When I decided to move to Spain after University, a big worry of mine was how I’d stay in touch with my friends. I mean it’s no secret that long-distance relationships ain’t easy. Also- I’m an only child, so to me, my friends are my family.
I had so much anxiety that I’d move abroad and “be forgotten” that I almost changed my mind. Would relocating to a new country even be worth it if I didn’t have any friends to share it with?
Well, I’ve been living abroad on-and-off for 5 years now, and I’m happy to say that I still consider some of my home friends to be my closest relationships to date. Sure we go through ebbs and flows, but I’ve made sure to stay in touch. Over the years, I’ve come up with some strategies that make my long-distance friendships work. And if I can do it, you can too!
It’s not always easy, but with a little effort and a bit of creativity, you and your long-distance friends could be closer than ever!
The Harsh Reality
Before I move onto the fun stuff, I want to quickly address a harsh reality. If I’m being completely honest, it’s likely that you won’t be able to stay in touch with everyone that you’d like to, in the way that you’d like to. BUT let me also say that this is a reality likely to happen no matter where you live. As we get older, get involved with jobs/internships/studies, start families, pick up hobbies and make new friends, staying in touch gets more complicated. And of course, moving far away only makes it a little more so.
You may have some friendships that will slowly fade with time. Others may end more abruptly and be harder to let go. What I’ve seen from my own personal experience is that some long-distance friendships take more effort and some seem almost effortless. Some friends you’ll talk to every day, and some you hardly to talk at all, but still find it easy to stay close. I can’t give you an exact formula here. It will really depend on the friend and the situation.
BUT there are some proven (at least by me) ways to make long-distance friendships work!
How I Stay in Touch with Long-Distance Friends
Put in the Effort
Just like “they” say, a little effort really does go a long way. And when it comes to being a good friend, I’ve found this statement to be more than true. All you have to do- make sure your friends know that even though you’re not physically there with them, you’ll still always be there for them.
Check in regularly and don’t take the usual “Nothing has changed. I’m living my same old boring life and have nothing to update you on” crap for an answer. Ask them questions about their life, their job, their hobbies, and make sure you’re there to offer advice and support if needed. Also, let them know that updating you even on the small things (that to them may seem incredibly insignificant) to you will mean the world.
Something to be Aware of:
In the beginning phases of living abroad, you may come across some friends that will expect you to put more effort into the friendship. You know, since you’re the one who moved far far away. Cue eye roll. I didn’t say this was fair, but I am saying it may happen. Try not to take this personally, or to be too hard on your friends. Some just take a little more time adjust to the idea of not having you around all the time. Try to look at this sadness or anger that you left as a sign that they love and miss you. Give it time they’ll come around! 😉
A Tip for Putting in the Extra Effort:
Enter your friends’ birthdays (& other special dates) into your phone contacts, or set up yearly alerts on your calendar. If you want to take it one step further, set notifications to ping you a few weeks in advance, so that you have time to send a card or small gift their way. Whatever you do, make sure you never miss a birthday!
Meet in the Middle
It may not always be reasonable, or in the budget, for you to go all the way home or for your friends to come all the way to you. But, if you can swing it, why not make a compromise! To make it more realistic and affordable for you both, look for a location to meet your friends in the middle.
Not only will you get to spend some solid quality time together on your trip, but planning the trip itself will give you a ton of reasons to stay in touch! Just think about it- you’ll have to plan out all the little details from where you’re staying to what you’ll be doing together. You can also share all the excitement both before and after your trip. It will give you something to look forward to together and memories to look back on forever.
Last year one of my besties and I met in Mexico City for a few days (smack in the middle of Santiago and NYC). Neither of us had been there before and it was absolutely perfect!
Start Something New Together
Another great way to stay in touch is to find something new and exciting to start together, such as a book, a Netflix series, or even a class of some sort. Watching a new show or taking up a new hobby along with a long-distance friend will give you tons to talk about. You’ll be able to pick each other’s brains during this shared new experience and you’ll want to stay in touch to get the other’s thoughts and opinions!
I recently incorporated yoga and meditation into my life, which many of my friends back home have been doing for a while! Now I have lots of reasons to reach out and ask questions/share my experiences with them!
It’s All About Apps
Well, there’s really no denying it- we live in a world completely consumed by technology. Luckily, when it comes to long-distance friendships, technology only makes things easier! With smartphones and laptops, it’s easier than ever to stay in touch with friends while living abroad.
Using apps to stay in touch with friends may seem like a “DUH!,” but the truth is, your apps won’t do the work for you. You have to use them right!
Here are some of my favorite apps as well as tips and tricks to use them:
Nothing can replace face-to-face interaction, and if you can’t physically be in the same room as your besties, video chatting is the next best thing.
My Tips for Using Video Chat Apps:
- Schedule your video chats ahead of time. Just as you’d set aside time and pick a date to meet a friend at a coffee shop or out for happy hour, you’ll want to set aside time for your video calls. If you don’t set aside a predetermined time, chances are it won’t happen. I know people who have a set monthly chat time with their friends (for example the first Monday of every month). Pick a day and time that works for both of you and then mark it in your calendar and stick to it.
- Make your video chat dates fun. Get creative with your virtual dates! Try “meeting your friend at a Starbucks” (no excuses, there’s literally one EVERYWHERE.) or making dinner and then eating together. Just because you’re not in the same city, doesn’t mean you can’t have a little fun together!
For those of my US readers who don’t know about Whatsapp (you’re literally the only ones in the whole wide world not yet using it), it’s a free messenger app, much like iMessage, available for any smartphone that uses data. That means you can call or text any international number, without added roaming fees.
My Tips for Using Whatsapp:
- Don’t change your usual messaging habits. Use whatsapp to message your friends just as you would if you were still in the same city as them. Send them silly random messages. Check in to see how their day is going. And if something makes you think of them, send them a message and let them know.
- Set up group messages. You can easily set up group chats within Whatsapp to stay in touch with more than one friend at a time. This will also help you keep up with those things your friends who live in the same place are doing together, even if you can’t personally join in.
- Send as many voice-notes as possible. Sending voice notes may take a while to get used to, but if you can manage to get your besties on board, I promise it’s a super fun way to stay in touch. I have learned to LOVE voice messages and have friends that I regularly send voice notes to with everything from random short tidbits of my day to long-winded updates. Finding time to set aside to actually talk (especially with complications like work schedules and time zones) isn’t easy. But hearing someone’s voice and their tone/intonation is so much more personal than reading a text message.
- GIFS. The more Gifs the better. They’re a humorous way to get across what you’re really feeling and these mini video notes crack me up.
If your friends are anything like mine, they’re already spending a good part of their days within Instagram. And if they’re already in there, that means it’s a great place to reach them.
My Tips for Using Instagram:
- Send direct Instagram messages. I have a friend that shares funny Instagram posts and memes with me on the daily, and it never fails to make me smile. These silly little messages take a second to send and let me know that she’s thinking about me, which means a lot!
- Include friends in your day-to-day with InstaStories. Instagram stories make it easy to share parts of your day with close friends! You can send them direct video messages, tag them in posts you think they’d like and if you’re willing to get excessive, send them photos of each and every meal.
How do you stay in touch with your long-distance friends? Have you found ways to make it work? I’d love to add your tips to this list! Drop them in the comments below!
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