Just last weekend I caught up
with an old friend over a good value but just slightly above
average Indian dinner buffet.
He picked the restaurant.
I've known Artur now for over
seven years. I met
him my first full day in Hua Hin back in 2007.
I had gone to this Thai beachside resort to learn
how to kite surf.
I swung by the local kite shop to sign up for lessons
the day after arrival, and Artur was there, nursing a
I wouldn't say we became instant
friends, and I don't recall the moment we began hanging out
He was renting a room near the beach in a large
condominium complex for about $250/month, which was a better
location and price than my place closer to town.
It took a week before I was able to snag an available
condo. Soon, we
started having dinners together.
By some fortuitous occurrence (for me),
Artur encountered my future wife in a local forum a month
later. She was
about to relocate to Hua Hin from Malaysia and wanted some
advice on places to live and what schools to send her young
son. Artur was
fresh off his second one-year teaching gig in Korea and
assumed he was still heading back there after first visiting
Canada to see his mother.
This connection with Korea was why he responded to
Eventually, Artur introduced her to me and some of the other
kiteboarders we were hanging out with.
I had never expected to remain in Hua
Hin after the kiting season ended.
Within ten days of Artur's introduction, my future
wife and I became a couple, and we've never been separated
for more than 7 weeks since.
My staying in Hua Hin may have played some part in
subsequently altering Artur's fate.
He returned to Canada for a six month period that
year, but he was back by November, and has since been living
in Thailand almost as long as I have.
There were actually three of us who met
on the beach in that spring of 2007.
The third party in the triumvirate we'll just call
Bean, due to his resemblance to the Rowan Atkinson goofball
returned to Thailand permanently from Britain shortly before
Artur. By the
beginning of 2008, all three of us were living in Hua Hin;
and just three years later, now married to the woman Artur
had introduced me to, I moved to Bangkok where Bean and
Artur had resettled for better work opportunities 12-18
Bean and Artur still play a role in our
lives. I've had
the two of them over to my abode, both in Hua Hin and
Bangkok, on too many occasions to count.
There was a temporarily falling-out period I had with
Artur for two years over something stupid, amounting to me
expecting more from Artur than I probably should have.
So what kind of friends are they?
Best Friends typify people you could tell your
deepest and darkest secrets, call at any hour of the night,
stay in close touch with wherever they are.
On that measure, I don't know if I have any best
friends in my life anymore.
Best Friends Forever friends (BFF's)?
BFF's are merely a theoretical concept. Anyone who
bothers to sign your junior high school or high school
yearbook with a BFF moniker is someone you won't be in touch
with in five years.
Are Bean and Artur old friends?
They're certainly my oldest friends in Thailand and
likely to stay in my life as long as we're all living here.
They share an unusual history with me and my wife.
Bean met my wife at the exact same moment I did.
Artur misinterpreted some comments she made to
conclude that my wife really had feelings for Bean.
The two even went out on one (excruciating) date!
But old friends doesn't capture who they are either.
The Old Friend would be someone I've known for over
twenty years or a friend since childhood.
A seven year friendship isn't all that long in the
scheme of things.
Bean and Artur are the
closest thing I have to Old Friends in this era of my life.
Old Friends transcend your connection to a particular
school, job, or city.
You've known each other so long that keeping in
constant touch isn't required.
A short e-mail every few months to check up on the
other party is enough to keep the friendship alive.
I have a genuine Old Friend I've known now for 27
foundation for that friendship was set up between 1987-91,
and since 1991, I've only seen him a total of less than two
That's the way it works with Old Friends.
Legwork performed decades ago or shared histories
from critical periods in the past is enough to keep the bond
I don't see Bean or Artur all that
much. Once every
four to six weeks sounds about right.
By the standards of my youth, a person living this
close whom I see this infrequently qualifies as an
acquaintance, not as a friend.
That was then, this is now.
The applicable criteria used to classify friendship
in one's teens and twenties goes out the window by the time
a person reaches his thirties.
Responsible adults spend the lion's share of their
time at work.
What little time they have left is spent with their
families. By 35,
you'd be lucky to see your very Best Friends once a week
unless they work with you or live next door, a phenomenon
I've only observed in sitcoms.
In our thirties, most of us have
already picked most of our Best Friends and our significant
all of the people you meet at work from this point on remain
work colleagues for as long as you stay at that place of
won't keep in touch with them beyond a Facebook posting here
and there after you depart.
Artur works as a teacher in a local high school.
I've heard him mention a few gatherings with fellow
from an Austrian teacher he used to work with, at this stage
in his life, he's friendly with the people he works
with rather than friends with them.
My wife has worked alongside many of the same people
for 3-7 years now.
Despite 80% of them living just across the street
from us in another housing complex in Hua Hin, we never
socialized with any individually or as a group beyond the
None of her Bangkok colleagues have ever been invited
to our condominium, either alone or as a couple. Most
recently, we went back to Korea for a visit and I tried to
initiate contact with an Italian executive chef she worked
alongside of for several years.
He effectively blew us off.
This is how it goes.
Work colleagues aren't friends, but in a fickle category all
At this point in my life, I realize I'm
unlikely to have many opportunities to setup foundations for
future Best Friends or keep their interests long enough to
eventually make them Old Friends.
Cementing friendships as I knew them decades ago
A sense of shared history between myself, Artur, and Bean in
an adopted land escalated them into a kind of Old Friends
category they wouldn't have otherwise qualified for.
It would not be an easy task to place new recruits
into this same category.
What that leaves are social contacts
and networking contacts, neither of which may qualify as
friends in the traditional sense.
A social contact would be the Korean
couple my wife and I have gone to dinner with several times
in the last few years.
My wife knows them because they're also hoteliers.
In August, that couple is moving from Bangkok to
Chiang Mai. They
invited us to look them up.
If I am to tell it like it is,
I can guarantee we
would NEVER make a trip to Chiang Mai especially to see
them. And when
we do return to Chiang Mai, which I'm sure we will do at
some stage, our stay will last just a matter of days, so I
doubt my wife would take the time to look them up.
If I journeyed up to Chiang Mai alone, I don't have a
solid enough connection to justify making contact.
There's a more than fair chance we'll never see them
able to say that without a second thought boots them out of
any kind of Friends category, in my opinion.
The Koreans are examples of social
contacts of some substance, at least for my wife.
Bangkok, more than most places, has no shortage of
social contacts of no substance.
You can park yourself in a pub, a fetish show, or a
nightclub and strike up a chat with any number of others who
live here. At
the end of the night, you'll have had a decent enough time,
but in a generic type of way.
You won't feel a need to collect any of the telephone
numbers of your social compadres.
Too often, you'll find the people you encounter to be
like the minor characters on major television shows.
A minor character remains a minor character because
there's not enough substance or interest to elevate him or
her to a major one. No
television show is successful if all the characters are
minor characters. A
TV show requires a core of several major characters, just
like our lives do.
So often filling a social void with substance-less
social contacts won't get you very far.
I've already been
there, done that.
In my older age, I've
developed a very simple test as to whether someone qualifies
as a decent social contact.
I just ask myself if I would rather be watching a video or
reading a book on my phone than having an extended chat with
the person sitting in front of me.
Nine out of ten
times, the video or book is the more enjoyable option.
When the contact is truly abhorrent, picking your
nose is more enticing.
That could become a newly accepted definition of
real friend is always guaranteed to earn your attention.
A networking contact is someone you
rely on to further your professional interests.
Ideally, networking contacts are also your social
contacts – and even better, your friends.
When you're at the top of the pyramid, there's a
significantly greater chance your friends are also your
powerful social and networking contacts.
No one is surprised that successful actors George
Clooney and Brad Pitt are networking contacts (they appear
in movie projects together), social contacts, and friends.
Ditto for the late Steve Jobs and his fellow
billionaire buddy Larry Ellison.
When you achieve a certain level of status, you
naturally meet, associate, and gain the respect of others in
For those of us not scaling the highest
pinnacles of success, reliable networking contacts not based
upon a social framework first are difficult to forge.
I've been to well over a dozen entrepreneurial
networking meetups here in Bangkok and collected countless
numbers of business cards.
I am sure many others attend these meetups, like me,
to source someone competent they could team up with on a
these types of events, you need to assess the competence of
the potential contacts you're meeting.
A business card
proclaiming the giver to be a web design expert or SEO
marketing pro doesn't make this the unequivocal truth.
You likely won't make time for a second meeting
unless this potential contact is someone you really like, in
which case he could be a solid social contact if nothing
else; or someone you have a gut feeling is exceedingly
competent whose services or expertise you feel you might
Nearly all of the time, you hand over your business card,
the other guys hands over his, and neither of you do
anything about it.
When you're actually in need of a web designer or SEO
marketing pro, you don't even think about the dusty cards
you collected months before from people you hardly remember.
Instead, you do your due diligence by scouring the
internet for possibilities, just like what you would have
done had you not attended the networking event.
So you can see there aren't that many
friend types, and by the time you get to middle age, you
realize there really aren't that many friends period.
Those who've remained behind in the communities in
which they've grown up have better odds on a richer list of
Best Friends and Old Friends.
My grandparents' generation and, to some degree, my
parents' generation possessed long lists of
more-than-superficial friendships given that they settled
where they were raised, a trend which markedly changed after
the 1970's. The
rest of us pad our social calendars with work colleagues (at
work-related functions only), social contacts, and
It's not as sad or dismal as it sounds.
There's something liberating in life about marching
through it with little baggage and adjusting to fluid
contacts. Life is all about letting things in and letting
things go, and you get better at doing both when you
recognize friendship types for what they are.
few months ago, the food & beverage director of my wife's
hotel moved on to new horizons in Phuket with his wife and
newborn child after six years in Hua Hin.
His loss would be more pronounced if he were a
friend, but he wasn't.
He was just a another friendly work colleague of my
wife's we saw around the hotel whom we now have an excellent
chance of never seeing again.
Life goes on.
We've already forgotten his name.