Living abroad has changed my perspective on friendship, and it’s enriched my life with incredible people who I probably never would have crossed paths with, had I not ventured on this international adventure.
The first thing I’ve learned is that I can connect and form friendships with so many more types of people than I ever imagined.
When I was younger, I had a very specific idea of the kind of person that I would connect with as a friend. It was mostly subconscious, but the only people I saw as potential friends were those who shared my interests in spirituality, my political views, my interests, my parenting approach… etc. Basically I was gravitating towards people very similar to myself. This is probably natural in some way, and of course it’s wonderful to have friends who you have something significant in common with. But I was missing out on so much….
I’ve now discovered that I can connect with so many more people than I ever imagined. I’ve become friends with people from dozens of countries and backgrounds, with so many different life experiences and stories. In addition to people from the cultures I’ve lived in, I’ve connected with such a diverse range of people. Muslims and Orthodox Jews. Israelis. People from Turkey, Nepal, Russia, Jamaica, Portugal, France, Italy, Germany, Venezuela, Brazil, Canada, Mexico, China, the Philippines, New Zealand, many countries in Africa and Eastern Europe, and more. People from countless different professions, ethnic backgrounds, socio-economic experiences, sexual orientations, and gender identities. In fact, now the more different someone is from me, the more intrigued I am to get to know and understand them.
The interesting thing is that no matter how different someone may seem on the surface, we all have a shared humanity that I find actually makes it possible to connect with anyone. I don’t feel that differences are a barrier anymore, but actually an opportunity for discovery.
The second thing I’ve learned is to be intentional in choosing my friendships. Though this may seem contradictory to the first point, I actually see it as a “both/and.” I love feeling open to connect with and get to know everyone, but I also feel it’s important to intentionally bring friendships into our lives with people we feel most energetically drawn to, especially for the friends we spend the most time with.
When I was younger and I came across someone who I felt interested in getting to know, I often felt shy or intimidated to reach out and “make the first move.” So instead of initiating friendships with people that interested me, I ended up spending a lot of time in friendships that happened by circumstance or were initiated by the other person. Though all friendships are valuable, my most transformative and powerful experiences of friendship were the ones with people that I felt energetically pulled to and took the risk to reach out to and initiate. When we don’t do that, I feel we’re missing out on incredible opportunities for connection. It probably took growing in confidence over the years to feel more comfortable with this, and it gets easier each time I do it!
My friendships since moving abroad have ended up enriching my life immensely and I feel so grateful that I’ve opened up my possibilities for connection in the ways that I have. It’s been a privilege to have encountered the many amazing people that I have in my journey, and I can’t wait to see what beautiful souls will come into my life around the next corner.
Shannon Jones, founder of Thriving Relocation, works with relocating partners around the world to build thriving lives in new places. Originally from California, she has relocated with her partner and family to four different countries over the past twelve years, and is currently thriving in London. She’s a certified life coach, relocation expert, and member of Families in Global Transition.