable to fulfill, something deeper and more constant in our friendships.

I see it sometimes. The endless coffees and wine nights, networking events and school activities – where you see the same people over and over again, engage in the same conversations, but never quite feel that you’ve moved beyond the necessary pleasantries.

I suppose these points are true. Yet, I know for certain that the reality is more complex. Neither common wisdom nor observation can override my belief that our relationships are, or have the potential to be, so much deeper than what people assume. Maybe even so much more alive then we give ourselves the value of believing.

I don’t want to oversimplify how very difficult it can feel at times to create new friendships when you’ve moved to a new place. It’s not just about building new relationships either; we carry the baggage of the friendships we’ve left behind with us too. We’re grieving what we’ve lost while also trying to build something new from what may feel like ruins. Even when we don’t want to, we compare the new faces with the old ones wondering if we can really create another bond that will survive the miles.

Intentionality is key to forging expat friendships.

Yet, research on the importance of strong friendships in our overall health is quite clear. Even when we find it difficult to build relationships, the task remains essential to our survival.

I’ve written before about practical tools the most adaptable expats seems to use in their quest to forge strong, deep, no-fear friendships, but there’s something I don’t talk about in this previous post, that I’ve been thinking about lately. I think another key to cultivating relationships without fear of loss, free from the worry of misunderstanding or confusion, and open to the possibility of pain alongside love, is about engaging intentionally. And, that means being able to be clear from the beginning about how you want to engage within new friendships.

What words guide you on the sometimes bumpy road of expat friendships?

We can do that by identifying words that inspire and motivate our quest for deeper relationships. In my own life, I’ve always found that having a set of words to guide my path serves me like a lighthouse. In a moment of fear or uncertainty, I can pause and call to mind the words that define how I want to engage. In doing so, I’m emboldened to step back when I need to or to take a giant leap forward into something that could be life changing.

If you were to choose a word to guide you as you build friendships, what would it be? What would you choose as your friend-making mantra? What would be your motto?

Would your word be LOVE? Would you choose to ask again and again – How can I show this person I love them? When we engage with love we see the person in front of us as worthy of our embrace, our attention and our acceptance. Loving someone also means we love ourselves enough to share the overflow of our hearts with another human. Love is limitless and brimming. What would it be like if this were your word?

Perhaps your word would be COURAGE. When we’re courageous in our relationships we pursue them despite the inner critic that tells us maybe we’re not good enough. We see and then lay to rest the stories that say – She won’t have time. She won’t really want my company. Courage takes moving past the false rules we learned about friendship in middle school and accepting the more grown up rules of friendship we now know to be true.

Your word might be LISTENING. When you listen you turn towards the sound of your heart so that you can hear what it most needs. You accept that there are certain types of friendships you most grow from in your expat life and you pursue those, unapologetically. To listen is also to hear the laughter and the tears, the fears and the excitement of your newfound friends. Listening then becomes mutual and life sustaining. It flows both ways.

GENEROSITY might be the word that most guides your quest to find friendship in your around-the-world-life. Your giving spirit may come alive in knowing that you can make someone’s day with a simple gesture or an open home. Your smile and even your tears could be the exact gift your nomad friends need. Generosity is a place you can come home to. It becomes a way of being for which the return is multiplied over and over.

These are a few suggestions, but there could be so many more!

What have I left out? What word could guide and define the way you pursue and build relationships? When you’re in a friendship rut or grieving the relationships you’ve had to leave behind, how could using a mantra bring you back into awareness of what feels right?

What words would you use?

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