Definition of Expat: shortened form of expatriate, referring to anyone who has chosen to live away from their native home country, either permanently or with the intention of returning to their own country. Often a person is offered temporary change of employment. It first meant “one who is banished,” and later “one who chooses to live abroad.”
Life in a new country offers both opportunities and challenges. Stepping into the unknown can be a huge leap of faith, especially in a country where no one speaks your language. Making friends with expats in similar circumstances eases the transition and loneliness. With no close family or friends, the need for relationships to fill that gap is vital.
The Vienna, Austria United Nations Women’s Guild (UNWG) weekly activities provided the perfect avenue to meet other women. In a group of people, for various reasons, we are often drawn to certain ones.
My first time at the UNWG quilting group I immediately gravitated toward Barbara from Maryland and Christine from Canada.
It wasn’t long before we pulled our spouses into the mix for an evening out. Our scientist husbands quickly found common ground in each of their fields of expertise. Conversation flowed easily as the women, eager to begin taking in all the “Vienna experience” we could work into our days, proceeded to made plans to visit coffee shops/cafes, museums, and markets.
As couples, we traveled together, mostly by train, to places in Vienna, as well as neighboring countries. We biked through the countryside and along the Danube River, stopping to visit old castles and places of interest. And, of course, coffee breaks took top priority. As a result of the excellent Viennese coffee, I unfortunately became a major “coffee snob.”
This past weekend we gathered at our house for our first reunion since we left Vienna eight years ago. We reminisced of our Vienna days, recalling places we frequented, such as ancient castles, re-telling stories of the history of families who occupied them so long ago. We marveled at our stamina to complete long bike treks and walk everywhere in the frigid cold, pulling carts loaded with groceries on and off the ubahn (city transportation.)
Then the women shared pictures of both our finished and unfinished quilt projects, told funny stories of our grandkid’s shenanigans and of course, made time for lots of coffee breaks.
The men joined us to a quilt hand stitch art exhibit at UTSA. I think they may have enjoyed it as much as we did.
The men reveled in the fact that they had someone to converse with who understand “their language” as they discussed the different roles they each held in keeping the world safe.
None of us may have been close friends in our own countries, but thrown into a strange place, focusing on things we had in common, it became easy to look past our differences. The encouragement we offered one another kept us focused on the positive. Even though we each possessed very different personalities, we instantly became close friends.
As Christians, we also exhibit distinctive natures and hold personal preferences, but our one thing in common, Jesus, allows us to overlook differences as we focus on Him.
So let’s do it—full of belief, confident that we’re presentable inside and out. Let’s keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. He always keeps his word. Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching. Hebrews 10:23-25 MSG
This present world, wherever we live, should never feel like home. Our gracious God has blessed us with a community of brothers and sisters to offer encouragement while we travel in a foreign land. As we make our way through this momentary world, let’s never ever forget the final destination.
But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Philippians 3:20 ESV