Human beings not only enjoy the company of others, we thrive on the different types of social interactions with other members of the community.
Having tight bonds with the right people in our lives is very important, and the more friends you have the more you open yourself up for great opportunities. The beautiful thing about modern technology is that you can stay in touch with people from across the globe that you may have only spent a few days with during a holiday.
Even if you have a tight-knit group of good friends at home, it can be both fun and beneficial to nurture your friendship with an overseas friend.
Whether they are a good friend that has moved away or someone you befriended online, there are a lot of amazing things that come with a long-distance friendship.
1. You get a new appreciation for your hometown
A lot of people don’t make an effort to set aside some funds for traveling because they aren’t really motivated. Well, having a friend who lives abroad is a great motivating factor when it comes to traveling, and taking a break from your everyday surroundings can help you deal with stress, make you more creative and give you a new perspective.
When you’ve been away from your hometown for a month visiting a friend, those streets you used to walk on every day suddenly seem a bit different. You learn to appreciate all the little things that you can’t find anywhere else, particularly the food.
2. You don’t have to spend a fortune on accommodations
As someone who used to travel to the UK every now and then, I quickly learned that the Brits have a long history of very high property prices, and they aren’t willing to give up their living space for pocket change.
A student or anyone else working with a tight budget would be lucky to have friend that they could stay with, as you end up exchanging a few small gifts and pitching in for meals – I went with a couple of bottles of local booze – in return for having a roof over your head for a few weeks. It’s quite a good deal.
3. You get to learn a whole lot and even change certain views
Nothing changes your views on common stereotypes and teaches you valuable life lessons quite as effectively as spending some time in a significantly different culture.
We’ve always heard rumors about the British being prudish and cold, but all those preconceived notions went down the drain when I sat down to drink with a few Londoners and we had a bunch of laughs, constantly teasing each other.
My British friend also had a chance to experience some of the finer sides of Serbian culture – notably the hospitality, great food and partying – and was pleasantly surprised by the distinct lack of tribal barbarians and 30 year old technology that everyone imagines they’ll find in Eastern Europe.
4. You have an instant fact-check option for different cultures
Don’t get me wrong, Google is a great fact-checking tool, but it’s sometimes best to get the info straight from the horse’s mouth.
When you have an overseas friend you end up sending them Skype messages with the strangest inquiries, e.g. about European castles, that whole Royal with Cheese business, this strange thing they call Marmite and all the little urban myths someone read online.
5. You pick up foreign languages, which can be a useful skill
Even if you’ve never picked up a foreign dictionary or grammar book, being around someone that speaks another language or having regular conversations online, makes it incredibly easy to pick up a language, and not just one language either.
I learned quite a few useful Spanish phrases when I visited Ireland, because I befriended a cool Spanish guy named Adrian – and yes, we did yell “Yo, Adrian” a bunch of times – on top of learning to sing a few verses in Gaelic.
You can find people from all over the world in the places you least expect them and quickly improve your communication skills.
6. You learn some incredible recipes
Did you know that Italian pizza is nothing like what we commonly eat, and that once you’ve tried olive oil and Greek yogurt in Greece, you’ll never be satisfied with the stuff you can get at your local supermarket?
Trying the local food the way it was meant to be prepared, using quality local ingredients and cooking methods is truly an eye-opening experience.
If your foreign friend knows his or her way around the kitchen, or has a friend or family member who’s a good cook, you’ll take home a bunch of delicious recipes and some of those authentic local ingredients that make them work.
7. You receive the coolest gifts when they come visit
There are plenty of talented people and good companies making high-quality goods that don’t really have the means to expand globally. You’d be surprised by how much you’re actually missing.
The good thing about this is that when your friends come to visit, they will bring some very cool and unique gifts that no one else in your area has ready access to. I
It can be anything from great sweets and snacks, to interesting items of clothing, gadgets and tools. These things can be great conversation pieces and will become some of your most cherished possessions.
8. You always have someone to talk to in those late hours of the night
The worst thing about being a night owl is that if you get bored or some of those negative thoughts start creeping in and you need someone to talk to, you’re pretty much out of luck. Very few people are going to be willing to have a friendly chat with you at 3-4 am, but your overseas friend might have just finished breakfast or has a few hours to kill before going to sleep.
The time difference allows you to call them up in the weirdest of times and have some great sincere conversations.
9. You get incredible networking opportunities
Staying in touch with people from different corners of the world means traveling, frequent phone calls, getting to know a different culture and language, and coming in contact with all sorts of interesting people in the process.
Your friend’s family and friends become your friends, and you can also find random encounters, like my Spanish acquaintance, beneficial.
You may get job opportunities, learn new skills or get invited to visit a place you’ve never been before and have a local to show you around town.
10. You pick up strange, but satisfying hobbies and tastes
Who knew that a somewhat clumsy Brit would take to Serbian folk dancing (Kolo) and get quite good at it, or that your average Balkan man would fall in love with British panel shows, and now can’t get enough of them.
I’ve witnessed friends who’ve traveled to China suddenly develop an incredible craving for soy sauce, to the point where they would incorporated into almost every meal. All these things make you a much more interesting person and allow you to see the true beauty of other cultures.
I’m sure everyone who has a good overseas friend will agree with me when I say that, although it can be difficult to be so far apart from someone you enjoy talking to and spending time with, these friendships that cannot be contained by borders have plenty of cool perks as well.