We have the best friends in the world.
Some of them we have known for years. Others we met less than two weeks ago. Some we haven’t seen in over a decade. Yet we really do have the best friends the world has to offer.
As long-term UAE residents, my husband and I have had waves of friends come into our lives and then quickly depart, leaving us to gather ourselves, adjust our friendship circles and move on.
I was recently asked by a friend who is a newcomer to Abu Dhabi, “How do you get used to gaining and losing friends so often?”
She went on to say that she had met a lady at a function who indicated that she would only be staying for six more months. My friend’s initial reaction was to pull back from investing any further in the interaction and to start a conversation with someone else who would be sticking around a bit longer.
Is it really worth investing in such short-term friendships?
My short answer is an emphatic and resounding: “Yes!”
My husband moved to the UAE when he was six years old so his frame of reference for “normal friendships” is slightly different to most. Some of his closest and most significant friendships have been with people who have lived in the UAE for only 12 months, only to then move on to new opportunities. Sure, they don’t speak to or even see each other for years at a time, but they were friends for a season and they continue to leave their impression on him.
Similarly, I have been an expat since the impressionable age of 19. New to international living, I threw myself into new friendships with people from places I hadn’t previously heard of (have you ever met a Kenyan-Balochistani-American?). These new friendships completely shaped and influenced my view of the UAE and I am forever grateful for those months of intense friendship.
We often say that the UAE attracts only the most extraordinary people. It is not typical for folks to leave their comforts of home and family to move to a foreign place and start a new life – it takes the most unique, talented, brave and passionate people in the world to do this extraordinary thing!
Why wouldn’t I want to be friends with people like that?
Today, our home has a revolving door to friends and friends of friends and sometimes complete strangers met through moments of kismet. We cherish the opportunity to know and be known by the extraordinary people that pass through the UAE.
And while we may not have struck it rich in dirhams, in the UAE we hit the jackpot in the friendship department.
We have a tribe of amazing friends-like-family who have shared our life with us here – some for a season and some who are stayers – all of whom one day (perhaps even soon) will move on to new adventures. But for the time being they are ours and we are theirs. What else could we ask for?
So go out and find your tribe and gather yourself some riches beyond compare. I dare you.
Have you found your tribe yet? In what ways have you struggled to or succeeded in making friends in the UAE?