Article by Charlie Hartmann
Learning to live with saying goodbye as others move on is never easy, but that should not stop us from making friendships to begin with.
When we were in the full throes of our expat lives, I remember going to a party in Frankfurt and spending a very pleasant hour talking to a localized international resident. At the end of the party I suggested we meet up again in the coming week to which she replied: “You seem like a very nice person, but you will be gone in a couple of years and I will be left heartbroken again.” At the time I found her comment odd to say the least, but having now become a local myself I can see her point of view.
When signing up for the expat life you know that the coming years will be about the temporary: temporary homes, temporary lives, temporary roles at work and temporary friendships. Somehow though, with all the excitement of the upcoming destination and the settling down in new places I was never too heartbroken to be leaving. Each new place was an adventure, with a new culture, new destinations to discover, new friendships to be made and, then, left behind (although thanks to the internet we rarely completely lost touch) as I travelled onto another adventure.
Now that I have finally put my roots down, I am on the receiving end of the goodbyes and I think back to that lady who refused to start a friendship.
The local internationals are the people who welcome newcomers into their lives, who do their best to make their life easier by sharing the insider tips to their new home. They are the ones who reassure temporary residents about the locals quirkiness and try to give them an insight into the way things are done here. Friendships are formed, bonds forged until, invariably, the temporary resident receives the call to move onto the next destination leaving the locals heartbroken, facing a friendship void that is hard to fill.
Since I settled in Lucerne there have been too many goodbyes for me to count, too many friendships that have sometimes entered the “long distance relationship” phase and other times have just fizzled out. Some departures have cut deeper than others but I don’t regret having made friends with any of those temporary residents. Having let them into my life and shared my time with them thus creating unforgettable memories. I may have started off being the giver, but I got so much in return. In some cases lifelong friendships that I know will survive distance. I sometimes think back to that lady in Frankfurt trying to protect herself from heartbreak, I find it sad that she was too scared of being hurt to enjoy the moment.
I wish I had stayed in touch with her so that I may say to her:
“Life is a constant turmoil, people’s circumstances change, friendships come and go even in a settled life, so make the most of every moment. If you think that you will enjoy a person’s company don’t shut them out because they will probably move on. Who knows what life has in store for any of us. Carpe Diem!”