After living in Germany for nine months, we visited the US in November for three weeks, passing through three cities. (Los Angeles, Walnut Creek, and Portland) Going to visit friends and family got me thinking about my life here 1. The vast majority of my time it’s just the four of us. Robie has four nights of martial arts split between two schools as well as her German integration class 2 each morning during the week. The kids go to kindergarten. Me,… I spend most of those times alone or with the kids.
Beyond our daily routine, our circle of friends and family is small. There’s my friend Mishi 3; we see her and her family about once or twice a month, my niece Janina, and my older sister Daniela. The latter two, we’ve only seen a handful of times, since they live in other cities.
It got me thinking, how much of a life is it to have so few people? Returning to the USA 4 prompted me to compare and contrast.
If you moved away from wherever you’ve been living and returned for a visit, how many non-family people would you make a point of visiting? 5 For me the numbers are as follows:

  • Germany – 1 – Mishi, plus I really do enjoy visiting my sister and niece
  • Los Angeles – 2.5 – Two friends from high school, Monique and Isabel. The .5 is a friend from MIT but I’m not as consistent about seeing him.
  • Bay Area – .5 An old friend from Intel, but I’m not as consistent since it’s a bit of a drive between him and my brother’s house.
  • Portland – 5.5. The .5 is due to a bit of a drive. 6

Before coming to Germany, I’d been in Portland about 15 years. 7 That translates into one new friend about two or three years. Since we intend on staying here 2-3 years, if I find one new person, we’ll be doing pretty good.
Over the last months, I’ve asked a bunch of people what there number is. I was a little surprised that it’s pretty close to my Portland number, perhaps one or two more. The biggest number I got at 15. The smallest I got was 1. 8
What’s your number?

Follow up

In a previous post, I mentioned that I’d been kidnapped as a kid by my dad. When visiting the US in November, I asked him about that. I wondered if he would agree with the description. He does agree but he also claimed that the way he did it was legal. He had consulted an attorney who advised him to register me with social services in the US, thereby establishing custody in the US. This sounded suspect to me but legal systems can be twisted. Still, legal or not, it was kidnapping; even he agrees with that. 9

How big is your circle of real friends

  1. I consciously think of Germany as “home”. Portland is just another city I’ve lived in and will likely live again.

  2. focused mostly on learning German

  3. it’s actually spelled Michi (short for Michaela) but when writing her letters (no email!) after my first summer in Germany at age 13 (we’ve actually known each other since I was 5) my German wasn’t that good yet and Mishi is what I heard and so it’s what I wrote. It was only several summers later that I learned I’d been spelling it wrong.

  4. again, I don’t say returning home, because while we’re here, Germany is home

  5. I say non-family because family people are generally folks you’re stuck with. You’ll likely visit them either way

  6. Should probably make it 7.5. One guy is not on the list because he hasn’t shown much interest in friendship though we’re an otherwise obvious fit. A second guy I should add, because he has shown interest and I had overlooked him

  7. April 2001-Feb 2016

  8. The 1 answer came from someone with a very strong family circle. Brother, daughter, mother

  9. I still need to do a post on my broader thoughts on the topic

3 thoughts on “How big is your circle of real friends

  • January 20, 2017 at 1:00 pm

    We’re visiting Wisconsin next month. My immediate family in Wisconsin is my parents, 3 sisters, their husbands, and 9 nieces and nephews. So that’s 17 just for the family. Then lots of aunts and uncles and cousins that I love but don’t get to see as often unless we can pull together a big gathering. Plus around 3 friends for me and Griffin’s 2 best friends. It’s hard to fit into a week.
    When we used to travel the other way there are 3 friends in the bay area I would make a point to see.

  • January 20, 2017 at 6:03 pm

    Interesting question; I’ve had cause to reflect on this quite a bit in the last year.
    I’ve concluded my circle of friends is 3. Maybe 4, if I include my ex-wife. If I were to go back to my birth city, the place I spent my first 18 years of life? I don’t think there’s anybody there I’d make an effort to see aside from my mom.
    One thing I’ve noticed is that I’m a bit of a “bad friend”. While I make an effort to keep in touch with those few people, there are another dozen who make an effort to keep in touch with me. And I’m generally responsive, but I’m just not compelled to reciprocate with the same gusto. If not for their effort, those relationships would just fade away.
    I imagine this is typical of introverts. I’m not sure if I’m saddened by it or not.

  • January 21, 2017 at 12:57 am

    It’s interesting that your circle of friends change with years. The number of friends gets smaller with time as my own experience. For example, my teenager years I had 20 or more friends to compare to college which I had about 15. Different stages of life changes who you decide to have around you. Now being a mother of three boys, who works part time and has no time for herself my circle has gotten smaller. Smaller but more intimate and with a stronger bond. I can say I have 5 amazing woman who I can’t live without.
    Love this topic!


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Miles's thoughts