Craig note- I have seen more than a few dramas play out among expats over the years…more recently on social media. (Enjoy!)
I had the following exchange with a foreign coworker this week.
Coworker: What you don`t want them or something? (laughing)
Me: “No, I don`t need them.” (not laughing)
Coworker: You`re joking, right?
The question was “Do you need (expat) friends?” My coworker was shocked by my answer. But, he should not have been. As I told him:
“I`ve worked with you two years. And, you know NOTHING about me. I know little to nothing about you. And, I am perfectly fine with that.”
Now, you are thinking, “What an a$$hole!” You would not be the first one. And, you might even be right.
Trust me, so am I.
I have learned many, many, many things from my time in Japan. I have learned how to shut up. I have learned how to adapt. And, most important of all, I have learned how to keep my circle of friends very, very, very small.
It keeps my life drama free.
I am a super, super, super friendly person. And, I would help someone in a heartbeat without asking for anything in return. But, I am also the same person who after living in this building for five years knows the name of ONE neighbor. And, she is my mother-in-law.
In fact, I have not spoken to a neighbor in my building beyond “Good morning.” the entire time I have lived here. Trust me, other than the occasional PTA mother, nobody is ringing my doorbell either.
And, it`s great!
There have been exactly TWO foreigners who have been inside my condo. Every time those expats come to my home, I go above and beyond to show them a fantastic time. That`s the value of being called “my friend” in this life.
Those folks have been there for me 100% of the time (and I for them). But, as for many, many, many other expats over the years, well, not so much.
Expat Friendship Problems
A. 99% of them leave Japan.
B. Many, many, many of them work hard to make any relationship one-sided.
C. Some have so, so, so many problems and issues that one is more psychiatrist than real friend.
D. And, there is a very, very, very small group of foreigners who are interested in a true friendship. (This group I search hard for these days.)
I am old school. You don`t just get my friendship like a cheap beer from a 7-11. I learned a long, long, long time ago the perils of extending friendship too far and too fast. This is especially true in my dealings with foreigners living in Japan.
(BTW, don`t buy beer from a convenience store. It`s expensive.)
I count less than ten expats who I have encountered here in 12 years as “friends.” Those people who through their words, actions, and deeds have earned the right to be called, “my friend(s).” To be sure, “friendship” and “friendly” are different things for me.
Friendship to me is a very, very, very precious thing. We live in a world with Facebook, Twitter, and any number of social media platforms. It`s “friendship” at the click of a button. I am most happy to connect with new people, but “fast food” friendship I do not need.
Perhaps, that goes back to my childhood.
I grew up in a small, small, small town. Everybody was friends with everybody else. There was a genuine interest in true friendship. I still write or speak WEEKLY with several childhood pals. It was very, very, very easy to trust people. Unfortunately, we do not live in that world today.
I still long for true friendship (expat or otherwise). And, I think it is possible even through social media to become great, great, great friends with another person. But, for every genuine foreigner I encounter, I find 100 who seem intent on making no effort to develop a deeper relationship with me.
There is a part of me that feels like Abraham asking God to spare Sodom.
24 “Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city; will You indeed sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous who are in it?”
25 “Far be it from You to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous and the wicked are treated alike. Far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?”
26 So the LORD said, “If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare the whole place on their account.”…
These days I wonder if I could find even five foreigners in this area interested in true friendship.
Lately, I feel like a modern-day Lot. I cannot help but look back to the old days here and wonder if the destruction of the once grand expat community is at hand. Worse, I fear looking back too long as Lot`s wife did.
One supposes I, too, might turn into a pillar of (expat) salt.
Grey, Grizzled, and Gaijin
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“True friendship multiplies the good in life and divides its evils. Strive to have friends, for life without friends is like life on a desert island… to find one real friend in a lifetime is good fortune; to keep him is a blessing.”- Baltasar Gracian