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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Would I Be Friends With You Back Home?

As an English teacher in Korea, I'm part of this unique enclave. Sure, I try to make Korean friends, but let's be honest, most of my friends here are native English-speakers.


There's this phenomenon wherein the minute you meet anyone who speaks English, you're automatically friends. It's something we cling to here. Forget any preferences or preconceived notions, you must scrabble toward the familiar. 

The thing about all the "just add water" friends is that you start to wonder, "Would I be friends with you back home?" You forge all these connections so easily here that you forget what kind of people you deliberately phased out back home. It's all about identity, really. It's said that you can judge a person by who they keep as friends. Living abroad, however, is a special case. When you get here, even if you want to immerse yourself in a foreign culture, it's easiest to fall back upon a system of people who understand you. In a country where they speak a completely foreign language, that means anyone who speaks English.

In any group of friends here, it's natural to come to the discussion of "Would I be friends with you back home?" Initially, this seems such a shallow consideration, but really, how much of our self-constructions are based on who we spend the most time with? I know that many of my own personality quirks originated from people I admired and grew to love. So what happens when I start to make friends with people I never would have considered in a normal setting?

At first, you get along just fine. Everyone speaks English, we can share experiences on similar levels, but ever so slowly, the differences start to present themselves. You categorize the people you know and then you see signs of the things you never liked about "those" kinds of people. "I never liked these kinds of people because they display characteristics of arrogance," etc. 

In my circle(s) of friends, the question of "would we friends back home" has certainly come up. There is a wide range in the responses to this. Sometimes, it's a celar and certain "yes," sometimes, an absolute "no." Then there are all the answers in between.

Okay, so I've made friends with new people, that's cool. But it's been about six months now, and I feel like my old standards are kicking back in. I decided to be a certain person long ago and I can only suspend that for so long. I never liked x kind of person because of y. I guess I now have the chance to change that perception if I so choose, but I feel like that person I decided to be has finally arrived in Korea with me. I could have been Reedy X a long time ago, but I diverged from that path. I may not be the same Reedy Y that I was before, but Reedy Y is much closer to what I want than anything that came before. I'm not sure I'm entering a new phase, or even if I want to be, but my previous criteria are reasserting themselves.

What does that mean? I think I'm unconsciously fading out people here that I wouldn't have been friends with before. It's kind of a sick, sad shame, but I'm also ridiculously satisfied with my friends back home. Why wouldn't I use my old standards in considering new friends? It's a difficult decision. Also, weird. There are people I'm friends with here who I would brush off if they approached me in America. I don't know exactly how to approach this realization. Am I too picky back home, or am I desperate here? Food for thought.

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5 comments:

  1. ln(ReedyXY) = ln(ReedyX) + ln(ReedyY)
    CLONE REEDY

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  2. "ln(ReedyXY) = ln(ReedyX) + ln(ReedyY)
    CLONE REEDY"

    paha

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  3. I think some of both... There are people here I wouldn't have been friends with back home on first impression but after "forced" interactions I've come to enjoy their company. Part of the personality type it takes to move to a new country has to be open to new ideas and experiences, which includes making new friends. My best friends here still tend to be those I would deffinitely be friends with back home... Also I think it's harder to "weed out" friends here when there are so few "replacement" friends, if we ostracize too many people than we will be left with very few options of people not attached to them in our small social web.

    I think an interesting addition to this idea is the reverse of the "weeding out." The fact that I will refrain from calling people (like you) that I want to hang out with for the sole fact I don't want others here to feel guilted or compromised into hanging out with me or letting me tag along with them... I don't want to be "that" girl. Silly really but I've become more conscious of it lately.

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  4. Well the problem is your probably comparing them to great friends like chaka and genghis and that's just not fair. I just wanted to say that I felt the same way the other day though. It's not the same thing because I'm not in a different country but I think its similar. Most of the people I graduated with left, so I constantly try and make new friends up here and the easiest thing to do is just go out with my co workers but when I do that I just get frustrated because I wish I had my good friends back. Idk I read this the other day and I really felt what you were saying so i wanted to comment. miss you!

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  5. <3 miss you too miguel! needs my khans back in my life!

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