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.
Tagged: dos and don'ts, expat, family, friends, insights, Life, list, Travel, travelers
Reblogged this on Hong Kong-a teacher abroad and commented:
Some good tips here! Not made the move yet but I definitely want to be part of everything even when I’m the other side of the world!
Good luck when you make the leap! 🙂
Definitely agree with the invitation thing! And in general not being kept in the loop about big things/announcement sucks. That always is a bit sad to be felt ‘counted out’ just due to distance and assuming you just won’t come. When you very may will! And in fact that shows the expat cherishes you even more if they show up! Though if they cannot it may be due to funds or other circumstances out of their will… We will make the effort and we understand it takes some added effort to keep us in the loop on your side vs a in country friend but please do. 🙂 Otherwise the result is a sad expat who feels like a burden or ‘marked as dead’ due to distance and assumption that they will not show up or respond.
Also I would add ‘learn how to call them’. Even if it is virtually via skype (though phone is better and often there are cheap plans. My mom calls me for 10 cents a minute). Especially when an expat has made the move a permanent decision it sucks when their loved ones just expect to be called and there is a one way avenue. Also it almost comes off as an assumption that this is a temporary decision… and its not worth learning how to keep in contact.
Lastly perhaps initiate skype hang out sessions while you are cooking or just lazing around. This is a nice way to keep up your old relationship in a low pressure environment. This is also nice during holidays. Like last XMAS we skyped while we made dinner and my sister in law made dinner back in the US.
Awesome additions, Sheila!
OMG! You nailed it! Every obstacle I’ve faced. It goes both ways and I like how you addressed that in this article. I have had to change my approach to keeping in touch. I send more birthday cards and cards for other stuff now more than ever. The other thing I wanted to add is, after you’ve made adjustments it may be unfair to expect other friends and family members to change their routine b/c it takes a bit more time or extra postage or whatever. I thought if I changed my behaviors, they would follow and boy, I was WRONG. It also helped me to adjust expectations and realize where I should put my energy. I enjoyed this read and hearing another’s perspective. xxTR
The keep on inviting us to things is really important. It’s exactly like you said — not because we’ll be able to come but because it helps to keep us feel like we still matter. A friend of mine recently had a birthday party for her daughter and I didn’t even know about it until I saw it on FB. I feel like some friends are only friends in the physical sense. If we’re there and can physically do things with them, great, but once we’ve left the area we can become afterthoughts. ;-( Cool post!