Last night I went and visited a language school. They are starting an English club in a suburb of Lviv and wanted a native speaker to give it a boost. The owner of the school is a lecturer at the University and I didn't mind giving up a Friday night.
After the class the owners of the school took all of the teachers out for pizza with Katie and me. It was really a fun time. We talked a lot about the idea of friendship and the way that it is practiced in our respective cultures.
Americans are insta-friends. Just add water and one lunch-break and we act as if we are best friends. When we meet someone new we try and prove why the other person should like us. We act happy, almost overjoyed, to meet new people.
In slavic culture, friendships take quality and quantity time. Every minute that you are physically present with someone adds one more brick to your friendship castle. It is appropriate to be slightly distrustful of new people you have met, and it often feels as though you must prove why you would make a worthwhile investment of time.
For Ukrainians living in America it is frustrating that everyone wants to meet you but no one wants to be your friend. Everyone is nice, but no one wants to spend enough time with you to really build a friendship.
For Americans living in Ukraine it often feels like no one likes you. Coming into a situation where you meet many people who are already friends is overwhelmingly difficult. You feel as though everyone hates you! My first day at the student center, my first time at the pastor's conference, my first day giving classes at the university - they were terrible! I felt unwanted and unloved.
One negative about the American system is that friendships are often a mile wide and an inch deep. In middle school, we went from being best friends to worst enemies in one day or one lunch period. In slavic cultures, this doesn't happen. Once you are friends, you are friends for life.
Friendships here tend to be rarer, but much deeper.
It takes a long time to develop a friendship - and sadly - sometimes Americans don't have much success building friendships here.
I'm incredibly lucky to have a handful of close friends in Lviv. While I might stop and say hello on the street to more than 300 people that I know - I can only count about 20 people as friends and only about 6 as close friends. In reality - these numbers are really high. While back home only have 6-20 friends would cast you in the lot of a loner - by Ukrainian standards I've been super successful at making friends here! I'm incredibly blessed by my friends and I'm super thankful to have them in my life.