I know you’ve probably had to deal with this as much as I have, but when you stay in a place long enough, you get used to people leaving. This is especially true in a city like Granada, where there a high percentage of people come to spend a year (or less) abroad—studying, teaching, exploring, etc. Recently, two of my closest friends in Granada left (one is taking advantage of a great opportunity and the other went home) and got me thinking more about this.
People are usually passing through:
This is part of the reality in Granada, where people come to check out the nightlife, study Spanish, or do a year abroad. These types of people make great friends as they are usually up for anything and have a plan to enjoy what they are doing in the moment. This kind of friendship usually starts out pretty easy and only builds into a deeper one if both of you decide to stick around for awhile.
This means that it might be easier to avoid goodbyes if you make friends with Spanish people, however, this isn’t necessarily as simple as it sounds as most Spaniards usually already have their groups of friends and it is hard to break in. And a lot of the time I find that I connect quicker with other people who are abroad—there is a certain understanding when you are in a place that is not where you grew up, especially if you are speaking a non-native language (even if you are fluent).
True story: A friend of mine decided a while back he didn’t actually want to meet any more people through events like intercambios and the like because he was tired of meeting people who were only passing through.
It takes a while to make good friends:
Although it is easy to meet people that I get along with, I often feel like it takes me awhile to actually feel like I am really friends with someone. It might be because I take time to show others the more socially awkward side of me or maybe just because I like to know someone a little better before saying we are good friends. When people only stick around for a few months it is easy for me to start feeling like we are good friends, but then they move on (usually to better and brighter things).
Again, making friends with people who live in your community can solve this problem but I find that there is always one or two foreigners who I feel like are worth spending that extra emotional energy on. At the same time, having a diverse group of friends is always good because then you can do different things with different people (I have friends for soccer, friends for eating out, friends for the theater, etc. and while sometimes they overlap, sometimes they don’t).
My story: I have been that person—more than once—who enters into a new place with a whirlwind of energy and then, a few months later, picks up and leaves. From both sides making friends is difficult for me, but saying goodbye is worse.
They leave (and visit again…or not):
Even when you know it’s coming, it can be very difficult when it’s time for a friend to go home. I don’t necessarily burst into tears but I can get very emotional (and if the other person starts crying, I am a lost cause). For me, the hard thing is that I tend to build people into my lives, maybe it is just Monday tapas or Thursday drinks, but these routines feel completely thrown off when that person just isn’t available to hang out any more.
The good thing about friends going back home or moving on means that you can visit them or they can come back and visit you. In this case I almost feel like you value the friendship even more because you are only with the other person during a short period of time. However, it definitely doesn’t make saying goodbye any easier (even when you know you will see each other again soon).
True-story: I met one of my current foreign friends living in Granada on the Couchsurfing website because she was “looking for people who lived here” aka weren’t leaving. After a while saying goodbye gets really hard.
The cycle starts over:
Like most cycles, when one phase ends, another one begins. In Granada this means that in September a new group of people will move to the city and friends are ready to be made. Like I mentioned previously, this gets tiring after time because it feels like you are just on a hello-goodbye cycle with people who sometimes turn into your closest friends and then leave.
On the other hand, I now have a pretty intense group of people who I have or will happily visit in the future—and I will say that travelling is about the people and when I can I like to stay with friends to make the experience more authentic. Making friends who move away almost feels like adding another destination on my list of places I want to visit.
My story: I am already thinking about what I am going to do come September now that the friends I previously mentioned have left, but until then I am thrilled to be going to visit one of them for two weeks this summer!
Even though I am pretty used to saying goodbye now it is still hard. I still feel a little bit alone when those special people leave and, even though I always have wonderful plans to see them again, I always feel like they take just the tiniest piece of me with them. Have you experienced this while living abroad? What is your story?