It had been a weeks since we last saw each other. I turned the corner and there she was! She came running, arms flailing in the air, and I doing the same, shrieking with joy. We embraced and instantly started catching each other up with our personal lives–the highs and lows. Every time I am amazed by the wonderful friends I have made in Thailand.
“Is it possible to have a Thai best friend?” I asked this to a friend of mine who had been living in Thailand for two years; this happened about two months before the story highlighted above.
She assured me that it was possible, I believed her, but only slightly. I feared that maybe the cultural differences were too great, never mind the language barriers. I thought that if I had committed my life to living in Thailand I would be quite lonely, and was prepared to face that reality. Yes, sometimes the gap between our culture and language would leave us stranded in the ocean, but somehow, someway, we always made it safe to shore.
With time we began to share inside jokes, copious amounts of time, and even some of our fears. The Thai were more than foreign people, they became my friends. Friends that I would bake cookies with, go shopping with, and laugh uncontrollably with.
When I stopped paying attention to how different we were I saw all of our similarities. I found that, yes, it is possible to have a Thai best friend!
“Wherever you are, it is your friends who make your world…” William James
I’m incredibly thankful for the friends I’ve made in Thailand, they have taught me so much. For one, I’ve gotten more comfortable with showing affection through touch. The Thai have this thing where they hold their friends’ just above the elbow, or they’ll place their hand on the shoulder as they walk. It’s such a small thing, but it’s a reminder that, “Hey, we are friends, and I love you.” Now being back in the States I try to show my friends affection in the same way.
Secondly, my Thai friends have made me much more aware of people’s “face.” In Asia there is a heartbeat that drives all of social interaction, it’s called “saving face”.* This delicate concept of saving face has caused me to become more observant to the way and emotions of others, thus creating a better friend and empathizer.
Lastly, my Thai friends have taught me to see each person as a potential best friend, despite cultural differences. If I would’ve given into the lie that true international friendships don’t exist I would’ve never opened up myself to the beautiful souls that are my friends today.
In Thailand I was also able to make Swedish friends. Because of these two, I now think Swedish people are some of the best people in the world! They have a way about them that encourages everyone to be a part–no one is left behind. My Swedish friends helped me connect with the Thai in this way–making everyone feel a part and special.
International friends are some of the best friends you could ever make because they broaden your perspective and your heart for others. I’m so thankful for the lifelong friends I’ve made in Thailand; each one is so special to me. I truly do hope to see them again, and hope to see them soon! Because of my friends I’ve decided to go back to Thailand and stay for a year.
I cannot wait to see how my present friendships grow, and see the new friendships that I’ll make!