13 Aug The 10 types of Gap Life friend
If you stay in the same town, city, or even country where you grew up, the chances are that a lot of your friends will stay the same and that you’ll end up living, hanging out, and maybe even working with a lot of the same people you went to school, sixth form, or university with. Sure, you’ll meet new people, but you’re not forced to in the same way as you are if you move abroad.
While it’s not good to generalise, here’s a list of ten types of people you can expect to come across if you too decide to pack it all in and start a Gap Life.
1. The Local Friend
To start with, real, local friends are a rare breed, but as time goes on your collection will start to grow. They’re arguably the hardest type of friend to find because they, unlike you, already have a solid group of mates and aren’t necessarily looking for more. However, you’ll soon find one or two who will want to spend time with the strange foreign person (yep, that’s you) and will enjoy sharing their favourite anecdotes and top lunch spots in exchange for hearing your authentic pronunciation of “Facebook” and “Harry Potter”. Others will soon follow.
2. The Not-Quite-Local Friend
Although these friends are natives, they’ve moved to your current city from another town or region. Unlike #1, they haven’t grown up here so, although they have one up on you linguistically, they probably feel just as out of place as you do. As a result, they’re generally easier to befriend and much more likely to include you in their plans. Not-quite-locals also tend to come in packs, which is always nice.
3. The Fellow Foreigner
At the beginning, you’ll find it easier to click with fellow foreigners because you’re all in the same boat – you’re all equally frustrated with the bureaucracy, quite confused by the local customs, and none of you knows where to get a decent Chinese takeaway. Initially, you’ll particularly bond with fellow Brits, not only because they understand what real bacon tastes like and share your views on queue-jumpers, but also because you’ll feel like you can’t express yourself properly if not in English. As your language skills improve, you’ll start to need “one of your own” less and less, but it’s still nice to hang on to one or two for those times when you need to talk to someone who knows what a chav is, watched The Magic Schoolbus as a child, and appreciates places like Boots, Topshop and M&S Food as much as you do.
4. The Temporary Friend
Some of the best people I’ve met over the past few years fall neatly into this category. They’re only in town for a limited time, whether that’s two weeks or two years, but you both know from the off that you won’t be in the same place forever. Because you’re aware that sooner or later, the other will disappear from your life – well, apart from the occasional like on Instagram – it doesn’t matter if you can’t imagine this person ever becoming your BFF, because they never would do anyway. In fact, it doesn’t really matter if you actually find them a little bit annoying, or even if you have practically nothing in common, because you’ll have a brilliant, short-term, no-strings-attached friendship in which you can share all your secrets, tell it completely how it is when they ask your opinion on something, and don’t really need to make any promises to go visit each other when it’s all over. It’s not sustainable, but for a short time, it’s awesome.
5. The Eccentric Flatmate
If you’ve ever moved into a house full of strangers, you’ll have your own one of these in mind. However normal your new roomies may appear, there’s always one – at least one – that’s a little bit bonkers. Some of them will have an odd taste in music, some will be nocturnal, or extremely reclusive, or will always walk around the house in their tiny pants. Others will go out drinking one night and stroll in at lunchtime the next day, covered in footprints, having fallen asleep in a field several miles away and having been trampled awake by a dog walker before wandering 7 kilometres home (I’m naming no names). The most important thing to remember is that crazy housemates aren’t forever, and that one day, although you might not think so, you’ll be able to look back and laugh.
6. The Australian
It’s a wonder there’s anyone left in Australia, because they all seem to have moved abroad to places with less sun, lower wages, and no wombats. No, I don’t know why either. Within weeks of embarking on your Gap Life, you’ll come across at least one Aussie who will regale you with stories of spiders as big as your face, eat Vegemite straight from the tubes that they get sent over, repeatedly mention how much they love Tim Tams (no idea), and basically just live up to a whole lot of stereotypes. They don’t all dress like Crocodile Dundee though – apparently that’s not a thing.
7. The Get-To-Know-Them-And-They’re-Gone Friend
Simultaneously the best and worst type, you’re guaranteed to meet this particular kind of friend about a month before they move far, far away. In this month, you’ll see them over breakfasts, lunches and aperitivi, spend time walking around markets and museums, chatting and laughing and discovering how awesome they are and then… you’ll wave goodbye to them as they step onto the bus to the airport. Unlike #4, you’ll keep in touch and will likely see each other again, but you’ll always wonder how much fun you might have had if they’d have stayed that little bit longer. Bye, could’ve-been BFF.
8. The Bitter Wife/Husband
Especially if you end up working in a language school, you’ll discover that a lot of people don’t move abroad to have a new adventure, or to chase their dream of teaching English, but actually because their husband or wife or boyfriend or girlfriend is Italian and, well, they didn’t have much of a choice in the matter. Most of them are fun enough people, but they would much rather not be here, and they’ll make you remember how lucky you are to have moved abroad by choice.
9. The Stolen Student
Most people who live abroad will end up giving English lessons at one point or another, and those who do will discover that 99% of students are either snotty teenagers, old ladies, or just painfully, tediously dull. So when someone comes along who’s fun to talk to, you’ve got to summon the courage to give up the money they’re paying you and make a friend out of them instead. Not long after you do, you’ll find yourself having coffee with your newest #1, talking about about the first time your eyes met over a well-thumbed copy of McMillan’s Intermediate Grammar..and you most likely won’t be reminiscing in English.
10. The Unlikely Friend
Many of the people you’ll make friends with when you move abroad will be absolutely nothing like anyone you’ve ever been friends with before. I now have friends ranging in age from 18 to 50, from nerds to party animals to high maintenance Barbies. Some have kids, some have tattoos, some have their own businesses and some have opinions which are the polar opposite to all of mine. Some come from a similar background to my own, others from a totally different one. The cool thing is that it doesn’t matter, and it’s always entertaining when all of your unlikely friends come together as you can truly appreciate what a bunch of weirdos you must look like from an outside perspective. You’re happy weirdos, though, and that’s the important thing.