I am a melancholiac at times, remembering the good old days when life was easy and friends held my back. I’ve been thinking about friendship a lot lately. So, in this article I am not really trying to teach you anything, I am just sharing a little of my life.
Actually, life has never been easy. And yes, there has been a year when I had the best mixture of friends you can imagine: One for the deep talks and Bible studies, one for the food and going out and another one for just being my flatmate and giving me positive energy all day long, with her fluffy, fun attitude.
I miss those people dearly in my life. You wonder what happened? Well, we all moved on, and we live in different countries all around the world. That doesn’t diminish our love for each other, but it makes it a little bit more complicated to do life together – especially the going out part.
When I moved to Germany I tried to find friends exactly like them: BIG MISTAKE. First of all, we all know that no one is like the other and that comparison is never good. Then, there were these seemingly impassable cultural differences I experienced. German people are known for their goal oriented mindsets not for their hospitality. Especially in the first weeks and months I struggled with that a lot, because I had left South Africa without knowing where to go or what to do next, and I was kind of stranded.
If you are stranded in South Africa you receive a handful offers to stay the night or the week or sometimes even the year. There I became pretty good at meeting new people, taking on help and making myself comfortable in stranger’s homes. Not so much here in Germany, not to speak of making deep friendships in the first place.
So I did, what every good German would do: I tried to adapt :) And with that, I became very focused and goal oriented. I made some really good friends at work, mostly internationals and people, who were dreaming of living abroad. But with every work change my relationships changed also. And for a few reasons, that happened to happen quite regularly.
Poor me. In the beginning of my second year I still felt pretty lonely. You might wonder: But you are christian, there must be people in your church!
That is true. I am christian. I believe in the church and I am part of a local community. Nevertheless, I didn’t find it easy to make friends within the church either. Most people in my church are in their early twenties, which makes them 15 years younger than me. Yes, there are a few exceptions. We have a handful people who are slightly or much older. But they either have family or travel a lot or serve so much, that you cannot have more than a five-second-corridor- conversation with them. And you must know one thing about me: I hate smalltalk. I mean, I H-A-T-E it. That might surprise some people, since they believe I am highly extroverted and therefore must have the gene of smalltalkarism, but I don’t. I have learned to be friendly to strangers, to include people and to smile (and walk a little faster when someone approaches me who wants to talk about the weather, hair and fingernails). I’ve also learned to walk slower under stress, but that is a totally different message.
Anyhow, I bowed to the culture of megachurches and tried the smalltalk – boy, that is really not for me. I feel like a sardine pushed into a corner of an aluminium can, forced to show my most uncomfortable side: Trying as hard as possible to smile like Cheshire Cat from Alice’s adventures in Wonderland, because I don’t want my counterpart to feel like it is their fault that I am uncomfortable. Well, actually it is. Because, why do they do that smalltalk thing to me in the first place? But it’s not personal, you know. It’s not that I do not like them, I just don’t like smalltalk.
Maybe that is because I’ve been through a lot in life and smalltalk is way too fluffy for me. But maybe it’s just because I find it to be a waste of time. Time I could use better as an adapted German: Time to make friends on a deeper level. And those people, I recognise in a blink of an eye. I find friends in those people who act slightly awkward when they talk to strangers. And people, who come to small group for the first time and share about their haemorrhoids, so we can pray for them. Brutally honest and hearty people.
That’s how I eventually found my best friends here in Germany. And all of a sudden age isn’t the issue anymore. We are between 27 and 53 and we are brutal honest to each other. Of course, all of them are internationals and the first one already moved away again just a week ago. But I am willing to accept that. That life has seasons. And best friends are born out of and are born exactly for those seasons.