About a bitter-sweet international friendship and what can we learn from it

The world is getting smaller and smaller, people more and more mobile. Personally I love meeting people from other countries. There’s nothing more interesting than an evening in an international company with beer and talks. We can teach each other things in our languages, laugh at how some words sound, tell “how is it in my country” and compare to “how it is in your country”. There is always some interesting result from such talks, we can notice some cultural differences, share different opinions, beliefs and general view of the world. Some of these acquaintances are very brief, just a nice time together, a chat, broadening each others’ horizons and everyone goes his own way. And sometimes the acquaintance changes into a life-long friendship. And that is amazing, however it has its downside as well.

Sweet side of international friendships

1. Getting to know each others’ cultures and customs.

Before I started meeting people from abroad I didn’t realize how different we can be in some basics. Something which seems obvious to me can turn out to be totally weird or funny for someone else.

Example 1
Where: Train station, Saint Petersburg, Russia
Situation: we want to buy train tickets to Moscow
Who: Kseniya, a Russian who was taking care of our group: a Polish, an Italian and a Brazilian.
K: – Ok guys, give me your passports and I’ll buy these tickets for you
-But why passports, we don’t have them with us
-We won’t buy intercity train tickets without passports
And we didn’t buy the tickets that day because it really is impossible without your passport… So weird for me!

Example 2:
Situation: An Italian looks through my passport and pays attention to my parents’ names.
-What’s your mum’s surname?
– But that’s the same as yours
– Mhm
– So what’s your dad’s surname?
– Also Mxxxx, why?
– It’s a coincidence that they have the same surname?
– Hmmmm, no, my mum changed it after getting married?
– ????????

This way I got to know that Italian women in general don’t change their surnames after marriage, but keep their original one and then a child usually gets father’s surname. In Poland it’s almost a rule that woman changes her surname into her husband’s one.

2. Language practice.

International friendships are a perfect opportunity to improve your level of English if it’s not your mother tongue. Especially if both people are not native English speakers, then we don’t have to be ashamed of mistakes, but we can help each other out. Sometimes it can get quite funny if you want to use a word which is not known neither you nor the person you’re talking to… Try to explain someone that your car had a hole it the muffler – if you don’t know the word muffler…
“It had a hole in this… thing that keeps the car silent… and when it had a hole it wasn’t silent anymore and it was making a noise like WRRRRRRRRRRR, you know, like a racing car…” 🙂

3. Visiting each other and getting to know new places with a local.

It’s fantastic that somewhere in the world there is a house in which we are always welcome. We can get to know everyday life in the country, we can see the surrounding with the best guide we can imagine, a person who has lived there since forever.

4. Getting to know each other’s countries history and differences in education

Situation: Polish-French playful talk about Polish-French relations
-And why didn’t France help Poland after the outbreak of WWII?
-Because Poland gave up after few days and France didn’t manage to do anything
-Hmmmm Poland never gave up in this war.
– Hmmmmmm.
It ended up with teaching each other our countires’ history. At least now I remember why they are celebrating on the 14thJuly… 🙂

Bitter side of international friendships

There is just one. At some point there comes the moment when we have to say goodbye. And usually it’s not known for how long this time, half a year, a year, a year and a half… it’s only clear that definitely for too long 🙂 And airports, bus and train stations become the saddest places in the world.

But you know what?

It’s worth it. Because in this half a year, a year or year and a half they will become fantastic ones again 🙂

And what are your experiences with international friendships? Let me know 🙂

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  • Renata Cieślak

    Pretty much true. I stay permanently in India from 2013 and I can understand how meeting new people and saying good byes may be mentally exhausting, especially for those who has short term visas/contracts/other commitments. Emotional roller coaster.

    On the other hand, from year to year, from each new rented flat in new place or city, I also noticed it’s getting more and more difficult to make friends, to trust people and to open up for each and every one. Some connections cannot even make it through online trial period… just dying day by day if not maintained, if efforts are not put from both sides…

    • Hi Renata, thanks for your thoughts. I agree it is difficult to make long-term friendships if people come and go very soon. You need time to develop the trust and understand if you want this person in your life permanently. I have one close friend abroad and we keep in touch frequently and see each other once a year at least. But there are people with whom I don’t talk that often, we exchange the news occasionally – but when we meet after a year/two or even more of break, it still feels like nothing changed and we get along well.
      But you’re right – effort is needed from both sides, otherwise it won’t work and the friendship will pass into just an “acquaintance” when you only click likes on each others’ photos on Facebook. And maybe that’s ok – after all we just need a few close, best friends and these people should be the priority.

      • I guess that’s perfectly ok 🙂
        Making the right choices in life and having the right people next to us is definitely worth prioritizing.