February 6, 2015

17 friends for 17 months

It is Thursday night and I am sitting around a huge round table in the trendy Buddha bar and can hardly hear what my friend next to me is saying thanks to a trumpet player at the top of the candle lit staircase performing live jazz. But it does not matter a bit. I am looking into 16 smiling faces, all happy to be here and feeling part of something bigger.

It is difficult to believe that at a certain age you can still make buddies. Your Best Friends and Soul Mates date back from school or college. You met the love of your life in your 20s/30s and your life seems set.

I believe it takes an expat to understand one. All 17 of us would have never met, had we not been catapulted to Paris for family or work reasons. Some have more in common than others but we all have a bond that sometimes turns out to be stronger than family. Because that is what we become to each other: family.

When there is an emergency, who do you reach out to when your real family lives in another country sometimes on a different continent? Who hops in when you most need it? Who lifts your spirits when you're feeling down? Who drags you around town when you don't feel up to it? Who translates that document you received from the authorities? Who helps you with explaining to the plumber, the electrician or the telephone guy what your problem is? It is that girlfriend you met, SHE is an Expat just like you. And all of a sudden you realise you have made a best friend. Someone you can count on and whom will be there for you. Someone you KNOW you will stay in touch with even if you might not see her in the coming decade. Why? Because the experiences you've lived through together are strong and unforgettable. They have marked you and changed your life. Going back home will never be the same. That is if you ever manage to get back home. Many of us just keep on going. Home becomes a whole new concept ... but I won't even go there in this post.

So here we are united - Americans, Dutch, Belgian, Israeli, South African, German, French, Singaporean, Swiss, Philippine and Swedish - not to wish farewell to a dear Californian friend who is leaving us after only 17 months in Paris but to celebrate a friendship that we will treasure and remember in years to come.

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