Whether alone or with family, anyone who’s lived abroad for any length of time gets a bit itchy about socialising in their new surroundings. In addition, for those of us who are of a different race or ethnicity than the local population, this is inevitably associated with a certain conundrum: do I or do I not want to hang out with my own people?
Sure, some of us venture abroad simply to experience foreign soil and see what the “locals” live like elsewhere, but there are benefits to keeping a network of countrymen, racially- or ethnically-like friends in your corner. These have been my top three reasons for keeping fellow islanders in my network.
Sense of community. There can and will be days when someone or something (may be a situation or a policy or a procedure) really really really irks you. I mean, get on the last possible nerve you have left for such garbage. And sometimes, just sometimes, those peeves will have to do with your cultural, racial, ethnic or even aesthetic differences. What’s the saying – “pain loves misery?” It is comforting and after a round of venting, pretty comical to share stories about strange pre-judgements or oddities that come about during the day, during the week or even during your entire time abroad. In addition, there is insight into action, reaction or even adaptations to be shared among like-minded comrades when similar experiences are had.
Potentials In Case of Emergency. Let’s face it: even in the best case scenarios, some days things can and will go wrong. Sometimes, the local population in your area won’t be familiar with your background and as such, may be insensitive or outright ignorant to your needs. It helps to have someone from home or who knows your culture or customs on your side if you need help.
Homesickness Antidotes. This is mainly for fellow countrymen. It does not matter if you’ve been abroad for a week, a month, a year or even a decade. When you transplant yourself from the place(s) you call home, you will yearn to go back sometimes. Whether it’s the taste of home food, the sound of a familiar accent or just being able to share stories of being back, having friends from your country does not hurt. And when you’re lucky, you may even be able to trade local treats between you on the occasional (or even frequent) trip home.
There are always benefits and risks to having friends of the same race, nationality or ethnicity when living away from home. What are your favourite reasons for socialising among your compatriots?