The Tricky Balance of Friendships as an Expat

Promotional graphic for Episode 26 of the Friendship IRL Podcast - "The Tricky Balance of Friendships as an Expat with Amber Haggerty" with episode URL - friendshipirl.com/episode26 - There is an image of Amber Haggerty, a blonde haired woman wearing a blue button down. She is looking straight at the camera and smiling

Podcast Description

When some of your closest people move across the world, there are so many things to learn – whether it’s a new appreciation for the beauty that can come out of people you love moving far away, or even getting to witness the new communities they built.

Travel blogger Amber Haggerty is here to talk about the balance of building intentional expat friendships and making a new community of friends after you move. It’s actually a pretty wild story – Amber was on vacation when lockdown happened and decided to make a permanent move to Ireland, where she’s now been living for the past two and a half years. 

Today’s conversation is filled with so many honest moments and I hope it helps you approach long-distance relationships with your friends in a whole new way, with a little more intention and thought.

In this episode you’ll hear about:

  • The constant pull of navigating your relationships back home, vs. the new people you’re meeting when you move away (and why Amber works under the assumption that she’ll be in Ireland “for the foreseeable future”)
  • Amber shares how she sets boundaries with out-of-town guests who want to visit her, while offloading some of the emotional and non-emotional labor of hosting to avoid resentment
  • Approaching travel itineraries with curiosity – sometimes it’s not as straightforward or easy to get from one European country to another! Consider asking yourself, “is there a version of this that would be fun?”
  • How to create enjoyable “workcations” with friends to maximize quality time together. Plus, how to be a great guest.
  • The sometimes complicated dynamics of making “couple friends” and what to do if you prefer to invest more into one person within the couple.
  • How Amber curated an “intentional friend group” on Bumble that she can invest into outside of her relationship.

Reflection Question:

Sometimes it’s difficult to juggle long-distance friendships, whether you are the one who moved or not. How have you successfully invested in a long-distance friendship? Where could you make an intentional improvement?

Notable Quotes from Amber:

“Part of what made it possible for me is that I knew it was really important. I spoke it. I said out loud to friends from home, I want to meet people here that I am inspired by, people here who I can feel  energized by, who are doing things that are really different than what I’ve done. And I think in thinking that and saying it out loud, it’s helped me to realize it.”

“What I realized when I moved is EVERYBODY wants to be invited to things. If you have something you want to do, just put out an invite. [And] if somebody invites you to something, say yes. If you absolutely can’t say yes, give an alternate time right away, because most people aren’t going to try twice. And never cancel the first three times that you have something scheduled to hang out. Those are very practical mistakes that I realized I probably have made.”

Resources & Links
Check out Amber’s travel blog, Amber Everywhere (especially if you’re planning a trip to Ireland), and follow her on Instagram at @amber.everywhere.

Leave Alex a voicemail!

Let’s talk Expat Friends

Until next time…

Take the conversation beyond the new podcast on friendship! Follow Alex on Instagram (@itsalexalexander) or Tiktok (@itsalexalexander), or send her a voice message directly.

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Podcast Transcript

Podcast Intro 00:02

Alrighty, gang. Here’s to nights that turn into mornings and friends that turn in family. Cheers!

Podcast Intro   00:18

Hello, Hello, and welcome to the Friendship IRL podcast. I’m your host, Alex Alexander. My friends… They would tell you; I like to ask the hard questions. You know who I am in the group? I’m the person that’s saying, “Okay, I’m going to ask this question, but don’t feel like you have to answer it.” And now, I can be that friend for you, too. 

Alex Alexander [Narration] 00:50

I am recording the narration for this episode the morning we fly out to Ireland to see our friends who are expats. They live in Italy. We’re meeting up with them and their two kiddos, and we’re gonna go wander around Ireland. They’re joining us for part of our trip and recording this entire episode. I mean, I wish I had had this episode when our friends moved away. Gosh, nearly a decade ago, I think. It’s challenging when some of your closest people move across the world. There are so many things I’ve learned everything from how to approach conversations, you know, when they first moved away, we were sad, and we wanted them to come home. And now we just see this beautiful life that they’ve built. And whether they come home or they stay in Italy forever, it doesn’t matter because they’re happy. And we’re all finding small moments of joy when we’re together, or hearing about each other’s lives on opposite ends of the world. But getting here has taken us a long time. So I think that conversations like the one you’re about to hear today are going to be helpful because maybe it won’t take you the decade it’s taken me to approach relationships with my expat friends in a little more graceful manner. A little more intention and thought. So I’m really excited. I’m really, really excited for you to listen in on this conversation with Amber Haggerty. Amber reached out to me about being on the podcast and talking about the balance of expat friendships and friendships at home and making new community after you move. It’s actually pretty wild Amber was on vacation, when locked down happened. And it kind of forced their hand to decide to just make the move permanent to Ireland. And she’s been there for about two and a half years now. So she’s got quite a bit of experience with this, all the dynamics of this expat life under her belt. Now, I do want to note because I have been using her blog, that she has a blog, it’s linked in the show notes. And if you are going to Ireland, go check out her blog. We used it quite a bit for the trip. We’re about to hop on a flight for tonight. And with that, let’s get to the episode. 

Alex Alexander 03:46

Hi, Amber.

Amber Haggerty 03:48

Hi, Alex. Thank you so much for having me on.

Alex Alexander 03:50

Of course I would say good morning, but we’ve already discussed the fact that it is not morning where you are.

Amber Haggerty 03:55

Yes, it is 4:30. So, middle of the afternoon.

Alex Alexander 04:01

I am so grateful you reached out. I’m really excited about this episode. And I was this morning thing about what a funny crossover this is for me. Just the coincidence because you live in Ireland. I’m going to Ireland next week with my expat friends. And that’s what we’re gonna talk about today is when some friends move across the world and like the balance of friendships at home, but also your new community and integrating yourself. How long have you lived abroad?

Amber Haggerty 04:39

So, I have lived in Ireland for about two and a half years. So, I moved in August of 2020.

Alex Alexander 04:47

And you knew you were going? Or you like last minute decided you were going? How did you decide to move?

Amber Haggerty 04:56

You know it’s funny I was writing like an interview for something else, and I wrote out the sentence, I’ve never been very good at guessing my own next move. And I think that is like, really emblematic of just the weird paths that life takes. I guess I had always thought that I might move abroad, I studied abroad in college. And I know that’s not the same thing. But I, you know, when I was abroad, I was like, oh, I really enjoyed this. And my partner and I had always talked about the possibility of moving abroad. And he is a dual citizen in Ireland. And so we’d always kind of had in the back of our minds, not Ireland, in particular, but maybe we’ll move to Paris someday. And we were sitting in the pandemic, in the lockdown like everyone else, and it just kind of occurred to me, we were actually on a walk. And it just kind of occurred to me that there’s no reason not to right now. It makes no sense. But it’s also the time in the world where everything is shut down. There’s nowhere we need to be. Our jobs are online. And so I just tossed it out. It’s like, what… what if we just moved now? And that kind of set in motion, this whole set of events, and it was only a few months later, we moved to Ireland. So yeah, we moved to a farm just south of Dublin, in Wicklow. Sure anyone who knows Ireland, and then yeah, we moved to Cork later, just because we really liked the city. But we’ve been here for a little while.

Alex Alexander 06:27

There’s gonna be so many people that listen, that are like, I’ve always thought about doing that, should we just move? Should I just move? Probably, I know a lot of people who think that. The thing is, I don’t know about you, you’ve only been there two and a half years, you don’t know your next move. So, who knows? But our friends that we’re going to see, for many years, they’ve lived in Italy now for… we were trying to figure this out the other day, it might be like eight or nine years. And for a long time, they’d say, you know, like, oh, it’s only going to be a couple of years, we’re gonna move back eventually to those of us at home, right? Because we missed them. And when we went and saw them last year, they were like, you know, life’s pretty great here. Like, we’re really happy here. But it’s hard. Like, for a long time, I think they were just kind of set these arbitrary dates hoping, like for all of us at home, but when you go and you see them in their everyday life, like they’re so happy, their life is so great for everything they’ve envisioned. So there’s just this constant poll, I’m sure like being the person that has actually moved abroad, of the people at home, and then like, getting to meet people in the new place that you’re living. What has that been like for you?

PODCAST EPISODE! Let’s talk about taking control of your social wellness here.

Amber Haggerty 07:51

I do, of course, get asked all the time, you know, how long am I planning to stay? And how long will we be here? And the answer that I like to give is, for the foreseeable future, we’re really happy here. There could be a time in the future when we’re no longer happy here. Everything’s on the table, I guess is how I think about it. When we think about those relationships, I think that maybe it’s in the way that I’ve approached it or in the way that I’ve talked about it. I think everyone in my life is working under that assumption like for the foreseeable future, Amber’s in Europe. You know, we talked about this before, but people have been really great about coming to visit us. We’ve had lots of visitors, actually. And it has been really fun to get to show really good friends Europe, and I’m going in a couple of weeks. Yeah, in a couple of weeks. I’m going to Scotland with a friend. And it’s actually a fun story, how I met her. We were with our partners in Huaraz, in Peru in 2018. And so we had… my partner and I had done this hike. There were three hikes. It’s an area where people do this big hike, and we did one of the training hikes and we almost died. It was so hard. 

Alex Alexander 09:07

That’s a bonding experience.

Amber Haggerty 09:10

It was Laguna 69. And it just was a brutal hike. So we had planned to do this other hike our second day in the town and decided we were just going to sit at a cafe all day and just wait for our bus back to Lima. And while we were there, we met this couple. And they were also doing a rest day. They hadn’t just had this experience. But we spent a whole day talking to them. I found out that they lived in Pennsylvania, right outside of Philadelphia, really close to where my partner grew up. And we ended up actually in COVID. We spent a lot of it in Philadelphia. So we got to do social distanced games with them. And so the woman that I met that day in that cafe is… they actually visit us in Ireland and they’re coming she’s backpacking with me in Scotland at two weeks. So… 

Alex Alexander 09:53

What a fun story. 

Amber Haggerty 09:54

It’s… the world is small.

Alex Alexander 09:57

I do find that yeah, when you start traveling, and like if you meet someone here, and then you meet up, yes, I agree with that. And that’s why she’s from where they’re from near where your partner grew up. Like, what a coincidence.

Amber Haggerty 10:11

Loke, 20 minutes, so close. And we met in this tiny town in Peru, like I felt it meant to be.

Alex Alexander 10:18

That must be really nice that people are coming to visit. There’s this weird thing that’s happening right in my mind. Like, I feel like people are traveling more right now because people have been cooped up at home. So everybody suddenly is like that trip I’ve been meaning to take, let’s go. And then coincidentally, they’re looking at the map and like, well, Amber lives here. Why don’t we just go there? I would understand if you felt like you were just getting bombarded a little bit, like it was happening really suddenly. And I don’t know if it would be this way in an alternate universe, if the last few years hadn’t happened.

Amber Haggerty 10:56

I don’t know either. And I was just reflecting before we started recording about how different I think the experience of moving abroad would have been had it not been for the pandemic. I think it impacted how I communicate with people at home in a lot of ways. And I do wonder how many people would be willing to go to Europe, like my dad hadn’t traveled for a lot of my life. And then he’s come to Europe twice since we moved and he has plans to come back again. I mean, obviously, it’s a little bit different. He’s my dad but still like it’s there have been a lot of people in our lives who maybe they would have come anyway, I don’t… I don’t know for sure. But it does feel like a lot of… a lot of interest in coming to Europe and a lot of interest in going to not just Ireland, but to other places in Europe. And there have been times certainly when it’s been difficult to manage the number of requests. Like last year, we had quite a few visitors. And I know it’s a common thing with… with other expats. I have a friend who told me that they had I think 25 visitors last year.

Alex Alexander 12:07

Wow. Which is like beautiful, right? You’re like, oh, yeah, it’s nice to see everyone. But simultaneously, if anybody else thought about having 25 visitors in a year, that’s a lot.

Amber Haggerty 12:16

It’s a lot. And it can be you know, it’s really hard. I think the hardest part about it is that people if they’re coming for their vacations, like they probably take two or three vacations a year. But I still get the same number of vacations. And so it is hard to have to set boundaries with guests and say like, I’m actually going to be working this day or, you know, here’s what I can do for you. And not to just talk about other people’s experiences, but I know other expats have handled it. I was talking to a friend about this. And she said, yeah, sometimes we’ll just book people a tour to the Cliffs of Moher and have them go for a day tour, and then come back. And I was like, that is brilliant, like, you know, and so I’ve been trying to find ways to still be welcoming, but to maybe like offload some of the emotional and non emotional labor of it, you know, and just find ways to be a little bit to still be able to see people but to not do it in a way that’s putting me out.

Alex Alexander 13:14

Yeah, like we’re planning our trip to Ireland right now. Right? It’s a lot of work to figure out where to go and what to do. And while you are there, and you’ve heard about all these things, like it’s still work. It might have quite as many hours as we’re putting in having never been there. But like it’s still work, to plan, and especially to plan for somebody else and try and ferret what they would want to do. So, it’s like that adds up. And then if you’re doing that, for that other person for 25 visitors a year, it is hard, right? Like, this isn’t meant to sound ungrateful at all, you feel like you’re hearing like, I don’t want to sound like I’m not happy to have people be here. You are. But like, there’s this whole balance. That’s I guess the whole point of this is you want to see all these new people, but all of this time takes away from actually like integrating in your new place. And that’s just a like a push-and-pull situation all the time.

Amber Haggerty 14:17

It is really challenging to balance that, to balance having time for friends, having time for ourselves, for myself. And also, I don’t know how long I’m gonna be here. And if I have people who want to come visit me like I want to encourage that. What I’ve learned since being here is that I have to be proactive, and I had to say no to people, or I’ve had to say yes, but you have to stay in, like I’m not going to leave Ireland to join your trip. So you can come here and then you can use it as a jumping off point. So I’ve had to be a little bit brutal about it to be honest a couple of times. Because otherwise I was finding when I just said yes to everybody, I was feeling really resentful. And that was a big clue to me that something’s not working. I can feel resentful that people are visiting me. And I both have been working on shifting my attitude towards just focusing on being really grateful, but then also being much firmer with my boundaries around my time, and just saying what I really need is, I need to be able to work this week. And if you come, I’m free on the weekends, and you can, you know, explore on your own, you can have a place to stay, but I can’t show you around.

Alex Alexander [Narration] 15:42

I just want to jump in here and give us all a moment to really think about what’s happening. So somebody has moved, any expat has moved. And part of the reason you’re moving is because you’re really excited to be in this new place and explore it, and get to meet new people and try new things. And that’s a lot of work, first of all, to just move somewhere else and figure out how to go to the grocery store, what cultural customs there are, let alone maybe experiencing some of the culture. And then you add in the additional work of having to put yourself out there and make friends. Like we all know that takes a lot of time. And so I really want to be clear here. It’s not that I’m trying to make it sound like it’s bad to go visit your expat friends. Just trying to hold space for the fact that there is this balance happening, of trying to get connected in the place you are, while also having a lot of visitors, having a lot of people asking you to travel with them, which is a time-attention-money thing, right? Like PTO you only have so much. Attention being that work of figuring out how to entertain all these guests. And money being the money it takes to travel or maybe be going to the same museum you’ve gone to with your friends who have traveled into town for the fifth time. Like at that point, you might as well about the membership, right? And, again, this is not an ungrateful thing. I really want to be clear I’m not trying to make it sound like expats aren’t grateful that their loved ones come visit. Or that Amber’s ungrateful. Amber’s definitely not. You miss these people. You want to see them. But I often think we just forget that this is causing some extra work or anxiety. There’s a lot of thoughts and guilt on this other side. Because I think the mainstream messages, well, yeah, if you can afford to go visit your expat friends, go. That’s great. But we just need to hold space for these other things that are being balanced at the same time. This is hard, because you’re talking about these boundaries, and you feel we all feel guilty when we set boundaries. But for the people that are listening to this, this is like so beautiful for those people that either are expats, or like, oh my gosh, I’m not alone in feeling this or people who are the friends still at home, who want to go and now maybe will spend a few more minutes thinking about how they propose this trip, what they suggest what might work, you know, saying like, oh, it is the weekdays, I’m gonna stay here in town, and I’m gonna go do these things. Can I see you on the weekend? Like, other people might have some takeaways from this on how they approach these trips with their friends versus like, I’m flying across the world, can you just stop everything? Like I’d love to, but I also, you know, have to pay my bills.

PODCAST EPISODE! What is a Friend? and the 4 Types of Friends We All Have. Listen here.

Amber Haggerty 19:07

You know, and it’s not something I ever would have thought of, I think I would have responded the exact same way as my friends have if I hadn’t been the one to move. But there is something about it where you know, something I’ve had to get better at and I’m still working at it. But I’ve had to kind of help explain or help people understand that like, even though Europe does feel small, especially if you’re coming from the US which is I’m telling you there’s nothing like moving abroad to make you realize how gigantic the US is. It is an enormous country, but you know, thinking in terms of Europe, like just because things are closed doesn’t necessarily mean it’s easy or cheap to get somewhere else in Europe. And like I live in Cork and it can be it’s honestly like, not very hard for me to get to London but once I get to London, the hotels are expensive. And so there just are all of these factors that I think because it’s like your once in a year trip to Europe or your once in a lifetime trip to Europe, they’re just all these little logistics that like seem really small because they’re, you know, it’s the one time you have to do it. So, it’s not as big of a deal.

Alex Alexander 20:18

I have such a great example for this. So our friends that live in Italy live in North Italy. And the very first time we were gonna go see them in Europe, we were looking them up and we’re like, oh, well, Switzerland right there. They’re very close to Switzerland. That’d be fun. Why don’t we just meet them in Switzerland? Like, yeah, let’s just do that. Okay. So we tell them, we’re like, we’ll just meet you in Switzerland. And they proceed to explain how even though it’s about two hours away for them, because of the Alps, they have to go like, around… they’ve to go through multiple countries, the expense of that, like nothing travel wise lines up, so it would take them like multiple days kind of thing to get there. And in our mind, you’re right. We just looked at this map. And like, that’s, you know, us driving to the middle of Washington State, no problem, no problem. But it was actually really complicated. And they were trying so hard to not burst our bubble, because we were excited about Switzerland. And in the end, I think they were just like, we will literally meet you anywhere else in Europe that we can fly to. Like, this is too complicated. You just pick somewhere else, and we’ll be there. Yeah.

Amber Haggerty 21:38

The US is similar when you think about, you know, there are some places that are really easy to get between and others that aren’t. And, I mean, another thing is, the highway system in the US is really, really great. So you can drive but you know, there are still places in the US like, it can be challenging to get from one place to the other. And also, you know, once you’re talking about getting on a plane, like, mentally, you have to be like, okay, if I’m getting on a plane, that is one travel day. And I do this with people who are planning their European trips to like, any day that you’re on a plane, like that days a wash. Like, like, unless it’s first thing in the morning, like, you know, it’s going to take up your whole day. And so you know, if I’m planning to see you for two days, but we have to fly there twice, like that’s a four day trip, that’s a four day excursion. And so they’re just these little things that you get used to, when you’re traveling in Europe a lot. And I think it can be easy to think of them, like the different countries as being similar to states, from a traveling perspective, in some ways they feel similar. But you know, they all have… really, we learned this on a recent trip you’re trying to get from somewhere in Finland to somewhere in Sweden, that is… there’s public transit everywhere, but going from one like vertical transit line to another was very challenging. And there’s just these little things that you don’t know until you look or you don’t know until you do it. And that is the kind of stuff where, you know, if you just approach it with curiosity, like oh, well, we’re seeing that Switzerland is really close. But is that doable? And letting them say, whatever. But then if you think about doing that, like six or seven times in a year, it starts to add up.

Alex Alexander 23:18

Yeah. And I think that’s just a really good thing for people still at home to remember, like keeping that in mind. And I like what you said about approaching it with curiosity. What would it take for you to get to Switzerland? That’s definitely what we do now with them. But that first trip, we just blazed on in there with our suggestions. And that totally makes it harder for everybody. For everybody. Because also, if you approach it with curiosity, what we found right is…friends coming from Italy next week to Ireland. I never would have thought Ireland is so easy for them to get to. And they were like, “Oh, yeah, it’s just a… we can take a direct flight from our little Italian airport to Dublin. But it only leaves one day a week and goes back one day a week. But as long as we can do those days, we can be with you in Ireland for five days.” 

Amber Haggerty 24:09

Is it Milan? 

Alex Alexander 24:10

No. Close to Milan, though. 

Amber Haggerty 24:13

Yeah, I was gonna say, because in my head, I’m like, oh, like they’re flying into Dublin. There are more flights out of Dublin. But I was like, oh, yeah, we can easily go to Amsterdam. We can go… just yeah, just wherever Ryanair has decided, we should fly. 

Alex Alexander 24:26

Yes. Yeah. And on what days.

Amber Haggerty 24:29


Alex Alexander 24:30

That’s it, or you have to say, like, a whole week and a half. I would never have thought that that would have been so easy for them, I guess. So again, like approaching with curiosity, they were able to propose something that was really easy. And we were like, yeah, there’s a direct Seattle to Dublin flight. It sounds great. Perfect. We’ll meet you there. Yeah. 

Amber Haggerty 24:54


Alex Alexander 24:56

Truly, we booked these tickets three weeks before we’re flying out. So, that is excellent. We were actually supposed to… I don’t think I told you. We were supposed to go to Peru. So when you’re talking about Peru earlier, like this is we just have full smears of… yeah. But we were supposed to go to Peru and that trip ended up needing to be canceled. And months ago, and we’ve kind of been uncertain where to go and looking and whatever we can pick, and our friends just suggested three weeks ago, and it was like the same week we were supposed to be in Peru. So we hit book. We all got off the call basically being like, okay, everybody can go to bed and think about this. We are not offended if for some reason this does not work out. And then everybody kind of, you know, checked in with their partners, they’re bringing their two kiddos. So, a lot of things to consider. And we woke up the next morning, and everybody thought about it, we were like, let’s go and booked that trip. 

Amber Haggerty 25:57

I love that. I kind of did the same thing for this Scotland trip, my friend asked me if I wanted to go backpacking somewhere in Ireland or nearby and I’m trying to get over this, but my initial instinct was to say no. I think just because of how taxed I’ve just felt, not by any one thing, but just in general. And I stopped and I sat with it. And I was like, you know, is there a version of this, that would be really fun? And I kind of thought about it. And I was like, I think getting outside, spending some time camping, spending some time in a new place, I think would be really good for me. And I took a few days to think about it. Came back and I was like, yeah, you know, but let’s do Scotland because I want to go somewhere new. So anyway, just kind of set this in motion. And I think it’s on both sides, both approaching with curiosity, like what… what might be good for you. And I think, you know, the same friend had invited me on several trips before that I was like, I can’t make that I can’t do that. And I’m just realizing that we both kind of got to this point where she was like, “What could work for you?” I said, “You know, I think actually, this could work for me.” And we now are doing this trip. And I’m just really excited about it. Because I think it was a really… a really good example to have in my mind of like, oh, this can totally work and feel great. And I can prepare for it in a way that makes me feel abundant and not, like get stuck in this feeling of I don’t have time, because I think that I don’t have time trap can really suck the fun out of your relationships. So anyway, I think it’s both my internal work and also maybe a slightly different approach from my friend at home.

Alex Alexander 27:43

Yeah, it sounds like you really like co-created this. Like she didn’t come in, because I think that’s quite often what happens, right? As the people that are flying in, are like, okay, I want to do this. Will you come? And instead, you both really went back and forth. Like, what could we do together that we would both have a lot of fun doing? And like bouncing that back and forth. It sounds like you really came up with this together. And you weren’t having to just say yes or no.

Amber Haggerty 28:11

You know, the yes or no, I don’t want to disparage the yes or no. Because if I can really say no, then it’s fine. But if I’m going to feel guilty when I say no, then I think that’s where it’s a little iffy here.

Alex Alexander 28:24

Guilty or like it does sound like you wanted to see this friend, you might want to go outside and do something outdoors. Like there are a lot of yeses in there. I mean, it’s guilt. Sure. I don’t want to tell you what your feelings are. But part of it is just like there were yeses. So that’s a bummer too to say no when there were parts of it that you were like, yeah, if we could just tweak it to really be like a full yes, I do want to do that.

Amber Haggerty 28:53

I love the way you said that.

Alex Alexander 28:54

So I was gonna… I call this the third option. Like a lot of times people will… I always use a concert as the example. People will invite you to or invite me for a concert. I don’t really like concerts. I have a list, but I have some friends that love concert. So I actually make a list of artists I would go see. And if it’s on that list, I will go with them. But otherwise, they don’t even need to invite me. Not a big deal. However, quite often they have invited me. I don’t necessarily want to go to the concert but if they’re going to dinner before, I would love to go to dinner and hang out I’m even down to go do that by the concert venue where there’s a lot of traffic. That’s fine. I’d love to see them. But I don’t want to go to the concert. So after dinner, I’m gonna leave. So instead of it just being a yes or no, right, like what’s my third option? My third option is I do really want to see you. I don’t really want to go to the concert. But I’d love to come to dinner and then head out after. Does that work? 

Amber Haggerty 28:54

I think that is such a cool way of thinking about it. And I think you’re right, I think that’s exactly what we did. And I’ll give you another example of this trip in particular, you know, one of the things I was anxious about was taking that much time away from work. So I’m just like, “You know, do you think we can work while we’re on the trip?” And she said, “Yeah, absolutely. Like, we can just be both freelancing.” So she was like, “Yeah, we can like block out like a time here and a time here.” And so we kind of like went into it with like these optional times, we were going to work and times we knew you’re going to work. And we’re on the same page about that. And I think it was this really great way of being like, oh, like, we’re gonna do like a little bit of a working holiday. And I said that out loud. And I was like, I don’t know for sure if that’s what a working holiday is. We’re gonna do a little bit of a workation.

Alex Alexander 30:45

Yeah, workation. Love it. We do something similar. So we sat down at the end of the year, and we thought about, like, when we travel to see friends in the US anywhere, we would prefer to be able to stay longer. But sometimes, that can’t just be time off. Like it’s just not feasible. But instead of say, like flying in the US, not to Europe, on a Friday and flying home on a Sunday, we’d rather fly on a Wednesday and fly home on Sunday night. And although we work during the day, we still get like evenings to hang out at each other or at their house and have dinner and whatnot. Now I get it, it’s not as glamorous as full weekend vacation days. But it gives us just like some cozy nights to sit around the table and hang out and like gives us that extra time. But working remotely, that doesn’t always work in the sense of like, now we might have three people in the house working remotely. And that gets hard. And that feels kind of draining on them. So we made the decision this year to, when we do that, like, basically invest in our friendships, use our money for more time. And we’re paying for co-working spaces. So we leave their house during the day, we go to a co working space, and then we come home like we would if we worked a nine to five. And it’s been great because it gives us more time. But we’re not putting this big burden on figuring out how we all are on calls in a house together.

Amber Haggerty 32:23

Because they’re brutal. It is the calls that will get us all. I always appreciate people thinking about that and thinking of ways to make my life easier or ways to entertain themselves or that thought process I think goes a long way towards your friends who are hosting you thinking like, oh, I really hope they come back. I hope that we can host them again.

Alex Alexander [Narration] 32:45

If I just had to summarize that whole section, it’s be a good guest. Be a good guest. You know, I think quite often there’s a lot of pressure put on hosting, on making this nice experience. And making a nice experience for your guests is a lot of work as we all know. And I know we all know that because most people don’t like to host people in their homes. They don’t want to do that work. I’ve mentioned this before, I think, but we love hosting. We love having people at our house. And when I tell people that, there’s quite often a lot of pushback. I just… I can’t even imagine having that many guests. First of all, as the host, we don’t put on a big show. We don’t entertain in the sense of, we kind of just welcome people into our lives. Here’s the coffee machine, help yourself to the fridge, your bedroom’s up there, there are towels. If you need anything else, let me know. But we’re not bending over backwards and like making all these special meals and activities and doing things much different than our day to day life. So that’s one piece of it. But the other piece is we really try and set our guests up for success quite often when people are coming to stay with us. I will send them a video of our guestroom and our like bathroom. You know if they have kids and they’re coming to stay with us, because we don’t have kids, I’ll maybe send them a video. If they haven’t been to our house yet of like what our house looks like so they can get some sense of how many, I guess, breakable things there are and where the obstacles might be. And when we’re guests that go places, we really try to take the time to anticipate what might be burdens on our friends that are hosting us that we could alleviate. So, everybody can take some responsibility. And I think having these conversations before you even show up at each other’s house just sets everybody up. Knowing that everybody there will take responsibility for themselves, that it’s not on the people hosting to bend over backwards all weekend and end the weekend exhausted. I also know we have people that listen to this podcast, like I said earlier who have thought about just picking up and moving somewhere else. What has it been like meeting new people after you moved abroad, like making new friends and building new community?

Amber Haggerty 35:19

Yeah, I would say I have had a lot of the spectrum of experiences. So when we first moved, it was still the pandemic. and Ireland was under pretty serious lockdown for a large part of that. And so we were living on this farm complex, and for various reasons, weren’t really able to spend much time with the people immediately around us. And we weren’t allowed to go more than five kilometers from home. And we were on a very rural farm. So we spent like a large part of that, feeling very isolated. And just, I can speak for myself, I felt very isolated. And we actually did have a few guests come long-term, three months, and then we had a friend come for about two months. So that was wonderful. But you know, there was a long… a long stretch in that. That was pretty lonely. And when we first moved, we had a guest, and then we went back to the US. But then after that, we you know, we got back from those, those experiences. And I was like, you know, I’m going to take this really, really seriously. And I had never really thought about friendships in the same way. But I actually… I was talking to a friend at home. And she said that her friends who moved somewhere new and are single, integrate into the community really, really quickly. And her friends who are in partnerships, sometimes never integrated, because they just would spend time with their partner. And I said, that is a great point. I’m going to be so curious about this. So yeah, I started with meetup and things were still warming up at this point. But I started on meetup, my partner and I went to meetups, and I got on Bumble BFF. And I just, like started to just try it out. I just plan like full weekends with people. And so we did that for… like, the first few times were honestly pretty scary, but then it kind of got momentum and got a little bit better at it. So I would say the friends and relationships that we have now, were very intentionally made. And you know, it took quite a bit of effort. But it’s been very, very rewarding.

Alex Alexander 37:36

I mean, I love that you put yourself out there so like distinctly, you just did it, you went for it. And I’m not surprised about the single versus partnered thing. And it’s not even necessarily because you’re spending all this time with your partner. But I also think, when people have a partner, a lot of people want to meet couple friends. And if you go about it that way, instead of already needing you and a new friend to connect, now you need for people to connect enough that you want to keep initiating and getting together and like that just lowers the odds. That lowers the odds. And people really hold on to this idea of couple friends. And I’m not saying this was you, but I’m not… like I’m just not shocked that those people don’t, because after a few times of it, not clicking with another couple a lot of people give up.

Amber Haggerty 38:36

You’re totally right. I think it’s also really hard to even if you know I were to really click with, you know, a person from another couple, like it is really hard once you’ve done the couple thing to break off of that, and go back into the one on one. I don’t really know why that is, but it is… it’s awkward. It’s really hard to do.

Alex Alexander 38:55

I mean, I think people have to be really intentional about it. My husband and I are very intentional about this. Like I think of it as that is what… four dynamics. It’s like you and Partner A, you and Partner B, the four of you. Three dynamics. 

Amber Haggerty 39:14

Five, right? Wait, no.

Alex Alexander 39:15

Five. Yeah. And like each other. Like it’s a lot of like the things you would talk about as two of you versus the other two, versus all four of you are all different. So you get really comfortable and like the things he would talk about with the four of you. So then the break off is to have… you almost have to kind of like find new things sometimes even talk about and that took more work. It’s not comfortable.

Amber Haggerty 39:44

I’ve had also experiences where like my partner like really wanted to meet up with someone from another couple and like their partner was jealous. There’s a lot of complexity to it. Honestly, when we think about it this way, it makes it really impressed so that it works out as often as it does. Because it is a lot of dynamics, and it’s a lot of potentially different people. And yeah.

Alex Alexander 40:08

Well, I tell people like, it’s not that you shouldn’t hope for that or shouldn’t like… that it’s not possible because it totally is. But only wanting that certain people partner up or move somewhere. And they’re like, I only want this like, couple we can do everything. That is so much harder to find. And at what point are you just going to give up, because it’s so difficult, it is way easier for one person to go meet one new person and see if they connect. So it’s great that you instinctually… like that you just did that, that you went out there yourself and tried to meet new people. Doesn’t mean that can’t lead to meeting, you know, to that one person, being friends with your partner, or they’re also partner. Like, who knows?

Amber Haggerty 41:00

I think that one other experience I’ve had here is that I’m part of one group of, we’re all expats, and I’ve met some of their partners, but it is like, just like kind of a girls group. And we all met on Bumble. And I have had like organic friend groups. But this is the first kind of intentional friend group I’ve been a part of, that we aren’t all from the US, but most of us are, we meet up and we do things. And you know, we’re in a book club and just all of these fun activities. And you know, it’s been really fun for me as someone in like a long-term relationship to remember what that was like with my friends have met since… have lots of friends from outside of the partnership, but like most of them are from when I was in college, you know, or older friends. So… So it’s been fun to like find that here too. And to find people who are intentional about keeping the group. Yeah, keeping it going, but also like, it’s like not a partner space. Like when we have parties, it’s not a partner space. And so that’s been really nice, too.

PODCAST EPISODE! How to Make Friends as a Grown-Up. Give it a listen!

Alex Alexander  42:05

That’s really fun that you found that. I love talking about this stuff so much. We’ve already covered that. But like, people tell me all the time, right that this stuff is not possible. And then I talk to people on this podcast, it’s like, look, you just did it. You did it, people are doing it. And that’s great. Because I think there are lots of people doing it. We’re just not talking about it. So then it feels impossible.

Amber Haggerty  42:26

I think part of what made it possible for me is that I knew it was really important. I like spoke it. I said out loud to friends from home, like, I want to meet people here that I am inspired by people here who I can feel like energized by who are doing things that are really different than what I’ve done. And I think in thinking that and saying it out loud, I think it’s helped me to realize it. Because it’s helped me to when I have these potential friendships that come in, like, oh, like, it’s not meeting the requirements. 

Alex Alexander  43:03

Yeah, you… you have a filter. And like, I’m not even going to dance around that. That’s not mean. When we grow up, right, we’re making friends, I call it like friends of proximity. You make friends, where your parents or caregivers chose to live, you didn’t choose to live there, you are brought into formal communities that you did not pick because you’re a kid. You’re around these people, and you befriend people. And that’s great. But you made like, no intentional choices, really about what you wanted to surround yourself with. And as adults, we really can. So you have now picked your formal community, you’ve literally moved to a different country surrounded yourself by people, you have a very clear idea of the types of people you’re looking for. And then when you met people, you’re able to say whether or not they fit in that mold. And like sure if somebody really clicked with you, and for some reason didn’t, okay, maybe you would have formed a friendship. But otherwise, like a really great way to filter how you’re spending your time and your energy to develop these friendships. And now you have this like thriving community and friend group to show for.

Amber Haggerty  44:17

Yeah, and I feel really, honestly, like really proud of myself just thinking about the situation I was in when I moved to Cork. And it was like, I don’t… I mean, we didn’t have family in Cork, like we didn’t know anybody. I mean, we like knew of a couple people who lived here. So, I think I’m really proud of me. 

Alex Alexander  44:35

You should be proud of you. Yeah.

Amber Haggerty  44:37

Like we’re putting in the effort I’m following through. And also I’m just so grateful to have had the opportunity to meet so many people and I think you know, and Cork is an interesting example because it is very there are a lot of immigrants in Ireland. And so it’s been really fun to meet people from not just other expats from the US. There’s a… besides what communities in, in Ireland, but also, we have wonderful friends that we’ve met from Colombia and people we just never would have met had it not been for A) being really intentional and knowing it’s important and like dedicating the time to it. Like, I think about it and like a budget. Like in a company sense, it’s like, you’ll notice something’s important because it has like a budget next to it. And in your time, it’s like, it has like a time slot next to it. That’s how I know it’s important to you.

Amber Haggerty  45:27

I will say your resources, your money, your time and your attention.

Amber Haggerty  45:31

Yeah, I was… had this yoga teacher, and, you know, she’s like, “If you ever told me something’s important, but you can’t point to your calendar when you’re going to be doing it, then, you know, it’s not that important to you.” And money is the same thing. You know, investing money in trips and dinners and whatever.

Alex Alexander  45:47

Co-working spaces. Yeah. But… and you were saying, you know, like, you’re proud of yourself, I really think that making friends. And building community is like a skill set that we were not taught, growing up. And I’ve had similar experiences myself, where when you realize that you have put yourself out there, you have been intentional, you now have the skill set. Like it’s never comfortable to put yourself out there, you’re saying it’s like scary the first few times, it is scary. And the more you do it, it’s still kind of scary in the sense of like, you’re like, I don’t know, am I gonna like this person? Am I gonna feel awkward? But you start to see that more times than not, the awkwardness goes away pretty fast, and you have some like skills to kind of navigate that or you know, you’ll leave. I really think that this is something that when people start to do it, it’s really empowering to feel like, you now have this skill set. And if you move somewhere else, you could do this again.



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Amber Haggerty 46:52

Can I share two really practical tips that I’ve picked up? So the first is, I was never someone who invited people to things. Even when I was in Colorado, when I was living back at home, like I would invite friends to dinner or you know, over for game night or something. But I was never like the one who like organized a party or something. And what I realized when I moved is everybody wants to be invited to things. So you know, if you have something you want to do, just like put out an invite, and like people might not come but like, you know, maybe don’t like put down your credit card to reserve a table. But you know, just say like, I’m gonna go to this movie, does anyone want to come? And then just go to the movie by yourself if no one does. But be the person who invites people. And then on the flip side of that, I can’t remember who told me this, but I thought it was so true, which is, if somebody invites you to something, say yes. And if you absolutely can’t say yes, like give an alternate right away like an alternate time. Because most people aren’t going to try twice, and never cancel the first three times that you have something scheduled to hang out. So those are just like, very practical mistakes that I realized I probably have made. I can’t think of times I made them. But it’s something I’m very… I try to be really intentional about not doing now.

Alex Alexander 48:13

I mean, I think those are amazing. I think those are such good tips to start people off with. Again, like this is a skill set, right? This is something if we actually talk about it and think about it will help other people do this, whether it’s in their hometown or moving across the world. Like it is possible to build like beautiful new connections. And as somebody who is the friend that’s at home, I will say one of my favorite parts about going to visit people who have moved is meeting their new community. Because I don’t want them to be lonely, right? I am so excited to sit around a table with my friends, new friends, and be that person who knew them 10 years ago and can tell their new friends stories about them in college, but just like be so happy that they have these people in their corner, and that they get to see them and spend time with them. And then I get to meet them. Like learn about these new people. It’s one of my favorite things about people that move away. Like it’s sad, but there’s also so much beauty and what comes out of it. 

Amber Haggerty 49:31

Yeah, I love that so much. And also, I feel like I have not been great at facilitating those meetings when I’ve had guests.

Alex Alexander 49:41

Yeah, when your guests come, invite them to something. And it can be like big things too. So we went to… when we went to Italy last time. Our friends are part of a he’s like the president of something similar to like a rotary in the US. And they were having a fundraising dinner. And we were invited. So we’re in this room with all these Italian families. And actually a lot of expats, people from all over, if I’m being honest. And he was strategic, he sat us next to them. And this lovely couple, one of which… the gentleman was from New York. So that was like an easy conversation for us in a room where we didn’t know anybody else. And he was kind of getting pulled around. But we got to meet all these people, people were so friendly, so excited to meet us. Then they also planned a dinner with their like two closest couple friends in Italy, and we got to go and sit around and hear about all the things they do in Italy, all the trips they’ve taken together. And, you know, they wanted to hear stories about years passed before they knew our friends. And it was just like, so beautiful to get to see all these people that are now an everyday part of our friends’ lives. And it’s probably, I mean, cool for them. Because now when our friends come home for a month in the summer, those people, their friends are like, “Oh, are you going to see Alex and Michael? What are you going to do with them?” I mean, we went so far as we love some other friends, we were like, if you ever want to come to Seattle, we would love to tour you around. Book a flight to Seattle. Come hang out. If you’re ever here, let us know. Because we truly would. We would love to show them around. They were so much fun.

Amber Haggerty 51:32

Yeah, that’s very inspiring. I think I’ll have to get more people together. We did do a little bit of it. You know, I said that I don’t usually do that. And we did. When my sister was here. We did go to Taylor Swift club night with… with my sister… So we screamed Taylor Swift songs together. But yeah, I think more of that would probably be really positive. And maybe this is part of why I’m struggling so much with this, I’m just realizing real time is that, you know, when we have guests, I tend to make the whole experience about the guest and just kind of like, tell everybody like, oh, we have guests in town, you know? Then I think it probably would be a little bit easier. If I could be a little bit more laid back and just say like, we’re gonna all get dinner, we’re going to, you know, so I’m feeling inspired by that for sure.

Alex Alexander 52:18

Well, and I think it depends on how long somebody’s there. We were with our friends for nine days when we were there. So that’s one piece of it, is we still have plenty of time, just us. But the second thing is, had we been there that long or longer, or like if we went back now, it actually I think would take some pressure off our friends. Anyways, I’m just saying like, it creates all these beautiful situations where I would happily go do something with their friends for an hour. Whether or not they could make it, now that I’ve met them, we would have fun, it would be great. So it just allows for even more of those connections and possibility possibilities. Amber, thank you so much for this. I’m going to be in your town in a couple of weeks. But this has been so lovely to chat with you from one end of the world to the other about what it’s like to move far away from new people and making the community.

Amber Haggerty 53:19

Yeah, it’s been so much fun. And I feel like it’s so nice to talk to someone who’s been thinking so much about intentional communities and the mechanics of friendships. I mean, I’m going to be thinking about the… how many dynamics are going on in a couple relationship for a while. I just have loved talking to you. So thank you so much for hopping on early in the morning to have this chat with me.

Alex Alexander 53:41

Happily and you have a great dinner tonight. 

Amber Haggerty 53:44

Thank you. 

Alex Alexander 53:45

I think that everyone is going to take something different away from this episode. That might be having no appreciation for your friends who are expats experience if you are an expat it might be thinking, oh my gosh, I’m not alone. But this is really something I am juggling and I had no idea. Maybe it’s a new appreciation for the beauty that can come out of people you love moving far away. The new communities they build, getting to witness that or experience it even if it’s for a short moment. I think there were a lot of just like real honest conversation moments in this episode that hopefully will shed a little light on this experience and how both sides can approach their friendships when balancing such a long, long distance friendship, like one that spans across the world. With that, talk to you next week.

Podcast Intro/Outro  54:54

Thank you for listening to this episode of Friendship IRL. I am so honored to have these conversations with you. But don’t let the chat die here. Send me a voice message. I created a special website just to chat with you. You can find it at alexalex.chat. You can also find me on Instagram. My handle, @itsalexalexander. Or go ahead and leave a review wherever you prefer to listen to podcasts. Now if you want to take this conversation a step further, send this episode to a friend. Tell them you found it interesting. And use what we just talked about as a conversation starter the next time you and your friend hang out. No need for a teary Goodbye. I’ll be back with a new episode next week.

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Hi! I'm Alex.

I am just a person who has spent an extraordinary amount of time trying to understand some of the relationships that I hold most dear. I invite you to join in on the conversation below in the comments section below.

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Hi. I'm Alex.

I'm just a gal who cares deeply about community + friendship. Why? Well, I didn't have a healthy support system growing up.

So I built one... out of friends. I believe a healthy support system is the ultimate self-care.

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