Long-distance friendships – how to stay in touch

Whether or not you’re an expat, most of us have dealt with seeing a close friend move away from home. Perhaps you’ve seen a friend move to another town, or maybe they’ve even moved half-way across the world, either way, it can be hard to handle.

Sometimes it’s easier to let the relationship slip out of reach, as it’s hard to coordinate calls with different time zones, work out a time to speak with busy schedules, and, living in Dubai, our weekends are different to my international friends. But I think it’s ever-important to stay in touch with friends when they (or you) move away from home.

I’ve lived as an expat for 5 years now, so as well as leaving my friends in London behind when I first moved, I’ve seen lots of friends come and go from Dubai. When someone first moves away it’s easy to stay in touch; you tell each other how much you miss each other, and tell the other person that they have to come to visit soon! But as time goes on and you get busier, it’s harder to stay in touch, with all the physical barriers such as distance and time zones, but also emotional barriers, as you probably both lead separate-ish lives now. In this post, I’m going to explain why I think it’s important to put in the effort to maintain a long-distance friendship and how to make it a little easier.

As I mentioned, I’ve seen lots of people come and go during my time in Dubai, and I’m not saying you have to keep in touch with every-single-person! But when a genuine friend moves away, I think it’s important to both put in the effort to stay in touch.

It’s not like you see the person every-day anymore, so why is it important to stay in touch? Well, just because you are moving apart, it doesn’t mean the friendship has to end – it will just take a different form. You will still be there for each other when needed, especially for the person moving away from home, they will likely need your support when moving to a completely new environment. You can still make each other laugh, send each other memes, listen to each other’s rants when you’re angry, exchange embarrassing stories, send life updates, etc… If the friendship is something you both value, it is important to stay in touch!

I asked one of my best friends who moved to Paris a couple of years ago to share why it was important to keep in touch in her opinion, and here is what she said:

“Yeah it’s true, keeping in touch with a close friend can be really hard at times. In my case, I knew there was no way that I could not keep in touch with my close friends from abroad. Going from seeing each other every day to seeing each other twice a year is a really sudden change and really sucks to be completely honest.  But you really learn to appreciate what the gift of technology gives you access to. Despite the time zone differences and loads of work there is to do on a daily basis,  I always try to find a way to keep in touch with my friends overseas. Through Snapchat, FaceTime, or WhatsApp, social media has really facilitated long-distance relationships. Although these platforms aren’t necessarily the same as seeing a friend in person, they certainly make up for the fact that you aren’t seeing each other as often. When you finally do get to see each other, you connect even more and it’s like you haven’t missed out on a single day together. It’s a bittersweet moment that fills your heart and makes you so grateful for keeping in touch!”

So how can you keep in touch with friends who live far away?

Give them something to remember you by – When one of my friends moved away from Dubai, I gave her a huge box full of items that each had a card attached to them. Each card had a title that said ‘open this before you start your new school’ or ‘open this when you miss me’ and each card had a special message written inside and a tiny gift that related to the card, or that we had an inside-joke about. It can just be a series of cards or videos, but something like that can be really nice to give to someone before they leave as support or just as a humorous gift.

Send life updates – Something that I really struggle with is keeping in touch via video chats. Finding a time when you’re both free to talk can be extremely hard, so instead, something I do with my friends is sending ‘life updates.’ We send each other a video of things going on in our lives or things we want to talk about, and the other person replies with a video. (you can also do it just by messaging, but we’re usually too lazy to type that much!) This is literally one of my favorite things to do! It’s kind of like you’re talking to them, but just at a time which is convenient for you. This is the main way that I keep in touch with friends who live in different countries.

Make the effort to meet up – Obviously, this doesn’t apply for every friendship, as you might not get the chance to be in the same place at the same time. But sometimes, I end up being in the same city as a friend and we get to meet up. Even if it’s just for a quick coffee, or if it’s for a few days it doesn’t make a difference, putting in the effort to make time for each other is super important! Fun fact, I actually met one of my friends this summer and all we had time to do was attend a college tour together that we both wanted to go to, so we just did that! It’s all about doing your best to work with each other’s schedules.

Send a little something for a birthday – Sometimes it can be nice to a receive a card from a friend or a bouquet of flowers in the mail on your birthday. Little tokens like this can go a long way!

Share jokes – Even during really busy times (like the exam period, oh my goodness…) when we don’t have time to send ‘life updates’ to each other, my friends and I send jokes and memes to each other. My friend and I send each other memes back and forth on Instagram, and even though we may both be super busy, it’s nice to receive something from the other person that can brighten up your day.

Remember the small things – Sometimes remembering things like when your friend is going on vacation, and wishing them a safe flight. Or if they mentioned they have a big test that day and wishing them good luck, can make more of a difference than the big gestures. It shows that you take an interest in their lives and that you listen to what you say. I know for me, it’s the small things that matter the most!

Some of my best friends live thousands of miles away from me, but when we’re able to keep in touch it’s really special! These are my opinions on why it’s important to keep in touch and how to do it!

Have any of your friends ever moved away? How do you keep in touch? Feel free to share your stories in the comments section!

See you next week,
Little Miss Expat

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4 thoughts on “Long-distance friendships – how to stay in touch

  1. Oh my gosh, the boxes sound so cute, I love it! This was a great list and as all my friends leave for different colleges, I’ll have to keep these ideas in mind.

    Liked by 1 person

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