‘Let’s Talk Soon’ – How To Stay Friends When You Live Far Away
Illustration credit: Peter Naktin
As international students and world travelers, how can people work to maintain friendships when everyone lives far away?
It begins with a missed video message. My friend and I had wanted to video chat and got around the differing schedules and the whopping 14-hour difference between Tokyo and Philadelphia. I realized too late that the morning had escaped me and she would be asleep if I had tried to call her.
To some, this may not be a big deal. Sure, another day another video message. If only it were that simple.
When seeing friends who live blocks away on campus proves challenging, how can I expect to maintain connection countries and time zones apart?
Spending my sophomore year in Tokyo at TUJ meant forming new relationships. Through cycles of hangouts, I found a solid group of friends. We were not always able to meet up, but when we did, I felt extremely lucky. Drinking in nomihodais around Shibuya and spending eight hours hiking up a mountain -or should I say many mini mountains – definitely create lasting memories for a friendship.
But I never thought about the words “Let’s keep in touch” until I was leaving. If I remember how well that worked out for friends from high school, let’s just say I was not feeling too enthusiastic about living in different countries.
Through trial and error, everyone has some methods to not only “keeping in touch,” but also to remaining connected with friends abroad. Here are some of the methods I use because let’s face it, I actually need a plan to keep in touch.
- Social Media
For those of you who don’t have social media or your friends abroad don’t use it, sorry ^.^ Social media indirectly connects me with my friends abroad. Through tweets, likes, shares, and comments on a variety of platforms. I can get updated on their lives whenever. Sometimes a full conversation needs to wait, but sending a quick Snapchat or sharing a photo on Instagram allows for a quick connection without any time and energy consuming conversation. Time differences don’t need to be taken into account and it is a simple way to let a friend know you are thinking of them!
- Schedule Calls or Video Chats
Little things often get in the way of staying in touch with friends abroad. Without that weekly contact or that link that first connected me to my friends abroad, they aren’t on my mind on a daily basis. We are all busy, and vaguely talking about future plans leaves a question mark on when you can talk again at length and not just through quick texts. I am a planner by nature. It works best when I organize a time and date that fits both our schedules to talk on the phone or video chat. Though not fool-proof, planning ahead also gives me some time to think about talking points.
- Don’t focus too much on the next visit!
I made this mistake in the past. If you haven’t talked with a friend abroad in a while, you might feel unsure what to talk about or what you told them the last time. The knee-jerk response might be to jump to a conversation centering on when you will see them again or vice versa. While this provides comfort and excitement, your friendship may begin to center on “the future” as a talking point.
Exchanges about daily parts of life or new updates might take a backseat and the connection between you two may fade. Sometimes, it’s easier to start off with mundane topics so that you can build up to a more important and personal one!
It is important to realize that you might not live in the same country again so you can’t rely on in-person interactions to keep your friendship alive.
- There’s power in numbers
Nervous about what to talk? Plan a call or video chat with several friends! More people may get the conversation going and you can introduce your favs to each other.
- The Blame Game
No one’s a mind reader, hopefully *sweats nervously*. This means honesty is important. If you feel hurt or neglected because your friend may not be making an effort with you, don’t jump into the passive aggressive bubble. Relationship can be difficult, but self-reflection helps. When was the last time you talked with that friend you have been meaning to check up on?
Overall, relationships across distances are hard. Understanding what you expect of friends and what they expect of you can help you choose who you want to keep in touch with and who you will be just as happy stalking on social media. Nowadays, my friend and I do not have time to talk much, but when we do, I am glad I make the effort to keep connected.
Is there someone you need to call today?