Importance of friendships abroad

Until three months ago, I was really struggling to find friends in Sweden. Most of it, my fault. When I wasn’t saying the wrong things to the right people, I was busy hiding in the house. I also made a mistake of telling people my achievements and dreams which is really frowned on here. So I generally stopped talking about myself and made up a story if need be.

But something happened, I don’t know what but I became more open to meeting people. I can say that I have friends in Sweden, people, we, have common interests. And no, they are not all Africans. In fact, only two are Africans. Has that made my stay here any better?

1) Genuine friendship can provide us with a sense of connection, home and belonging.

We lose the innate sense of knowing unquestionably where we belong and sometimes we lose a sense of who we are for a while because everything that we have used to define ourselves is stripped away. As we navigate life in an unknown culture, perhaps not knowing the language or how to go about even the most basic tasks, we can feel sharply at times a strong sense of not belonging and not knowing where we fit or who we are in our new surroundings.

When we meet and connect with others and experience authentic friendships, we develop a sense of being at home with ourselves and others. We are seen and loved for who we are. We are strengthened by knowing that we are understood. We see that we are accepted at our worst as well as at our best. This is the strength in friendship, a generous allowance for us to be who we are without fear of rejection. We begin to “fit” again, and are brought back to ourselves.2) When living in a foreign country, friends become family.

In a different country, friends are often the ones beside us as we struggle through things like infertility, difficult pregnancies, separations, illness or homesickness. They are often the first to rejoice with us when we bring home a child through adoption, buy a new home, or have a baby. They celebrate with us and they stand by us in hard times. They are there for everyday occurrences as well. Coffee, conversation, advice. The faces around our tables on holidays, the ones standing beside us at baptisms, weddings and funerals, and offering practical help when things are challenging. Friends like this show us love in action. 3) Friends Make Our Hearts Happy

Perhaps, most of all, we need our friends because they lift our spirits and bring fun and laughter into our lives. It can be hard to get by without the heart to heart sharing and understanding we can find in close friendships. We can draw strength, courage, and inspiration from them. Good friends give us a reason to dress up and show up. If a friendship is healthy, we feel at our best, our prettiest, our kindest. They bring out the best in us, the joy in our hearts. They remind us of who we are if we forget for a while and we like who we are with them.

Friends fill our lives with richness and color whether we live in a foreign country or not. However, there is something about having a solid group of friends when we are far from home that makes the distance easier to bear and burdens we carry, lighter.

The people we surround ourselves with matter so much. They inspire us with their strength and love and kindness. They help us to laugh at ourselves. They give us space to be who we are. They heal the broken places.

So to my friends, thank you. You have helped me in my journey more than I can say and I hope that in some small ways, I have returned the favor.

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