Prague Travel Blog› entry 4 of 5 › view all entries
Friends are the family you choose. Very true, and especially critical for solo-travellers. We have less time to sort out the superficial from the genuine and less time to lay the foundation for a solid friendship. Compared with back home you have the luxury of years to develop a friendship, when you travel you probably have a matter of weeks. Sometimes there is even an element of "desperation" and you settle for qualities that you would never have accepted back home. It's hard and there are no easy answers. You just take a leap of faith and open your heart. I suppose it's much like love.
Anyway the topic of Frienship Degrees was hotly debated amongst my friends back in 1997 at Auckland University, in New Zealand. It was started quite by accident. I think I was reading "I am right, you are wrong" by Edward de Bono. It's all about perception and one of the paragraphs mentioned how in other cultures there is an emphasis on refering to friends by their appropriate "label" whereas in English everyone is rather generically referred to as a friend.
I was fasinated and took it upon myself to start "labelling" my friends. It started out as a bit of a joke but it quickly became something a bit more controversial. I will explain. My premise for this is that you should treat a close friend better than an aquantance. I called this the Friendship List (I could not think of anything better at the time). Simple enough. But some of my friends took it upon themselves to actually create lists and this had dire consequences. People started "demoting" their friends in retaliation and finally everyone decided it was a bad idea, in order to be PC.
Like it or not we all label people either consciously or sub-consciously. It's naiive to believe that "all friends are created equal". In retrospect, we obviously treat our close friends better than our aquantances. But I still firmly believe there is a place for identifying the "Friendship Degree". However, I now realise it is too controversial to advertise our "results". I think a very useful application of this is whille on travel. It is very easy to be seduced by the excitement of meeting a new person, and expect a far closer friendship than what really exists.
It's just human psychology - everyone wants to be loved, listened to, wanted, cared for. This is nothing new. Perhaps these basic needs feel more critical when you are taken out of your comfort zone. And not everyone can be your friend - you have to deal with personality clashes, personal issues and some people just don't want to open up to others. And it's good to reflect upon where you may stand in a friendship lest you invest too much emotion or effort into it. As a side note, it is interesting with all the advent of Social Networking sites, we have started to label our friendships much more. Well, at least on these sites that is.
Anyway here is my version of the Degrees of Friendship:
Best/Close Friend: Self-explanatory. These people are like family.
Good friend: Well on their way to being close friends one day.
Drinking Buddy/Party friend: Great to party with, get invited to parties and fun stuff. But don't expect anything deeper than that.
Non-friend: Someone you see often and are cordial to. A bit of an odd one but true.
Flatmates: People you live with.
Workmate: A friend you made at work and you don't usually hang out outside of work.
Activity friend: Someone you only hang out with at the gym, football, art class.
Friend: For lack of a better label.
Travel friend: Perhaps someone you meet randomly while travelling and you go on a trip together.
Penpal/Online friend: People you hang out with in Cyberspace.
Imaginary Friends: Uh, we were messing around with this one!
Non-human Friends: Yes, a bit sad to count your pets.
Aspirational Friend: Someone you would love to be best friends with
Acquaintance: Someone you are friendly with but only hang out with when brought along by a mutual friend.
Ex-friend: Well, some thing must have happened huh?
Old friend: Someone who was a close/good but you don't see them anymore but keep in touch, perhaps because they are in a different country.
Family friend: Someone who is a friend of the family.
Situational friend: This was the most controversial one. This refers to people you were good friends with at while working, studying, living together (or even the same city) but the moment you are "out of the similar environment" they forget about you. It's hurtful because of the effort you put in and it's nice to think that "Friends are Forever" but unfortunately the sad fact is friends come and go. Friendship takes alot of effort and not everyone wants to make that effort. It's easy when you have to see someone everyday to build a relationship but if they aren't willing to make an effort outside of that, are they really worth crying for? Unfortunately I believe the majority of friendships are like this. But the ones that survive the "Situational test" are pure gold.
Temporary friend: Similar to Situational friend but very apparent at the time.
I tend to be obsessed with lists. You'd think that would make me a very organised person but unfortunately not. Anyway, my flatmate told me about the types of English teachers in Prague. I have yet to verify any of this but it does sound amusing:
1. The Graduate TEFLer; recent graduate from college taking a gap year to see Europe. Their goals: get drunk, get laid, travel.
2. The Highly educated TEFLer; usually with a Masters but in something completely useless like the mating habits of goldfish. Their goals: finally get a job, gain respect, get laid.
3. The Pseudo-intellectual TEFLer; the know-it-all who secretly knows all that he is good for is teaching english. Their goals: finally get a job, gain respect, get laid.
4. The Mid-life crisis TEFLer; who's trying to find the meaning of life. Their goals: discover the meaning of life, get laid.
5. The Geek/freak TEFLer; wasn't popular back home so goes to a new country to realise they aren't very popular there either. Their goals: build self-esteem, get laid.
6. The Peter pan TEFLer; similar to the mid-life crisis teacher but younger, more immature and with more issues to deal with. Their goals: grow up, get laid.
7. The Playboy TEFLer; an old dude who realises he has a better chance of finding a girl in Prague. Their goals: find a young bride, get laid.
8. The Nomadic TEFLer; the traveller with nothing better to do with his time but wants an excuse to stay in one place for a while. Their goals: travel, get laid.
9. The Career TEFLer; someone who actually believes this is a real job. Their goals: earn enough to pay rent and food. These people never get laid.
I'm excited and nervous to be going travelling again. I really can't afford it - by the time I get back in December I would have been on holiday for almost 6 months in 2006!!
It's mad, especially since I can't budget and have already blown US10k more than I've earned this year. All fun and games until you bleed your savings down to the last penny.
So yeah, when I get back it's time to get OCD on budgeting and find an IT job in Prague. This teaching gig is too much like summer vacation work - easy and doesn't pay shite.
Just wanted to say that Askmen.com is such an awesome website. I guess it's the guy's Cosmo...
Also it's nice to find an (e)mag in Prague.
So after a rollercoaster past 2 weeks, things seem to be falling into place. I think when you realise that life's too short to sweat the small stuff things get easier to handle. Also, everyone has their own issues to deal with and accordingly, sometimes we unfortunately have to walk away from these people lest they suck us into their little black hole.
Wow, that sounds profound.