Friendless in a Foreign Country

I like to overdo it a bit in my headlines. Do forgive. But – when I first left Denmark and came over here I never thought it a problem to have left my friends behind. I mean, we could e-mail, phone, exchange comments on Facebook, Skype, etc., and I come home often. The truth is, we don’t do any of this much. For some reason some of my best friends are just not into Facebook, Twitter, IM’ing or frequent e-mailing. So the fact is that only with a couple of my friends can I claim to have an ongoing relationship. When I’m in Copenhagen there’s no problem, it’s as if we’d never been apart and all is rosy.

But I’ve realised that the day-to-day chat at the school gate, at a brief coffee, in a quick phone conversation about practicalities, at get-togethers and dinners mean a lot more than I’d thought. And that’s what I miss. Sometimes you meet with a friend and you launch right into deep, personal important stuff. Other times you spend the allocated time discussing recent political developments. And at other occasions it’s your children or “what a lovely new coat”. It’s when all these things come together that you can speak of a real friend.

a little bird...
a little bird...

I didn’t quite realise how much I’d missed this until I found The Twitterladies. The Twitterladies should be seen as something very elastic. I couldn’t tell you their names without missing some of them (we don’t all tweet around the clock about everything) and also, there are a few men there too.

Now, I can already see eyebrows raised, also among twitterers. So I can reveal right away that no, I don’t believe that I now have 20 new best friends of whom I’ve only met half. But what the Twitterladies have given me that I was missing is those four things I mentioned above:

Yes, you can discuss personal stuff and find comfort and wise words. When I recently experienced something very unpleasant in an unexpected setting, I tweeted about it. And sympathy and sound advice came streaming in.

And politics of course. I’ll be the first to admit that I mostly tweet with likeminded, but not always. Meaning that I’m following (and they are following me back) people with whom I do not agree politically. But when you find people who will discuss on an informed level and in a decent tone of voice, isn’t that just like having real friends?

Then the children – oh, The Twitterladies tweet a lot about their children. And I love it. Because it allows me to tweet about my two wonderful children as well without feeling embarrassed about it.

Finally, the “nice new coat”. Have you ever heard of twitpics? Well, they are the pictures we post to twitter of a pair of new boots, sunglasses, haircut, etc., and then receive lovely compliments. I also recall an episode with a Twitterlady who photographed herself in the changing room in two different skirts because she couldn’t make up her mind. The Twitterverse helped her with an almost unanimous verdict.

Oh, and then I haven’t mentioned food, literature and television. The foodies among us tweet ideas for dinners, cake recipes, cook’s tips, etc. The Literature Ladies tweet literary criticism (or links to same), suggestions for Next Book and comments on literary events. And television. Oh dear. There’s a fraction of the Twitterladies who are dedicated to watching Strictly Come Dancing and tweeting about it. I don’t watch it so see my twitterstream change into something completely unintelligible whenever the programme’s on air. But I also get good ideas for programmes to watch and programmes to avoid. Watching anything on TV simultaneously with other Twitterers enhances the experience. Seeing is believing!

You dont want to know why I took this picture
You don't want to know why I took this picture

I most certainly couldn’t do without my real friends, some of whom I’ve known a big chunk of my life. We share something that I don’t share with anyone on Twitter – our pasts. But It’s the honest truth that The Twitterladies have enhanced my life.

As mentioned above I’ve already met quite a few of them live. We had a fantastic “tweet-up” on Trafalgar Square when one of the Twitterladies was “on the plinth”. Explanation of that phenomenon here. If this has made you curious, here’s an intelligent and thoughtful blogpost about the Trafalgar Square event: La Vie en Gris. And I’ve met three Twitterladies, on separate occasions, for coffee. All lovely, all inspiring, all leading to a nice warm community feeling.

If you tweet, just check my stream, and the lovely Twitterladies will emerge. Some of them are so bright and brilliant that I’m constantly thrilled to “know” them.

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7 tanker om “Friendless in a Foreign Country”

  1. You’ve captured my Twitter experience perfectly. It’s a conversation without the limits of distance or time (as people understand replies can be delayed), and good conversation is a precious thing. Why do so many in the media keep assuming it’s people annoucing the mundane details of their life? Makes me very cross.

  2. Oh I can identify with this wholeheartedly! It’s amazing in this day and age how hard it is to keep friendships going between countries! And the Twitterladies have given me the same sort of release as you describe!

  3. What a lovely post, Nene. Everything you have written resonates loudly with me and not just because I’m also away from the ‘mother country’. I think it’s often hard for women – working or not working, running households, raising children – to stay in regular touch with each other. Often we are too tired in the evenings to even pick up the phone! I also love that one can jump in and out of Twitter when time permits and get treated to such an array of information, including instant feedback when you need it.
    Now, I just have to get out of the habit of saying, ‘Hey, I read on Twitter that….”, when I’m chatting to my friends who don’t tweet. Thank you also for the very kind mention.
    Looking forward to seeing you in Nov! xx

  4. Dear Néné,

    you are so definitely not alone in being away from your home country and feeling that no one from back home keeps in touch as frequently as you would like. I experience the exact same thing, that when in Denmark people bend over backwards to see us, but the minute we board the plane we are out of touch: For me “out of sight, out of mind” has come to have a completely new dimension to it. In the beginning of our secondment we always had visitors from home, now – with people really feeling the credit crunch – there seems to be sadly long in between.

    I often think of myself in being in no-man’sland; culturally I don’t really belong in England: I don’t share commen ground with most people here but back home I don’t belong either, I’m a visitor. So when I share my daily life with one set of people, often on a rather superficial basis, I share my deeper thoughts, feelings and background with another – mostly when in Denmark.

    I’ve come to realize two things: first of all people are – in the long run, to me anyway – more important than going on fancy adventures as living abroad (and having said that I’m not sure I could give it up – it’s like a drug!!), second that I must keep watering the grass where I am rather than admiring it from across the street. Sometimes very difficult when the people you have the most contact with are on FB, Twitter or even characters in the book I’m working on…. ;-).

    Let’s have that coffee/lunch in Guildford – I can do most Tues and Thurs mornings after October (not teaching until 1.30 pm); let me know what suits you! And now, I must go to bed! -xxx-

  5. I wish I had a twitter experience to share, could it have something to do with my gender? I am truly amazed that you can write at such length and detail and still have time to be a twitterlady, rear a child, live in the original social media aka a family and even have a job. Respect.

  6. @Anders I think it might be slightly gender based but not entirely. Among the “Twitterladies” are, as mentioned, several men who all seem to have real jobs, families, etc., and who also tweet a lot and amusingly.

    In all honesty I don’t really have a job. I just translate the odd report, article or similar whenever I can lay my hands on some.

    But I’d like a job…

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