Do you find it hard keeping in touch with friends? Without Instagram, would you even know where your classmates live nowadays? Maybe you have hundreds of friends on Facebook, but the friend you’d like to speak to most feels out of reach?
You’re not alone. Losing deep, long-term friendships to an overseas move can be hard. It can create a sense of loneliness, which healthcare experts reckon can be as dangerous as chronic disease.
Perhaps you’ve experienced great friendships, but struggle to keep them alive.
Friendships may grow organically, spontaneously, and despite all odds, but keeping in touch with friends from overseas needs a little more forethought.
A good friend is a connection to life – a tie to the past, a road to the future, the key to sanity in a totally insane world. – Lois Wyse
Here are 10 habits for keeping in touch with friends from overseas:
1. Set a regular date.
It’s normal for the novelty of a long-distance friendship to wane and the humdrum of daily life to get in the way. So communicate with your friend and agree on a regular, easy to remember catch-up time. Whether you speak on the first Friday of the month, or every Thursday after work, put the date in your diary. Eventually keeping in touch will become automatic, and something to look forward to.
2. Plan short chats.
It’s normal for an initial catch up to take more time, but if you’re looking to maintain a friendship, then make it clear to your friend that a short ‘hello’ is always welcome. Little and often is more manageable than hourly calls on a long term basis.
You shouldn’t feel wary of getting in touch or accepting a call because you’re too busy. Neither of you should dread a call from each other and neither of you should have your call rejected because you just don’t have the time or energy.
3. Get creative.
Keeping in touch with friends from overseas is so much more than social media messages sent back and forth. Watch a movie together, go for a coffee, or just hang out. Just don’t forget to turn your phone off when you shower!
4. Reach out spontaneously.
It’s always heartwarming to hear from a friend out of the blue. Planned catch-ups are great, but feel free to reach out in between if they cross your mind. If something made you think of your friend, let them know.
5. Make the most of technology.
With social media and apps, such as Whatsapp, Skype, Instagram, House Party and Zoom, it has never been easier to communicate across borders. Explore the different options and find the right fit for you and your friend. If you’re living in an area with poor access to the internet, then email chats might work better than FaceTime calls. Find the app, website, service, or provider that works for you both.
6. Pick up the phone.
And we don’t mean for a Facebook post. Sending a funny meme may brighten someone’s morning for a fleeting moment, but a phone call will always be so much more personal. Take time to listen. The nuances of body language are largely missed, even on a video call. Meeting in person is the best way to communicate, but speaking on the phone is a close second.
7. Start a club.
If you’re keeping in touch with a group of friends, why not start a group together? You could even make this a pact with just a single friend. A book, movie, wine, or fitness motivation club are all great reasons to stay in touch. Schedule monthly calls to discuss your findings, swap ideas, empower each other, and keep in touch.
8. Respect schedules.
You might be wanting to call every week, but your friend might not have the time. If they have kids, a demanding job or other issues in their life, don’t be offended if they can’t accommodate you as much as you’d like. Equally, you might be happy to chat all night after work, but in their time zone, it could mean a horribly early start. Try to find a schedule that works for both of you.
9. Reach out with a reason.
If you’re reaching out to your friend for the first time in a while and it all feels a little daunting, do so with a reason. Maybe you’ve read an article that made you think of them, perhaps you came across a photo of them from a long time ago or it could be that you just want to share a funny meme. Having a reason to get in touch can make the first reunion feel less awkward.
10. Send personalized birthday wishes.
‘Happy birthday’ written hastily on social media walls doesn’t make anything like the same impact as a personal message. A handwritten birthday card wins every time. And if that’s not possible, how about scheduling a birthday postcard, gift, or flowers with a personal message included?
Nina edits The Expater, a lifestyle blog for expats and globally-minded women. The Expater features expert advice and personal stories on all things international lifestyle, including relationships, careers, wellbeing and skincare.