Sometimes I do feel a bit lost in this world. Where do we fit in? Family so far away... friends come and go.
Being an expat isn't easy and being an expat for the last 6 years means that we have lost touch with a lot of our friends from our home country. We have many we are still in contact with and see when we visit Australia every year - BUT it isn't the same as being around them on a regular basis. I think a big aspect of it as well is that WE have changed. Our lives have significantly changed since moving overseas. We now not only have 2 children but we have experienced and seen things that we would never have had the opportunity to do or learn about had we stayed in Australia. We have less things in common with many of them.
A friend who had traveled a lot once gave me this piece of advice before we started traveling and it has stuck with me ever since-
Don't expect that people will want to see your photos or understand what you are talking about or your excitement. Carry around a few photos with you when you come back and only bother to show and talk about them to those who ask to see them. A lot of my friends sat through photos out of politeness and I soon learnt that people really weren't genuinely interested unless they asked me about my travels and wanted to see pics.
I found that my friend was soo right. I could see the glazed over look that people got when they had tuned out of listening to our adventures. So now I don't even carry photos around or even talk about it much - But I suppose I have facebook etc to thank for that now as it is the perfect way to make photos available to those who want to look at them and comment - and they can pick and choose (they don't have to sit through the whole 200+ photos!!).
Another aspect that impacts on expat friendships is the transient nature of the community. You make friends - they leave, you make friends - you leave! I left behind a great lot of friends in Frankfurt and I really miss that. They were supportive, non judgmental and jealousy did not exist. However Frankfurt has a large expat community.
I have found that living here the expat community is far more fish bowl in nature. Your friends are often your colleagues and you are "forced" into friendships that are superficial. Many of the people we become friends with we would never have mixed with had we been in Aus. That's not to say all are like this... or this is the norm - I just mean it is more prominent in a smaller expat community. I have really pushed myself to make friends out of our workplace. I do not like "fake" friendships or those that are only friends with you when it is convenient or they want something! I don't "need" to have friends that are in my pocket all the time - so I would rather have genuine friendships.
So that leads me back to where do we fit in... I really don't know - I suppose there is somewhere out there that we will feel like we really fit in... perhaps it's all a matter of timing.
But it has lead us to start asking questions like - Do we want to return home... not really. Move on to somewhere else... well yes in a way for some reasons. Or stay here... well yes I have made some great friends here and the lifestyle is great - so perhaps it's all about perseverance.