Friends. Can’t live with ’em. Can’t live without ’em. So how to you make friends here in Okinawa?
This is a topic that is constantly coming up among the foreigner population here. “How do I make friends?” Unfortunately in the years that I have been here I have not truly found a good answer to this question. Okinawa is extremely unique for many reasons but one of these reasons is that many of the foreigners here are only here for a short time due to their connection with the US Military. In many cases by the time that a person is settled in enough to become your friend they are less than a year out of preparing to pack up and move to the next location. Although there are some families who are lucky enough to stay in one place for a long stretch of time this is the reality for many others. As you might imagine this can make it difficult to make friends and for some it can make it difficult to become friends with these people. There are probably various reasons for this but one that I have heard a lot is that people do not want to spend too much time trying to connect with people who they most likely will lose all contact with once they move on from Okinawa. This is understandable and I completely sympathize with how emotionally taxing it can be to try and make friends and gain trust in them only to have them leave and potentially never talk to them again. Even with social media this still happens.
Making friends can also be extremely difficult if you are here in Okinawa and on the younger side. I have seen a great deal of people on various websites putting out ads wanting to connect with others and be friends with little success. It’s unfortunate but this too happens all the time. So what is the best way to connect? Well the reality is that the best way to connect is not to take out ads on local websites but rather to get involved with some sort of group. In my opinion the best and most beneficial way to do this is to get a job. Entering the work force is a good way to spend some of your extra time, make some money and overall get involved with other people and therefore make friends. It’s a great way to build a connection with others because you will have the commonality of having the job and it’s a great way to meet people that you might not have otherwise met.
“I’m sorry I can’t hang out with you.”
What a horrible phrase to hear from someone who is trying to connect and make friends. Unfortunately this is something that you may hear if you are married to a military member and are trying to make friends with a military member of a higher rank. You might not find yourself capable of inviting them over to a BBQ or a game of MW3. In cases like this it’s not you but it’s the policies that are in place by the military. That’s correct. In some cases military members of certain ranks can not socialize with military members of other ranks. To my understanding this does not apply if you want to hang out with the spouse and this does not apply if you are a non military family who wants to hang out with a military family but it is something that occurs from time to time. This may also be the reason that some people are distant from the beginning.
My final word of caution for those out there who are wanting to make friends is to find a group that you are comfortable with and don’t force yourself to enjoy something or do something that you are uncomfortable with. There are people out there who feel as though they have to be part of something and then they go out, get drunk and later get reprimanded. Others find themselves wanting to be part of the motorcycle community, going out and ending up going down because they didn’t want to be strong and set their own boundaries. It’s important to know your limits and know what you want to do. If you can’t find friends right away you will find others around the corner but it takes time and it takes patience. Okinawa can be tough for making friends. For some it is a great experience whereas for others it is a nightmare. My best suggestion for those out there in Okinawa who want to make friends and feel as if they cannot make it without involvement of friends is to just relax, and take this time to explore you. If the right person’s out there you’ll find them.