There is a German expression: "Freudschaften pflegen" which translates loosely to taking care of friendships. But the word pflegen (=caring) implies a level of care that is more along the line of nursing or even healing. And indeed, Germans do treat friendships very differently from mere acquaintances ("Bekanntschaft" in German).
Blogger Amiexpat wrote recently about making friends in Germany, and I found the discussion very interesting. Americans are quick to make friends while Germans take it very slow and steady -- it often takes years before they decide to use first names and use "Du" instead of the formal "Sie". It is also true in both countries that as we get older we have a more difficult time making friends -- for some people in both the US and Germany, the only close friendships are those made in school/university years. I think that is sad: especially given how much more mobile society is becoming, many become lonelier as friends move away or pass on.
I have not always been good in the "Freundschaft pflegen" department: not only have I moved a lot, but have not been the best at correspondence or picking up the phone. Facebook has helped me (and many others) reconnect with old friends who we've lost touch with -- but Facebook per se is no substitute for friendships, but only a first step in re-connecting.
Yesterday I had the wonderful opportunity to spend a day with an old highschool friend from the Philippines. We had found each other on Facebook after some 30-odd years, and since she lives in Belgium now, we we able to meet up during my Germany visit. It was GREAT-- we found that we had a great deal in common (besides our gray hair we both refuse to dye). Sometimes old friends grow apart over time (becoming fundamentalist Christians, greedy businessmen/women, or even Tea Party Republicans) -- but luckily my friend is none of those!
And now I've got some serious Belgian chocolate to haul back in my suitcase. Thanks Meg!