Expat Friendships

I was meant to be in Macau today. Typhoon Lekima kiboshed that. My flight was canceled, and I couldn’t get there. So, here I sit brokenhearted, paid my airfare, but am stuck farting around Taipei. It makes me extremely sad, not because I’m missing out on gambling, or whoring, but because I was flying to Macau to meet a friend and chat.

I can only speak for myself, but I find the expat lifestyle difficult for maintaining friendships. I’m naturally a little introverted. I prefer one or two good friends to a bunch of acquaintances. I favor deep meaningful conversation with one over passing the time of day with many. The expat lifestyle is wonderful for developing a lot of acquaintances, less awesome for maintaining deep and meaningful friendships.

People whirl into the country, and twirl out just as quickly. As a newly arrived expat, I was surrounded by very transient people, who considered staying in Taiwan more than a couple months an accomplishment. Most lacked a clear plan for two weeks into the future. As you might expect, many would disappear virtually overnight, on to the next country or back home. They were unstable. Great for partying with. Wonderful if you wanted a “Hey Bud, how’s it hanging?” relationship. There were a lot of those people around. Nice people. Not wanting more than to scratch the interpersonal surface was natural. They were passing through, and it wasn’t worth the effort. I think my experiences are pretty typical.

As you become a longer-term expat, you develop acquaintances that are more stable. But still, expat friends leave. It is just an undeniable aspect of the lifestyle. Even among long-term residents, some quit Taiwan. They might’ve been here for 10 or more years, and then suddenly they’re saying, “Yeah, that’s it. I’m leaving.”

In a couple of decades here I have developed a couple of very deep friendships with other expats. The kind of friendship where you can talk deeply about anything. That type a relationship is pretty special among expats. Two of the best of those have left. Leaving a definite hole in my life.

Don’t get me wrong, I have a wife, and I have other companions still in Taiwan. But, some of my most special confidants have moved on. That’s why I was heading to Macau. I was going to meet one of those very good friends. The plan was simply to drink and converse the entire weekend. I’ve been known to fly halfway around the world for good conversation.