Monday, December 27, 2004

Lonesome when you go 

Sometimes I hate being abroad. Most of the best friends I have I made at college about 10 or 15 years ago. Bloody hell, now I feel old. Anyway, out of 8 or 9 weddings, I have been at 3 - including mine; and precisely one stag do, not including mine, which I do vaguely remember being at. The final wedding of this generation is coming up in May, and it would take a lot to stop me being there, but the fact that it will leave my strike rate well under 50% is a sobering thought. These are the things that you know will hurt when you go. The first answer to the question “what do you miss” is always “friends”. Email conversations and digital photos are nice, but a sorry substitute for being there. The great occasions that I have managed to get to have been some of the most enjoyable events of my life, and to have missed so many is an incalculable cost of expat-hood. Apart from anything else, there are about a dozen kids of friends that I have never seen in the flesh.

This blog has become a rather public way of keeping in touch with some friends, although there is a surprising number of people I have never met who read it. The possibility that my mother may one day find it also acts as a slight (very slight) damper on my ethereal mumblings. So here’s my advice to expats, or putative ones. Make sure that you can afford to get home regularly, and at the drop of a hat if necessary. Move somewhere that is attractive for people to visit, and you will find that they come and stay, and your relationship evolves in a way that it never would if you lived two hours up the M1. Recognise the emotional costs – you will find out which friendships survive the test of distance and infrequent contact, and may even find that some benefit from it.

Finally, once you take the plunge, you’re buggered. Having spent any time somewhere else you will have ties: friends and other bonds that will tug at you when you go home again. You’d better get used to being homesick.

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