The decision to move from home, family and friends and go start over in another city; let alone a city on a whole other country and continent is not an easy one. In 2009, just after we got married, we left our perfectly comfortable life in Johannesburg, South Africa to come and live in the UK. Fast forward six years later and we have a son called Neo and call London our home.
When we first came to London, we were drawn to other South Africans in London and quickly made friends with a few of them. They reminded me of home and I was less homesick when I still continued to speak my home language and we would all get together to cook and eat food from South Africa.
It was only when I got pregnant late in 2010 and we joined National Childbirth Trust (NCT) after a suggestion from a colleague that our circle of friends expanded. Sometimes, all it takes is to have one thing in common and in the case of NCT: we are all having our first child and we are all clueless, nervous and scared! When our babies were born all within weeks of each other and we started spending more time together while on maternity leave, I started to realise other things we have in common with people who would otherwise be complete strangers. And these are the people I now, and still call my friends.
Of course, there were people we met who we didn’t immediately connect with; or who we lost along the way and stopped being friends with. It took me a long time to appreciate that it’s ok because real friends can never be lost!
My good friend Gugu once said that friends are the family you choose; this could not be any truer when you are an expat.
I get a different kind of fuzzy feeling when I reflect back on the friends we have made here. Sure, they are not many and they don’t need to be. What matters is that we are there for each other and that our friendship has grown to more than the fact that we have children the same age or are from South Africa.
It is less about having a lot of people around you and rather about having few trusted and quality friends. The ones you can call at short notice to baby sit or come around for a braai (barbeque). Or ones where you spend the whole afternoon and evening talking and laughing and only realising when the children run past you screaming and laughing that it is way past their bed time. The friends where, even after spending so many hours together, you realise you still have so much to talk about.
These are the people in our lives that just bring so much joy. It is a wonderful feeling knowing that our life in London is full with our very own hand-picked family!
Do you have any experience/stories as an expat? I would love to hear them in the comments section below.
Thanks for stopping by!