Friends! Yes, tell me what constitutes a friend? Now this is a curly and very personal question. I don’t believe it can be answered comprehensively, not even by the most studied people. Last night, the question was brought up in conversation, and this here is another one of my unscientific and personal observations.

In German we have this word “Freund” which looks and sounds very much like the English word “friend”. These two words even have similar meanings and they could be mistaken as being the same. They are not.

In Germany you would only call a very clear and manageable amount of people “Freund.” Everybody else you’ve personally met is an acquaintance or a “friend of a friend”. I think when I left Germany I was down to two friends :).

Of course the Germans still use the two-tier of “you”. They have two terms: The close “Du” and the distant “Sie.” When you address somebody with “Du”, you are usually on a first name basis as well: you are friends. While “Sie” is usually used in combination with the surname. Oh it is all very complicated. To cut a long story short, the term used indicates the closeness of the people involved. The whole thing is a bit looser nowadays than it was when I lived there, but it is still there.

In New Zealand, (I don’t know how it is in other countries, as I have only lived in New Zealand long enough to have formed an opinion), virtually everybody you’ve met twice is your friend. Now this sounds very superficial, doesn’t it? It isn’t really.

For starters there is only one term to address the person opposite: “you.” This little fact tears down a lot of barriers.

Since I moved here the number of people I call friend has grown exponentially. But they all have one thing in common: I know them face-to-face. This fact keeps the number naturally manageable. My friends can drop in on me any time and have a conversation. What constitutes a conversation? (Don’t let me go there, not now… )

The word acquaintance is very rarely used here. I am not quite sure, but it seems if you use the word acquaintance, you have met the person, but don’t really have anything to do with them. I wrecked my brain, but I personally couldn’t come up with anybody I would refer to as an acquaintance here, though in German I would happily use the word for a number of people. I might refer to somebody as a “colleague from xyz” or “an artist guy I know”, or the “plumber who did my bathroom”. But acquaintance, no, I don’t have them in New Zealand.

Now bring on face book… I guess you can figure out my opinion. I’ll go and make a puppet in the meantime.

PS: You have certainly gathered my conversation was with a German :)