I have now lived in Asia for 12 years and one of the staples of life that I have slowly become accustomed to is the transient nature of my social group.
People come and go from your life with an alarming regularity as an expat.
Granted, most of the time this happens because they find me unbearable as a person but also people do just leave and move on. Asia was not home for them before they arrived and like elephants, people tend to wish to migrate back home as they get older, so year after year an uncomfortable percentage of your friends up sticks and leave.
Over this 12 year period I have made more friends than would have been the case had I stayed in England and have also been to far more leaving parties than would have ever been the case back home; unless home was at Her Majesty’s Pleasure. This can be quite an uncomfortable status quo and in an era when people seem to devalue friendships into simply mutually accepting each others personal online propaganda through being Facebook Friends or being a Follower of somebody on Twitter the value in having actual 3D friendships with people you care about is all the more important.
This is, as Al Gore would pay Leonardo Di Caprio to say, an INCONVENIENT TRUTH of living in a transient expat society. While hard, it is part and parcel of living where I have chosen to make my home and so it is not something I can legitimately complain about. The never-ending leaving parties that precede these departures, however, are something I think I can complain about.
Don’t get me wrong I fully understand the need to say goodbye and thank people for their support and friendship before you leave for pastures new. However, I believe this should be done intimately with a small group where you are able to share stories and interact together.
Alas more often than not this is not the case. Instead, there is usually a large party held which ensures you, as an attendee, never get to actually spend any time with the person leaving and instead are forced to suffer an evening with their friends. A state of affairs that often results in a polite but edgy discussion whereby everybody attempts to portray themselves as the definitive "best" friends and confidants of the leaving person.
In my view, friends are people that you do search out and remain in contact with when they leave. As such, a departure to another place is not cause for a leaving party but instead a time to recognise that you are both simply going to have to make more of an effort to stay in touch in the future.
There is always an exception to every rule and in in this case it is office leaving parties. Work colleagues, unlike friends, are not people you choose to spend time with and these relationships are more often than not based on convenience rather than choice and so the lack of true integrity that so irks with the aforementioned leaving parties between friends does the exact opposite when held between work colleagues. An office leaving party is not pretending to do anything else aside from collectively say goodbye and good luck in the full knowledge that most attendees won’t ever see you again; there is something refreshingly honest about such an event.
So remember, true friendships transcend location and a simple beer or bottle of whisky is all that is needed along with the commitment to actively keep in touch. However if you do insist on a massive leaving party please at least stock up on some Scotch for this disgruntled attendee.