'Friendship in Ireland was a whole new world ... it has a different meaning here'

Nigerian woman Zeenie Summers writes about making friends in a new home for The Women’s Podcast

’In Nigeria, once friends become friends they visit and keep in touch with each other regularly, share daily experiences and do not need an invitation or appointment.’ Photograph: Sara Freund

’In Nigeria, once friends become friends they visit and keep in touch with each other regularly, share daily experiences and do not need an invitation or appointment.’ Photograph: Sara Freund

 

The quality of your life is determined not only by who you are but who you have come to know and the people you surround yourself with. That is the essence of friendship.

Friendship opens you up to a different world from that which you would have otherwise known in solitude. Friendship makes daily struggles adventurous and turns trivial moments into worthy memories. That’s what friendship meant to me before I came to Ireland.

In Nigeria, I had four best friends. Each was different from the other, they were not even friends with one another. I was the only thing they had in common. But with each of them, I lived in four different worlds and I experienced life in four different ways. With each of them I learned more about myself; about friendship; about life.

With Daniel, It was about music, creative writing, reading contests, family, and a closeness that many envied. Even our parents, at some stage, were against our friendship but they couldn’t ruin a lifelong bond.

With Oreoluwa, It was about navigating the boarding school life, surviving, studying, living and learning together. We were inseparable even until after our final school exams.

With Susan, it was about fun, traveling, exploring, beauty and cooking. Her family was really fond of me and mine, her.

Mary Adeola was the exception. We were one and the same. With her it was a combination of everything I had with my other best friends and more. It was about business, the next new venture, the next new skill (writing, dancing, crafting, selling), the next new adventure. We made and sold jewellery and clothing together, we baked and sold snacks. We created opportunities for ourselves, we dared and we shocked. Mary and I would research a famous designer/makeup artist/dancer from magazines, find their contact details and go visit them. We created paths for ourselves, we figured out life together and we built things.

Friendship in Ireland was a whole new world to me. I believe friendship has a different meaning here. My first seven months in Ireland were spent indoors, watching Jeremy Kyle and Hollyoaks. I met no one. I didn’t even know my neighbours.

When I started college, I made no friends either. I was friendly with all my classmates but I never was a clique kind of girl so I was not really interested in the new girl group that all the girls in my class had created. When they invited me to lunch during break, all they talked about was clothes, makeup, shopping, sessions and boys.

It’s not that I was against being a teenager who just wants to have fun, it’s just that I needed to thrive on more. My initial impression of friendship in Ireland was that it consisted of scheduled meetups for coffee, lunch, cinema and superficial conversations which weren’t stimulating for me.

I eventually made friends when I joined Discovery Gospel Choir. This was when I started to have a different understanding of friendship in Ireland. I began surrounding myself with nice and supportive people that I shared something with. Unfortunately, it rarely goes deeper than that. I think this is because most Irish people already have their own friends who they grew up with.

That said, I did make a few friends with whom I spent chunks of time at different stages. We had challenging conversations, loads of tea and coffee, park meetups, shared creative ideas and personal experiences. These experiences were different but nonetheless stimulating.

In Nigeria, once friends become friends they visit and keep in touch with each other regularly, share daily experiences and do not need an invitation or appointment. They do more than just hang out together.

In Ireland, friends do not feel the need to keep in touch as often. They don’t even have to be close to be friends and when they meet, it’s usually in public.

With my African friends in ireland, we visit each other and cook together and with my Irish friends we schedule to meet for coffee, have a lovely chat and part ways after. I tend to meet up with my African friends regularly but it’s very possible that my Irish friends and I do not get in touch for some months before we bump into each other in town and fix another coffee meetup. I think that’s the cultural difference.

Because of that, it hasn’t been easy for me to create a deeper level of friendship with Irish women. And because of the different society where I now live I have equally been unable to create a deeper level of friendship with other women of different nationalities like that which I have with my best friend, Mary Adeola.

To make close Irish friends, you’d have to be stuck with them, to work and live with them. It’s just the way it seems to me. I hope in the future that I will make deep and long-lasting friendships in this place I have chosen as my home.

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