One of the best things about a city like London is how international it's residents are; it's an incredibly dynamic city made up of people from all corners of the world. When you live abroad, it's important to become friends with people from your adopted country - after all, you did move there for a reason! - but it's equally important to make connections with other expats.
I've somehow managed to reel in a group of twenty-something Aussies who, like me, packed up and moved to London. I don't really know how to describe them other than to say that they are an adventurous, inviting, supportive and hysterically sarcastic group of people that I feel lucky to call my friends. Our WhatsApp group description probably sums them up best:
'A group of dysfunctional Aussies who accidentally got on a plane to London instead of Brisbane and their token American friend (that's me!), now 30% Aussie), who decided to huddle together as a means of survival and drinking in excess without going bankrupt.'
In the span of just a few months they have had a positive impact on my life and it got me thinking about the benefits of international friendships.
1. They encourage discovery
When you become friends with people from other countries you have a unique opportunity to open your eyes and learn about new cultures.
You get to hear stories from your friends of cities that you've never visited and lands you've never seen. You learn about what life is like and can talk with each other for hours about the similarities and differences between where you're both from and also to your adopted home. You might also travel and experience new cultures together, broadening your view of the world and challenging your perceptions of it.
Incredible things happen when you find people with the same taste for adventure and discovery and passion for new beginnings.
Together you can discover more about yourselves and others than you ever thought possible.
2. They provide a sense of belonging
When you meet fellow expats it feels the same as if you'd randomly met someone who went to your University or supports the same football (American or otherwise) team as you. There's an instant connection - a mutual understanding and common ground between you.
Because they either have felt, or are feeling, all of the same things you are and you can take comfort in knowing that you are understood.
Quite simply, they get it!
When living abroad it's easy to feel like you don't really belong anywhere, but you can belong to each other. You have a network of people that can provide support when you need it and who allow you to be who you are without fear of rejection.
Suddenly you 'fit' again.
3. They give you memories to last a lifetime
Your friendships won't stay the same forever; some of your friends will move back home, move elsewhere, or make the decision to stay.
Even though the friendships may change, you will always share the memories that you made together. Someday you'll tell your own families about the friends you made while you lived abroad and the adventures you had. If you're lucky, you'll still be in touch.
This is the beauty of international friendships.
They're not bound by borders or places, they're bound by the bond between you.
The friendships you make while living abroad are special. One of the girls in our group, Emma, tells us at least twice (minimum) each time we see each other how happy she is we're friends. We tease her about it often, but I think I can say that we all feel the same way.
I am so grateful to each and every one of the amazing friendships I've made in the last year. How have you found making international friends? Leave a comment below if you can relate!