When Claire moved abroad she realised the importance of keeping up close friendships from back home.
Thinking about my friends when I started writing this made me realise that, although I don’t have many really close ones, I do value them.
I am a fairly straightforward, black and white type person, so to me it is a no-brainer about how I keep in touch with them back in the UK – I simply do.
I want to know what is going on in their lives. I can’t share a lot of experiences with them, but for the important ones I try my best.
The motto, ‘to have a friend, you need to be a friend’ is one that rings true to me. I don’t believe you have to be in touch every week or month but some sort of regularity needs to be there or else you have no knowledge of each other’s daily lives to relate to.
When I first left England, I made a big effort to keep in touch with all my friends, but quickly realised that not everyone wanted to do the same. Over the years, friends have disappeared and I now have a small number of close friends. The erratic or unreliable ones have slipped away – I will make an effort to a point, but if I feel it is not being reciprocated then I stop.
I don’t return to the UK more than once a year as the journey isn’t straightforward and school holidays don’t necessarily tie in between the two countries, but I try my best to see my closest friends when I’m there – in fact I saw all but one when I was last back during the summer for a week.
It required a bit of organisation as they all live in different parts of southern England, but we managed it and, for me, it was well worth it. They in return have all been out to France and several of them came out for my 50th birthday this year, which was great. Coming from a small family and living in another country makes friendships even more important to me.
Round-robin newsletters are not my thing but emailing and phones conversations are. Even letter writing – yes, that old thing!
One of my English friends that I met when we worked together, moved to the States before I moved over here. We met up after 12 years this summer and she met my sons for the first time and I met her husband. We had kept in contact by letter over the years as we wanted to stay in touch and didn’t let the distance put us off.
It was fantastic to see her after all this time and we got on as well as ever, and that to me is proof of a great friendship. She made us so welcome and had my eldest cracking up at her mad humour, which is one of the things I have always loved about her. Just writing this about her is making me smile.
Making friends in France
Making friends over here is a different thing altogether. One doesn’t have a shared history and sometimes not the same cultural references. I have made most of my English speaking friends through the international women’s group and via Michelin, who my husband works for.
Quite a few new ‘friends’ have moved away, mainly for expatriations and some will return, like my Dutch neighbour who has been abroad and back once already and is on another expatriation now. We keep in touch by Skype and plan to meet up next summer in Holland when she comes back to visit family.
Another friend has been living in Australia for six years now but we write and email regularly and Skype when we can. Obviously it isn’t the same as seeing each other, but we both want to follow each other’s lives.