Making friends as an Expat

As an expat living in Abu Dhabi, it is easy to meet like-minded people. Let’s face it, we have all got a similar situation whereby we have uprooted our lives to start a new adventure in a foreign country. As such, the majority of expatriates are looking for friendships, for people they can connect to. To do this, expats must find the courage to socialize and say hello to complete strangers.

For the hubster and I, we were fortunate to find a real estate agent who gave us connections to expat events through the likes of groups such as Internations and Meetup. A couple which we have caught up regularly with for the past year are our closest friends here, however in reality, there is a general feeling that once one of us leave the country, we will go our separate ways.

This couple has recently been married and celebrated their 1st wedding anniversary a few months ago. It also happened to be a very constraining time for them and somehow I got caught in the middle with both the husband and the wife talking to me separately about their issues. Experience has taught me NEVER EVER to take sides when this occurs, to simply be a sounding board. Responses such as “I can see how you would find that difficult” are generally very safe. But it is best to smile where required, nod every now and then or ask them to tell you more about their feelings and thoughts. At the end of it, they will thank you for just being there and you can rest assured that you will still have the friendship afterwards.

The wife in this couple however tends to grate on my nerves every now and then. She has very little respect for wait-staff and the nationals living in Abu Dhabi and from time to time will become very obnoxious – particularly when she starts having too much to drink. She also likes to push my buttons, such as when I decided to fast with my Muslim colleagues as part of their Ramadan festivities and when I decided to give up the booze. The one thing that stands out for me about this woman is that she has a history of using people to her own advantage.

I have had my fair share of users in my life and automatically my ‘user antennae’ starts sending me warning sides, ensuring that I do not allow for it to happen again. The hubster on the other hand, has had a very ‘peachy’ life and is still naive when it comes to the conniving ways of the human race. She has already ‘used’ my husband to land a cushy job in his organisation (actually in his department) even though she is not suitably experienced and qualified for the role AND she is now ‘using’ this connection to guarantee time off work in her first month of starting the new role.

Under normal circumstances, there would be very little chance that I would continue catching up with this woman to the extent that we currently do. I absolutely adore her husband, but because of her personality, contact would ordinarily be limited.

Unfortunately there is a very transient attitude to expats, making it difficult to build close friendships. Work provides some opportunities, but as I am now experiencing, these friendships too are limited as people move on. I have in the space of a year already lost three close colleagues.

I love my close friends, I really do. Unfortunately all of my close friends currently live in Australia. I wonder if the hubster and I will make close friends in Abu Dhabi before we too head off. I also wonder where these close friends will come from.

Who knows….