The story of my experiences making friends in a new country, continued from Part 3.
If you missed it, you can start here at Part 1.
Along the way of meeting people and making friends in a new country, I’ve encountered situations where differences have shown themselves: differences between types of social activities and ways people like to socialize; differences in the ways people relate to the local culture and the effort they make to be aware of, respect and adapt to it; differences in the ways people treat their own intimate relationships; and differences in the ways people wish to see the world, the degree to which they want to try new things or not, the degree to which they are okay being at the edge of their comfort zone.
Certainly, you say, differences are to be expected because, after all, we are all unique, right?
This is true, but for me it is a new set of experiences. I wonder if, when you are making friends with people in school or through work, you tend to not notice the differences so easily simply because you start out with so much in common.
Maybe seeing the differences more clearly from the start makes building friends from scratch more of a challenge. Maybe this challenge ensures that once those friendships are cast, they are more lasting.
For example, you can compare friends made in school with bricks made from clay. A freshly made brick can still easily disintegrate. It can also easily be reformed and even disintegrate again. But the effects of heat, time and pressure harden the bricks into a foundation for your life that weathers the decades well. So it is with friends we make in school and work and, in general, our childhood.
Compare friends made from scratch in a new country to blocks carved from stone. Initially, it is difficult to see the shape of the block within the stone. The process of learning about the things you have in common with the person is akin to the labor needed to chisel the block to size. This additional effort in initial construction creates something that is a good fit for the ages, just as the stones in the Great Pyramids lock together so smoothly.
In the end, I wonder when the point is that I will see these people that I’ve met here in the same way that I view the friends I left behind. Will there be a point where I realize that I’m just as close to them as I am with my friends of old? Will it just happen gradually? Will there be some people for whom that point never comes?
Maybe it is simply a matter of not letting go. Perhaps in some recess of my mind I don’t see this as my new home (although I think I do) and am hesitant to see these new people in the same way as I see my old friends for fear that it means that I’ll have to let go of my old friends.
As I said at the beginning, this is a new experience for me. The first time in my life having to do this totally from scratch and as such, it gives me an opportunity to look at myself more closely, an opportunity to be observant of my thoughts and feelings rather than to let them happen without reflection.
Ultimately, maybe I am worrying too much about a process that will manage to sort itself out as all things in nature do. Perhaps I should adopt a Buddhist mindset: treat others with compassion and kindness and don’t worry about who is a friend and who isn’t, right? After all, the Thais say that the problem with farang is that we think too much.
I hope you enjoyed this series and I invite your thoughts and comments.