September is International Women’s Friendship Month. So how do these international friendships typically pan out? Sometimes not so well, sadly.
Living in rural Mexico often means isolation for women who have chosen to come with their husbands to the lands of their ancestors. Friendships with other women are slow in developing, if ever. And yet, women need the support of a tribe of their own, not just the husband’s sister or aunt or cousin.
Studies have shown that deep, abiding friendship between women can counteract stress–and moving to a new culture is certainly rift with that. Women have an innate drive to communicate, which moving to an area where a new language is spoken can inhibit. Friendships occur over shared experiences, beliefs and values–things that are not found in the new environment these women have settled in.
Friendship can help women combat loneliness, improve their chances of surviving breast cancer, and generally help create a satisfying quality of life, no matter where a person lives.
So why is it so hard to foster friendship in a new country?
Unfortunately, we have an inherent bias built into our perceptions that takes deliberate effort to overcome. We tend to choose friends who look like us, have a similar background, and social values. When we are faced with making connections with people who neither look like us nor have a shared history, we need to work more at finding commonality than we would otherwise. And while we immigrants to Mexico may be driven to find connections, the women that live in our village with long-time established friendships, are not.
So where does that leave us? Depressed, lonely, and ill. Online friendships sometimes help with the worst of this, but virtual buddies can’t ever replace an actual friend.
In June, I was able to visit my hometown for the first time in 10 years. I stayed in the home of my best friend since third grade. I thought that it was just me, who had been living in relative isolation for so long, that most enjoyed our time together. So I was surprised when my friend said that she really missed the company of women, both her girls were grown now.
We talked about the growing Amish community in the area and whether they had a better support system than most women. After all, they have shared values, a common background, activities, and history. Since that society of women is closed to non-Amish for the most part, we weren’t able to do more than speculate.
Bringing these thoughts back with me to Mexico, I started to feel less resentful of the women who refused to befriend me. The closed society of women here is no different than the Amish community in Pennsylvania. Which of course, makes it difficult for interlopers like myself to establish deep and abiding friendships.
So where does that leave me? I will continue to enjoy my virtual interactions in the various Facebook groups I am in, including two that I help manage SOTB Bloggers and Women Surviving Rural Mexico, which I invite you to join if you live in Mexico. I will keep trying to be supportive of the women as they struggle with their online presence and daily interactions in Mexico. I will try to remember that I have an internal bias as do the women I come in contact with, so I mustn’t hold it against them. And I will continue to cherish the friends that I have no matter the distance between us.
How have you made and maintained your friendships with other women?