Over the past few years I have intentionally and sometimes accidentally acquired some international friends. In university I was excited about having an American bestie. For the free accommodation when I visit her, for the cute ‘you pronounce horror like whore’ moments, for the accents. But it’s not all great. Although I love having friends across the globe, there’s definitely some drawbacks.
1. The lack of social life
When all your friends (or you) live abroad, you rarely get to hang out. This means spending most Saturday nights alone, or playing Scrabble with your mum. And although there’s nothing wrong with mum (or Scrabble), it does get quite lonely sometimes.
The positive side of this is that because you never go out, you’ll save money and be able to afford to visit sooner.
2. No group hangs
Having friends in different places means you’ll rarely get to hang out together as a group. I doubt my American friends know my Australian friends exist and visa versa. The only time I’d get to introduce everyone is a hypothetical wedding (never gonna happen).
Silver lining? Although all your friends live in different places, your friends friends probably don’t. This means it’s easy to make even more international friends. Plus, you might run into cute scenarios like when I met my American friend’s friend in Oslo or my Australian friend’s friend in Budapest. How unlikely was that?
3. Saying goodbye
I rarely cry. Well, I cry when one coloured pen in a set goes missing because what if that one pen misses it’s pen friends? And I totally cry every time an animal dies in movies or in real life, or when I accidentally step on a snail. Okay, I lied, I cry all the time. But I’ve never cried when saying goodbye to friends, but that doesn’t mean it’s not difficult. Over the past few weeks, months or years of getting to know someone, it sucks to know they’re not going to be there to talk to whenever you want. Your whole life will feel different and you won’t be able to explain why.
But you know what? That means the time you do have together is even more special. You make sure to dedicate all your free time to spending it with that person. You go all out, doing the things you both love doing together and it makes up for all the time spent apart.
4. Your culture isn’t as interesting as theirs
Sharing tea and biscuits might not feel half as interesting as road tripping to New York or hiking a mountain or drinking from red solo cups at a college party. You’ll often feel like your culture is boring in comparison.
Maybe your culture is the boring one, but your international friends don’t care. They’re caught up in the novelty of car boot sales and sleepy fishing villages by the sea. All of a sudden the rain is interesting to them. You’ve never experienced life until you’ve seen a non-British person get excited by the weather.
5. You’ll feel like you’re missing out on private jokes often
Not going to lie, when my Melbournian friends broke out into choruses of ‘sick bruvs’ and ‘g’day mates’ in Budapest, I did wonder what the hell was going on. They later explained that making fun of the typical Aussie (bogan) accent is something people from Melbourne do a lot, but that’s something I would have never known.
Luckily I’m up to date with all the Aussie slang thanks to the copious amounts of Chris Lilley shows I’ve seen over the years. And having someone to explain all the cultural differences sure makes life a lot easier.
6. Catching accents
Over the years I have developed somewhat of a hybrid accent thanks to my international friends. I can’t count the amount of times I’ve been confused for an American or an Australian. Once was by an American man in an airport who asked me “if I was excited to go to the UK and if it was my first time visiting”, another time was by a couple of kids in line for a roller coaster in Florida who asked me what part of New England I was from and if I liked the Red Socks. I had to explain I was from “actual England” and had no clue what the Red Socks were. And then there’s the locals at my work place who didn’t believe I had lived there all my life because I “sounded Australian”.
Not going to lie, this one isn’t really a con. I love being confused for other nationalities. Plus it means I can finally do accents well, rather than embarrassing myself as per usual.
7. The jealousy
Sometimes it’s hard to deal with the fact that your friends can easily get things you want. It could be the little things like ‘you get Mean Girls, Friends, Criminal Minds AND Grey’s Anatomy on Netflix? That’s not fair! All I get that you don’t is Community’. Sometimes it’s the bigger things, like the fact that minimum wage here is half of what it is in Australia and it makes it way easier for my Aussie friend to save up for that dream holiday we’re planning together.
But what goes around comes around. Yeah, minimum wage is rubbish, but flight prices here are a portion of what they would be there. There’s no way my friends could ever catch a flight to the other side of the continent for as little as £7. Oh, and don’t get me started on politics. Yeah, Brexit was not a cool move, but at least we don’t have a government who wants to kill the Great Barrier Reef or, you know, that crusty orange monster.
8. The commute
Visiting friends is made more difficult by the 10+ hour flights and the the price it costs to get there. You can’t just drop everything and visit them if they need you. It takes careful planning. First you need to book time off work, then you need to find the best flight deals that won’t kill your bank account, then you need to spend months planning it with said friend to make sure they’re prepared for your visit too. The effort you go through is way more than you would have to with a local friend.
But it’s the effort that makes the friendship so special. You wouldn’t pay a grand of your hard earned money for nobody and that is truly appreciated by both sides. Plus you get a free tour around a new country when you finally do visit (with some personal stories included).
9. Being fetishised
This one’s a bit weird. There’s been a couple of times I’ve been approached when I’m with my international friends and we’ve been flirted with by a group of British guys on a stag do. They’re oh-so interested when they hear the accents and because of your skills (see point number 6), you can fool them for a little while, but eventually they’ll figure out you’re actually from the same place they’re from and they’re a whole lot less interested.
Then there’s the other side of the story, being the cute girl with the accent when you’re on the other side of the world. Not going to lie, I do enjoy being able to spout rubbish non-stop without interruption because people adore my accent. That’s pretty cool. Being fetishised for it? Eh, what about my personality, man? Is the novelty of getting with a British girl the only thing you’re interested in? Because if yes, you can forget it.
10. Time zones are weird
Organising a skype date can be confusing. “Okay, let’s both be online at 9pm on Wednesday night my time and Thursday morning your time. Oh wait, that’s not good for you? I’m free on Monday too, what’s your Tuesday morning looking like?” Messages can be confusing too. The ‘do not disturb’ function on the phone definitely helps when you get messages at 3am from the other side of the world. I’ll never forget trying to find a sustainable, fair-trade, vegan-friendly glove brand whilst my Aussie friend was shopping for sunglasses of a similar nature. Our ethics and interests are the same but our climates definitely aren’t.
I guess there’s not many positive spins I can put on the time zone point except it is quite amusing wishing someone a ‘good morning’ when it’s 11pm and you’re about to sleep. My American friend has a sober collection of print screens from my drunken 4am skype calls during uni, too, which I’m sure she enjoys. Yeah, okay, time zones work out in everyone elses favour other than mine.