Chances are, you might know someone who has uprooted themselves and relocated to a foreign country. Depending on the strength of your connection to that person, your reaction may vary from vaguely annoyed/impressed, to overly thrilled/depressed at the prospect of their new life. Perhaps they’re moving somewhere exotic for an amazing job and you couldn’t be happier, or maybe they didn’t have the choice and you’re saddened by the sudden distance this move will create. Regardless of where your emotions lie on the spectrum, I’ve created a list of Dos and Don’ts for those who have expats orbiting their universe.Do show up for goodbye parties if someone throws one before leaving. There are few things in life more insulting than when a friend is telling you they’re moving to another country and you can’t make time to see them before they’re off.
Don’t expect your relationship with this person to be exactly the same after they move. It’s going to take way more effort on both your parts to stay in good contact, and that’s okay. Remembering that there are hours of difference in time between you and your friend/family member is annoying, and sometimes you forget. That’s fine–they’ll do it, too. But keep at it and hopefully you’ll both find a routine that helps you remain close.
Do send stuff in the mail. Whether it’s a letter, a care package filled with their favorite goodies, or a birthday card, these things can go a long way in reminding your expat pal that you haven’t forgotten about them.
Don’t hesitate to call them out if you feel like they’re an absentee in your life. I know first-hand how diving into a new life in a faraway place can consume you, and sometimes I need a reminder that I’ve been a little aloof. Most expats I’ve talked to agree: we’d rather be virtually shaken into being more present in your lives than have you think we’re not interested.
Do continue inviting us to stuff. Yeah, we won’t be able to go a lot of the time, but not being invited feels like we’re not a part of your life anymore. Baby shower? Birthday party? Bachelorette shindig? Heck yes–in spirit. And who knows, maybe we’ll surprise you and show up.
Don’t mind all the pictures we post of our new habitat. We just packed up and hauled ass to some other country, so be patient while we play tourist to distract ourselves from the distance between us and most people we hold dear by putting serious effort into falling in love with the our surroundings. Besides, while you’re getting engaged, married, procreating, and remodeling your gorgeous home, we’re liking your pics, too.
Do come to visit! But…
Don’t come unprepared. Buy a guidebook, do your homework, find out where you want to go, what things you want to see, and if possible, come with a friend. As much as I’d love to take a week off every time someone came to see me and show them around, I do have a job and it’s just not always possible. So help the expat in your life by entertaining yourself when you can on your visit, and remember that we are savoring every moment we can with you.