Leaving friends in foreign places – stay in touch!

A recent post at the (beautifully-named) Farsickness blog talked about the problem of friendships when you live abroad. Not so much the friends you leave behind when you move abroad, but the friends you leave behind if you move on from your “new” home, and the friends (often fellow ex-pats) who also leave but scatter to other parts of the globe.

Aussie (other side of the country though!) and German friends in Heilbronn

It’s kind of annoying because often, just making these friends – amidst culture shock and language barriers – was hard enough in the first place. It doesn’t seem fair that after creating these friendships, you then have to leave them.

I have to admit that in the second half of my two years in Japan, I started to avoid making close friendships with fellow ex-pat teachers – because I got sick of being sad when they left. Of course, this just left me absolutely distraught when I had to leave all my Japanese friends, so I’m not sure I gained anything, but at least it all came at once!

My first Japanese teacher in Japan, Midori

Leaving foreign friends can be really sad – one of the saddest parts of living abroad. Thankfully, the modern wonders of social media like Facebook and communication tools like Skype have made it a lot easier (and cheaper) to stay in touch with friends you make abroad, but it’s never the same.

Have you ever got a bit lazy about returning an email or sending a birthday message to one of these friends? I sure have. I often make resolutions to myself to stay in touch better with some of my best friends abroad, but it doesn’t always work. However, since starting to write this post I have already sent a quick text message to a much beloved friend in the eastern states (of Australia, that is!), and am going to go and look up my old Japanese teacher’s email address. And I’d encourage you to go off and do something similar, okay?!


  1. Very true! Luckily nowadays it´s easier to stay in touch, I feel sometimes sad to have lost touch with some friends as we all moved around, and there was no e-mails,facebook or skype then and addresses changed…
    Nothing like a hand written letter, sadly that´s getting to be a thing of the past.

  2. A Farmer's Wife says

    It gets hard, doesn’t it? when life gets busy.

    Take care.

  3. Thanks Sami, yes you would know this feeling even better than me. Facebook has certainly made it a lot easier for me to keep in touch with lots of people. But I still send some hand written letters and handmade cards when I get the chance.

  4. Amanda Slavinsky says

    I can definitely relate to not wanting to make friends with other expat teachers! There is too much coming and going with this lifestyle.

    But thanks for the reminder, I need to go send some emails I owe people 🙂 And thanks for the link!

  5. all i can say is – thank goodness for facebook and skype. I am still in touch regularly with all my favourite people from my life overseas and a few others ;-)! I’m so glad that we have stayed in touch cause I remember how awful it felt when you parted ways knowing that in all likelihood you would never see that person again no matter how much you promised you would, it rarely happens.
    I have a strange example of a friend I worked with in Singapore. We got along well but weren’t all that close. Can’t remember who left first but anyway a couple of years later we ended up staying with them when we first moved to Japan (cause we had kept in touch through that time). We have since visited them in Melbourne, they have come here and now that they are back in Singas again we always visit them there! long story short – without email and facebook that is one friendship that probably would have died off but instead has been going strong for over ten years!!

  6. it is sad but very true

    it is also true that keepin in touch is a difficult task. however, like you said, you need to do it, as often as you can, just because it is something important to you

  7. Thanks for the inspiration, Amanda! Yep, I got sick of saying goodbye to the expats – especially once the ones who’d arrived after me started leaving before me.

  8. I definitely have a few friends from my time abroad who I haven’t reached out to recently. Thanks for the nudge!

    Staying in touch inevitably gets more difficult as each year passes. Friends change their phone numbers and e-mail addresses. Or they become preoccupied with their work or their families. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Life goes on.

  9. Rachel, I have a similar story.

    Hadn’t seen a friend in Japan for 5 years, but we kept in touch. One day,I had to go to Korea and swinged by Osaka to say hi for a few days. It was great and we still related to each other well.

    so, keepin in touch matters, u never know what future holds

  10. Thanks Rach, Curt and Anon – glad to hear you all agree! It’s great when you meet up with people you thought you’d never see again, too.

  11. I can totally relate to this post. The problem for me has been keeping in touch with friends back in the US since I moved to Sweden. The 6-hour time difference makes it so difficult, but it’s something I’ve promised myself to try to stay on top of.

  12. Yes, time differences do make it extra tricky, I agree. All our family back in Germany work or study so the time difference makes it pretty much impossible to talk during the week and then we have to try and catch them when we’re home during the weekend – which means it can be weeks between calls.

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