Wanderlust: Expat Life & Style in Thailand The Relationships Issue - Page 19


It ’ s easy to forget our smartphones allow us to speak to each other with all the texting we do , but it ’ s free to make an internet call — no matter the distance . ( This luxury is something expats of yesteryear only wish they had .)
Thanks to apps like Skype and Facetime , you don ’ t have to put a price on keeping in touch ; you will , however , need to schedule appointments to chat .
Avoid fleeting five-minute calls by setting times that work for both you and your friend . You ’ ll want ample time to catch up : Late morning in Bangkok , for example , can be a good time to chat to friends on America ’ s west coast . Early evening in Thailand means late morning for buddies in Europe , which might be a good time for weekend jabber . For group contact , you can conference call using Google Hangout or Oovoo , which allows you to chat with up to 10 people at a time .
Try not to get too disheartened if you or one of your pals can ’ t make this week ’ s call ; sometimes life just gets in the way . And you could always send an email instead .
Emails have become mostly limited to work communication , although receiving a personal email from a friend is one of modern life ’ s simple pleasures . It ’ s a dying art that doesn ’ t deserve to die : Emails allow you to form your thoughts and even craft stories in a way that phone calls and messaging don ’ t allow . So , every now and then , take a seat , give yourself half an hour , and write your friend an email . He or she will surely appreciate it .
What ’ s better than a digital letter delivered instantaneously for free ? A paper letter , of course . Depending on your age , you might never have received a letter from a friend . But , if you have , then you know the excitement of holding an envelope that ’ s traveled from afar , as you study its stamps . You know that when you open the letter and see ( and possibly recognize ) the handwriting that you can ’ t wait to read every word . And you ’ ll read every word several times , before storing it somewhere safe to pull out when you ’ re feeling nostalgic or lonely . Imagine your friend enjoying that experience , and write .
For expats , forming new bonds is an important part of transitioning to life abroad . While old friends are a comfort , new friends signal possibility and help anchor us to our adopted cities . In fact , science has proven that being amongst friends helps our bodies produce oxytocin , the stress and tension-busting hormone . The result ? A calming , health-helping effect that aids longevity .
But how do we meet these new friends ? Sometimes , it just happens . Good friends can enter our lives through a brush with destiny , a connection comparable to love at first sight . And , if we are lucky , a one-in-a-million meeting can become a lifelong friendship .
Often , though , it takes effort to find friends — particularly when you ’ re living overseas .
For the more outgoing among us , it ’ s a little easier to do so : Friendships can start with a simple smile , an open question and approachable body language . Others find it takes a rare burst of confidence to step out of comfort zones and introduce themselves to perfect strangers .
This is where Meetup comes in handy . This social-networking portal makes it easier to find offline group meetings city-wide . Introverts , perhaps , benefit the most from social connections first made online , as it eliminates the pressure of striking up conversations without groundwork laid first . It ’ s a universally helpful website , though , that provides opportunities to meet people ( in real life ) through a range of interest-based groups .
Simply sign up and select the groups that appeal . Before you know it , you could be part of a running tribe , a volunteer outreach , photography class , or merely a gathering of potential new pals who convene for brunch .
One of my best friends is 83 ( going on 23 ) and she loves life . In spite of her age , she courts admirers and even makes intrepid life goals — like running marathons . Though I am 30 years her junior , the age gap is no wedge for us .
My friendship with this vivacious octogenarian has taught me an important lesson about companionship : At home , we may gravitate toward those with whom we share the most in common . It ’ s easier that way . But expat life often calls for building friendships despite differences . Age , marital status , nationality , or political viewpoints begin to matter much less when making friendships abroad .
By embracing diversity , you may find that the most unlikely of friendships are the ones that help you grow the most . When we get to know someone from a different country , or someone who is considerably older , younger or otherwise unlike us , we catch glimpses of new perspectives on anything from parenting styles , to types of food and even existential philosophies .
When it comes down to it , an odd pair of expat friends will always have at least one thing in common : Both are making their way through a new culture , as strangers in a foreign land .
There are as many as 500,000 expats from all corners of the world inhabiting Thailand , and the possibilities to form new bonds in this country are endless , if only you try . As for friends back home , you can stay in touch with the click of a button . ( Just remember to call and write .) Perhaps , in time , you ’ ll even form your very own expat-style Moai — and go on to lead a long , healthy — and friend-filled — life .