When we first moved to Singapore one of my biggest concerns was whether my daughters would settle in. We were lucky, they adjusted easily to their new school and made friends without too much trouble.
The Big Missy (who is now 11) was placed in a class with a group of 12 lovely girls (there were boys, too, but they are irrelevant to girls under a certain age!). She quickly buddied up with a lovely friend and they’ve been close ever since. And then the other day she uttered the phrase that strikes fear into the hearts of expat parents –
“Mum, J’s leaving. She’s moving back home.”
I moved to console her, imagining that she would be upset at losing her close friend, but she’d already come to terms with the news and had made plans to walk to the local park (on her own for the first time, but that’s a whole different blog post!) to meet up with a new friend. She also befriended a new student yesterday.
That’s the thing about expat kids – they’re resilient. They have to be.
Most people in Singapore arrive on a two or three year contract, and given we are approaching the end of our initial three years many people who were here when we arrived have gone elsewhere – sometimes back to where they come from and sometimes to a new country for a new adventure. I’ve had my two closest friends leave and of the lovely group of 12 girls in the Big Missy’s third grade class only THREE are left. I remember my own school days and if a student left or a new one arrived it was a massive event, as it happened so rarely. In a school where about a third of the population turns over every year a leaving or an arrival barely rates a mention. The girl who left is remembered fondly, but not sadly, and new kids are quickly absorbed into the fluid friendship groups.
As the Big Missy knows full well, in expat land you can’t afford to be complacent with friendships. Your best friend today may be living in San Francisco this time next week and unless you’ve cast your friendship net wide you could possibly find yourself suddenly with no friends in your expat country.
As a friend advised me during my first weeks in Singapore “You always have to be on the lookout for new friends as an expat!”