Friends that can be . . . difficult.

Sorry, long and rambling and mostly just because I want to vent.

I have a friend, a co-worker (we are teachers at an English academy in Seoul) - we both started working here last year and became friends pretty quickly. We bonded over our mutual geekiness and love of inappropriate humor and craving for foods that are bad for us. For a while we were pretty much joined at the hip.

A bunch of stuff has happened in the past year. I started dating someone, also a co-worker, and my friend got tangled up in this whole thing with another co-worker who was at the time (and still is) dating ANOTHER co-worker (yes, we are all very incestuous). I ended up moving in with my new boyfriend last spring, while her thing all fell apart and turned into a disaster. She ended up being a bit socially stranded for a while - it’s a pretty small community over here. This all happened last winter/spring.

Anyway, she’s still not completely over the whole thing. Last weekend a bunch of us from work went bowling - she joined us later, but the minute she walked in the door she yelled at me for not warning her that HE was there. And then she just left. I was so startled and upset by her reaction (she basically reacted as if it were my fault) that I actually teared up after she yelled at me and then my friends wanted to know what was wrong. That was embarrassing. (She apologized about it afterwards.)

Then yesterday, we had a Christmas lunch at the academy for the instructors. She was sitting next to me and we were chatting for a bit, and then suddenly she burst out that we never see each other anymore and that we have nothing to talk about. I was a bit startled - it was a crowded room with people laughing and being silly so I wasn’t really in the mindset to have a serious conversation - but I tried to reassure her by rubbing her arm and telling her she was being silly, but then she left the room in tears. She came back later and we chatted a bit more, but I felt super awkward because we were sitting at a table with a bunch of other people and she was so obviously in an anti-social mood.

Then TODAY I get this email from her saying that she needs to clear the air with me, and why did I belittle her feelings by telling her she was “being silly” when all she was trying to do was tell me how she felt, and she doesn’t understand what I was thinking by cutting her off and she doesn’t appreciate me being dismissive of her when she has the right to feel whatever she wants.

I emailed her back and told her that I honestly didn’t mean it like that, but that I was at lunch expecting to have turkey and be silly and have fun and that I didn’t realize she was so upset over all of this.

She is a good friend. We have a lot in common and I can talk about things with her that I don’t even share with my boyfriend, but this is starting to stress me out. I’m not sure what she wants from me. It’s true that we haven’t been able to hang out a lot lately but it’s honestly no one’s fault - I was promoted to HQ and now work in a completely different building in a 9 to 6 job, while she’s still an instructor and works from 4-10 most days. My boyfriend and I barely see each other during the week, and the weekends we don’t spend together I usually have to go to visit my parents. Plus I never gauge my friendships by how often I see someone. I would say my closest friend in the world is the one living in England - we see each other once every few years if we’re lucky. So I can’t help feeling like this is a one-sided concern on her part.

Sigh. I don’t know how I should handle this. Maybe I should be making more of an effort, but nowadays I feel like I’m spread pretty thin as it is.

You need to tell your friend that you don’t want to have private conversations in public. That, I think, is the root of your discomfort and the thing she is ignoring. Now, she may may be driven to this extreme because she can’t get you alone anymore, but I think it’s the first layer of the onion.

Maybe she’s in love with you.

I am presuming you are not originally from Korea and you working with mostly native English speakers. If not, I am an idiot and this will make no sense so don’t read any more.

I don’t have any advice because I socially retarded but I can tell you that your situation is not unusual.

In isolated communities of ex-pats, where work colleagues automatically become your social group, things tend to get weird. There is no wider group of friends, relatives and acquaintances to provide relief and put work/social tensions into perspective. You are forced to choose between being alone, and being with people who you might not socialise with in other circumstances. Small issues get blown out of proportion and personality conflicts are magnified.

Maybe she feels like you are one of her only friends and she is freaking out being she is afraid of being alone.

I suppose I am just saying that you can expect more drama and more social weirdness in your situation, compared to working in your native country.

Yeah. I did tell her that I wasn’t really expecting to have a serious conversation in that situation. It sounds flippant, but really, I just wanted some turkey and some fun.

I don’t think she leans that way, although you’ve reminded of something that happened a few weeks ago at a friend’s birthday - she overheard my boyfriend call me “darling” and she interjected with a joke about how only she is allowed to call me that. She was laughing as she said it but I dunno, for some reason it was an odd moment. My boyfriend is already paranoid that she doesn’t like him so that certainly didn’t help matters.

Yes, you presume correctly. :slight_smile:

You are right, and I should have remembered this, I suppose. The thing is, I grew up in Korea for half my life, so I do have friends and family outside of the ex-pat community. She doesn’t.

But she does have other teachers she hangs out with. Although most of them are guys, so it’s not the same I suppose.

I think this is the key. Friends that worked in Korea as language teachers have all told me they felt socially isolated and it was tough. Not having Korean friends makes things much different for her - the stakes in a friendship are much higher. It doesn’t excuse her odd behaviour but it may explain it.

You’re a nicer person than I am. I can see putting up with some degree of emotional crap from a boyfriend, but I personally put girlfriends in a different category. High maintenance girls who feel like they’re entitled to my time and attention don’t stay my friend’s for long. It sounds like she wants/needs a BFF, hang out every week and talk on the phone all the time sort of friend, and that you just don’t have time for that. I don’t have the patience for it, whether I have the time or not.

I’d be avoiding her like the plague right now since I hate confrontation, but I suppose the polite thing to do is to very nicely explain that you’ve been very busy lately and are likely to continue to be very busy in the near future and…I dunno what. Do you want to have this kind of friend in your life? Is she worth it? She sounds a tad crazy.

Life as an expatriate can make even the sanest of us crazy. Crazy! Hoo hoo hoo! I’m coo coo for cocoa puffs!

Yes, I have felt plenty of the same here in China. The ex-pat bubble and the cattiness therein can drive people insane. Sometimes I feel like it’s high school all over again…

Renee, I know what you mean, but what baffles me is that she wasn’t like this before. Or maybe I didn’t notice it because we DID spend a lot of time together. I dunno. I want to stay friends with her because I feel like this is just a temporary funk she’s in, but if she persists I’m not sure what I’m going to do.

The thing is, I can see myself getting mad at my boyfriend if he brushed off something serious I said with, “Stop being silly,” (in fact, this has happened in the past) so maybe I’m just being insensitive in this particular situation. Although I do feel like I wouldn’t have responded that way if we hadn’t been at a Christmas work party. Also, I’m not her boyfriend. :smack:

Compared to what goes on around here, this doesn’t even count as drama. Drama is when a guy deliberately sleeps with another girl when he knows his ex is coming over that night and then his ex goes nuts when she walks in on them and tries to jump out the window. (This did happen.)

I’ve been living in Okinawa for 4 years (one more month and I’m out of here!) and I know how frustrating it can be, but if being an ex-pat is making you (general you) crazy, you should go home, not make your friends uncomfortable by subjecting them to your nuttiness. Presumably no one is forcing this woman to stay in Korea. But like I said, I’m not a very nice person when it comes to clingy women.

Oh, I could tell you some scandalous tales from the expat crypt, but I think the involved parties would rather them not see the light of day.

I try to shun “the bubble” as much as possible but I still get sucked into it sometimes.

I see where you’re coming from Hazel, but otoh, if I had a friend who never had any time for me whatsoever, someone who made it clear I was at the bottom of their priorities, I’d feel hurt too.

She obviously needs to talk to you (and is going about it all wrong, granted.) You can’t find an hour for lunch somewhere? You say she’s a good friend, well friendship goes both ways, after all.

Heh, is your friend me? I’ve had my own stupid ex-pat drama lately, and I’ll admit it has made me pretty obnoxious and tough to be around. There is nothing that sends you reeling like suddenly losing your social footing in a faraway place. It can be tough to keep perspective, and it can be tough to figure out how to deal with these emotions when you don’t have any long-term friends and support networks.

She may not actually be a high-maintenance person- it could be that she’s going through a bit of a tough time made tougher by being far away from any real social support networks. Little things can sometimes leave strong people unhinged out here. And I think it’s especially tough on women in East Asia.

The thing that has gotten me few is a few friends who have been willing to spend time with me, even when I haven’t been that pleasant to be around. These few people have made all the difference in the world, and have helped me get my life back together. Just a little bit of support can make a huge difference.

If you want to keep being friends, and support her through this, maybe you could set up a weekly time to grab lunch or drinks of something? It would probably go a long ways towards making her feel like she has a place, and hopefully she will heal and grow stronger.

I’m just throwing this out there & it may not have any bearing on this case at all (and I’m definitely speaking from an expat guy point of view, so maybe I’m completely talking out the old pi-gu),

but I’ve heard more than once around here that Western women tend to get freaked out a bit when they realize they’re far from the center of attention they were back home. Their Western guy friends go nuts for the Taiwanese gals showering them with attention, and the local dudes are all too intimidated to strike up a conversation. Attractive girls find themselves feeling lonely & overlooked for the first time since middle school. I’ve heard some very bitter words coming out of some Western ladies who’ve been here a little while.

You’ve got a boyfriend who is serious enough for you to have moved in with, you’ve been promoted, you’ve stopped spending time with someone you used to be “joined at the hip” with, and she’s had a bad relationship and had a hard time; you don’t think, as a good friend, that maybe you could see things from her perspective a little?

If you do indeed want to retain her friendship, I suggest you make a little time to sit down and talk with her. From what you’re describing, I think your friend is hurt by being (what she sees as) rejected by you.

To be fair, I don’t think local women have it much better. However, they are much more used to the idea that getting under 40 kilos is a rightous undertaking, heels and girdles are mandatory, height-weight and photos are a key part of a resume, 27 years old is over-the-hill and husbands will unwind with their colleagues at prostitute karaoke bars while you keep their dinners warm. It’s a man’s world out here. It is tough on the women who can’t/won’t play by the rules or suddenly find themselves on the bench, but in truth the game is rigged against women to begin with.

We DO see each other, and she’s certainly not at the bottom of my priorities. Until a few weeks ago we had dinner once a week after classes (I still teach one day a week). Then we got our Winter Term schedules and my one day of teaching was one of her days off. We’ve been meaning to get together Wednesday nights but I’ve been swamped with work since the new term started and honestly have no energy at the end of the day. We still see each other at mutual friends’ birthdays and when her band has a gig I try to go and see them play. Granted, we haven’t been able to have any time to ourselves for the past month. But it’s only been a month, and she’s been here, in Korea, for a year and a half now and goes out with friends from work that are not me all the time.

I guess I’m a bit frustrated because it’s not like I don’t want to spend time with her, it’s just that lately I’ve been busy and distracted and I just need some time for things to settle down. And the turkey lunch incident was really out of left field for me - if we hadn’t been able to see other for months I would understand. She as well has had her “hermiting” phases where she doesn’t want to do anything and just sits at home and doesn’t socialize - for weeks at a time. In my mind, sometimes people just need time off from other people, even good friends.

But I suppose I will try to see her this weekend. If she’s still talking to me - she never responded to my email apologizing for the turkey lunch.