asociaal part 2

This time I mean asocial more in the English sense, not having a lot of friends. People here are polite, but reserved. This was covered in my Dutch book too, that they protect their privacy fiercely, and this means a strict separation between your work life and your home life. Upshot = your colleagues don’t want to be your friends. That essentially means that my workaholic husband won’t be making any friends, because work is pretty much all he does. This was kind of bumming him out on his birthday last week.

As for me, well, the thing is, a lot of Germans are like that too – not the privacy-protecting thing so much, but you get the impression that they made all their friends in kindergarten and after that some kind of door closed. And DrBob didn’t notice this while we were still in Germany, because he still has his kindergarten friends.

(Parenthetically, this keeps happening: DrBob remarks on how hard things are now that he’s all foreign, things that I’ve been putting up with for the last eight years, but he manages to complain without ever acknowledging that that must have been difficult for me. It’s hard to make friends, it’s exhausting to have to function in a language not your own, he really misses his home, his people, his culture, and it’s really hard not to say “dude: I KNOW, alright?”)

Anyway, I spent eight years having a hard time making friends. I did make some, say about nine, and only three of those are actual Germans, two of whom are married to eachother. So I’ve changed one basic principle of my expatness: I used to believe that you don’t move 10,000 miles away from home just to hang out with other Anglos, but now I’m ready to look for friends among the expat community. Friendship is one of a great many things that are culturally defined, and if you want friends to whom friendship means the same things that it means to you, well, you’ll have an easier time if you look to your own culture. Not that it’s impossible, and I’ll be perfectly happy if any of my perfectly nice Dutch acquaintances turn into real friends, but if they don’t, I won’t take it personally.

Schlock du jour of the day: That’s What Friends Are For, by Dionne Warwick, Stevie Wonder, Elton John, and Gladys Knight. (Schlock, she says. As if she didn’t know ALL the words by heart.)

7 responses to “asociaal part 2

  • amy

    Well. I have a hard time making friends, and I haven’t even left my own state. I did escape my hometown, though, in all ways possible, so I don’t have those Friends From Kindergarten, either. I think it’s just hard to make new friends after a certain age.

    • alala

      Neither do I, but I have friends from college, friends from my first trip to Europe, friends who had babies when I did, friends because our kids were friends, and former neighbors. Age and circumstance are factors, but there are cultural differences too. I’m just saying I’ll be ready this time.

  • Melanie

    I think you SHOULD go ahead and say “duh dude, I know!!!”

  • A Touch of Dutch

    Really well-written, about making friends here with the Dutch. I coincedentally have a blog post going up soon which semi-relates to this, and I hope you won’t mind if I link this post to that entry. Thanks for sharing this here!

  • Lopa

    Ohhh i could relate with almost everything you wrote here, ( to be precise apart from the fact that it’s not 7 years that i have been living outside home country) sometimes it gets very depressing with no friends around and that has resulted me spending more time on internet than i ever did, at least that way i can catch up with my friends online.

  • Bones_nl

    Well, you are doing a fine job of making me feel bad about myself.
    Perhaps the line of work or the area you live and work in has an effect on people but I doubt that. Most of my friends I have met through school, sports or jobs. And all of these friendships stay on even when I have changed jobs. Okay, we probably have less often contact when we do not see eachother on a daily basis but when we do meet up it only intensifies the contact because of it. Please do not let your personal experiences reflect on a whole country. Could this be a Dutch/German thing or do all expats experience these issues?

    • alala

      Well, a fair few people seem to relate to what I wrote, so I’m guessing it’s not just me, and not just a Dutch/German thing. I didn’t mean to make anyone feel bad, though, it was just an observation: that the Dutch seem to look for friends outside of work (i.e. school, sports, and hobbies, none of which my husband has time for because he works so much). Doesn’t mean the Dutch way is bad and the Anglo way is better, they’re just different, and it’s hard for us foreigners to navigate these waters because the differences are so rarely articulated.

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