When friends leave

One of the most unfortunate aspects of being an overseas expat is the simple but inevitable fact that you must continually part ways with close friends. When you work in an expat situation and experience extreme highs and even more intense lows, these people become your surrogate family.

Unlike other environments, rarely would you find a job where you’d find yourself stranded together because of massive flooding, and evacuated together in the back of a military truck. You’d scarcely find yourself discussing ways of coping should Avian Flu come to a head, changing life dramatically. You hopefully would never witness the death of your very own leader who had become a father figure to all in this close-knit environment, and the subsequent painful healing afterwards.

Dealing with these issues brings people closer than the average workplace. The fact that in many ways you’re isolated due to the language constraints only amplifies this bond. When vacation time arises, most often you’re traveling together, and experiencing the cultural differences and quirks together. These experiences form memories that time will not tarnish.

It’s only when your friends begin seeking new contracts in other countries, or start moving back to where they originated from that you remember that this is all temporary – that all of us will move on in one way or another in due time. Am I thankful I’ve remained in Indonesia this long? Of course. Have I met some amazing people? Definitely. It’s better to have made these connections and then lost them, rather than to never have made them in the first place.

But like a layer of fresh snow in the April sunlight, it’s fleeting and ephemeral.

Ultimately, we are all transient.

  • well, maybe this also underlines the huuuuuuuuuuge importance of getting to know the language of the country one lives in reeeeeeeeeally well, so u can widen your network.

    — i had similar experiences while in germany, if i ever do live in indonesia, leaerning indonesian will be the highest priority for me…

  • Brandon

    Good point – I’m in full agreement with you on that. I’ve seen far too many expats forgo learning the language and therefore never experience the culture to its fullest. Many never venture outside their comfort zone.

    Actually, I speak pretty well, John. (yes, I have much room for improvement though) And I have many friends outside of the expat realm, but nonetheless, those you work with day to day are generally going to be closer in this type of environment.

    I’d say I’ve immersed myself pretty well into the local culture (ahem, Novita)… many of my friends tease me saying, “you’ve gone native, you’ll never leave, etc, etc)

    Regardless, even if we’re speaking of making friends within your adopted country – if you’re an expat that generally means that at some point you’ll be leaving them as well.

  • “Actually, I speak pretty well, John.”

    Oops, I was going off of:

    “The fact that in many ways youโ€™re isolated due to the language constraints only amplifies this bond.”

    My own Indonesian is non-existant ๐Ÿ™‚ so I can’t say anything :):) — jayus pun… :P:P

    Why do you see yourself /having/ to leave BTW? … Suppose Engliah teaching ain’t a long term career or somethin’…

  • Brandon

    I kinda meant as in the case of the average expat – I have a more unique situation. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Guess I’m speaking subjectively and objectively at the same time. See – it’s vacation time for me, my brain is fried.

    And I guess I’m feeling as though I’ll need a change soon. Jakarta’s not the place for me. I crave the outdoors and clean air.

    Actually I don’t work as an English teacher… ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • The only place I have made as good of friends as during my years in Indonesia was in the Military.

  • ian

    well said brandon, well said …

  • hi brandon, i just happened to bump into your famous photoblog. Luv your pics, although i know nothing about photography.. they just look stunning, you capture Indonesia very well in your pics (good publication for the country!) and your girlfriend is very pretty.

    I relate very well with your story here in the posting. ๐Ÿ™‚


  • I understand the transient nature of being an expat. Thing is, when you eventually go home, old friends have moved on, had puppies, etc.

    However, I wouldn’t change my experiences. A world perspective is a valuable thing.

  • Hi there,

    I shall be visiting Bali again for New Year’s… Been there last year and did all the tourist-y things, any tips for the off-beaten tracks? This time, travelling alone.

    I’ll be staying in the Kuta area, hope you could share some experiences. Have a great weekend!

    Thanks so much!

  • RewS6p hi! hice site!

  • It doesn’t matter where you are, Brandon. As you say, we’re all transient – wherever we are.

    I’ve now lived here for over 20 years and in the same house too, yet my curiosity level remains high so I feel I’m still traveling. It’s partly because of the language barrier, but then I’ll never completely understand local culture from whence the language comes.

    It’s also worth remembering that wherever you are, folk are always drifting through your life, even family members.

    Like you, I wish I could get out of Jakarta, but I won’t be leaving Indonesia. This is where my family, my home, now is.