Some of my closest friends live over 1,000 kilometres away. Safe to say, we don’t see each other that often. And it feels like getting older is just having friends slowly drift further away.
But that doesn’t mean your friendship has to end, it doesn’t even have to become distanced. You can stay close to friends on the other side of the continent; like anything, it just takes practice and some advice for long-distance friendships. It requires an adjustment on both parts. Instead of just continuing your friendship like you did when you’d meet weekly for coffee, you have to build a new long-distance friendship, and here’s how.
This was a life-changer for my friendships. Instead of always doing that forced “Hi, how are you?” conversation opener, just don’t let the conversation end. Having to do a proper opening will sometimes halt us from messaging at all. It can restrict you from messaging about small, seemingly insignificant things as you don’t think it’s worth starting a whole conversation.
So I don’t bother with it; I just go straight in. I tell my friends about the bird that pooped on me during my morning run. I message my mum asking how I should get an oil stain out of a t-shirt. I just dive right in, so I never hesitate to message.
Having a never-ending conversation ensures you stay up to date through all the small things. You don’t bother with saying ‘hi’ or ‘bye’, as you don’t have to. You just reply when you can and continue the conversation.
You need to be on the same page as your long-distance bestie, which can be difficult. Often friends will have different communication styles. For example, I am terrible at staying off my phone and love to procrastinate by messaging people. So when my friends message me, I often reply within ten minutes unless I’m in a deep work zone. In contrast, one of my best friends lives abroad and replies every 2-3 working days.
I could get frustrated by this. I could make snarky comments or do the same back. But the key is to not read into it. You can’t expect people to be the same as you. So I don’t let her apologise for it as she’s being who she is. I just reply automatically as that’s what I like to do.
For a long-distance friendship to thrive, you must lower your expectations and be realistic. You need to give people their space. Don’t hold grudges, and don’t even let them apologise when they take a while. They don’t owe you a reply within the hour.
What matters is that they’re there for the big stuff. Who cares if it took them 2 days to reply to your story about a bird pooping on you? If you call them with an emergency, they’ll pick up, and that’s what matters most.
Be realistic about what you expect from each other, and don’t overthink it. If they take two days to reply, it means you can do that too when you need it. If it’s really such an issue, discuss a compromise.
One of the hardest things about long-distance friends is being unable to do stuff together. When you meet in person, you can grab drinks, have a meal together, go bowling, watch a movie, and so much more. These shared activities fuel your conversations and ensure things never go quiet.
But you don’t have to lose that just because you live apart; you can still do things together.
During Covid, I made an online book club with my friends. We’d each read a certain chapter and then once a week do a Zoom call with a glass of wine to discuss it. This was such a fun way to hang out and share something again. Even if you don’t do a book club for it, I recommend reading the same book as your long-distance friend to give you something fun to discuss.
I’m also a big fan of Teleparty, which lets you watch a film or series simultaneously with your long-distance bestie. You have a chat function to message throughout, and it’s almost like a real-life movie night.
Alternatively, you could just cook the same meal, or both make a certain cocktail. The key is to be connected, even just for a moment, even by something silly like a drink. This lets you minimise the distance for an evening.
Sometimes I feel frustrated that my long-distance friends aren’t around. Sometimes I feel such FOMO when they visit someone else we know and not me. These feelings might be ‘ridiculous’, but they’re real. When you feel these things, or even just when you really miss your friend, share it.
By acknowledging the hard stuff in a long-distance friendship, you ensure that you don’t keep your emotions bottled up. You don’t allow resentment to build, instead you get the chance to express yourself. Your long-distance friend will likely feel the same way, and it’s a nice reminder that they miss you too.
A picture says a thousand words… and nobody has time to type out a thousand words, so just send that picture! Spice up your conversations with long-distance besties by including all the senses. And by senses, I mean sending photos and voice notes.
Photos give them a little glimpse into your day. Send a photo of your outfit, of your delicious ice coffee, or of the fat pigeon that refuses to leave your balcony - or is that just me?
Normalise sending each other photos as sometimes it’s easier than typing things out and allows them to feel like they’re there. You can also use voice notes, when you want to tell a story but can’t be bothered to type it all out. And yes, you could also just call them. But I find calls to be anxiety-inducing, and it can be hard to find a time that works for both of you. So embrace your inner millennial and just monologue into a voice note.
Technology makes it easier than ever to stay in contact. I’ve already mentioned Teleparty, but there are also apps that just let you see your friends a bit more. My biggest recommendation is BeReal. Once a day, all at the same time, you and your friends get a notification to post a photo. You take a selfie and a photo right in front of you and then can view everyone else’s. It gives you this little glimpse into people’s daily lives and highlights how glamorised most social media platforms are.
Another great app for staying in touch is Cappucino. Once a day, you can make a recording, where you share a funny story or summary of your day. The app then compiles them into one ‘podcast’ for you to listen to. It’s often really funny, and nothing beats hearing someone’s voice when you live so far away.
There are many more apps that help you to stay in touch, so check out my full article on them here.
A friendship is often about the little things. While you can’t see each other for months on end, you can still be there in spirit. I really like to be the kind of person that messages for the small moments. I want to wish someone a safe flight, and I want to ask how that big presentation went. But I also have a truly terrible memory - goldfish level.
So I don’t leave it up to my memory and instead, I put it in my calendar. I add reminders for things my friends have mentioned so I can message them about it. This makes such a difference in friendships, as it not only demonstrates that you care, but also allows you to be a part of things.
While it can look a little creepy to have things on my calendar that don’t involve me, it’s worth the effort.
At the end of the day, it’s about trying your best. If you want someone in your life, then distance doesn’t have to be a barrier. You just need to show that you care and that you want to be in your life. It won’t always be easy, and there will be times when you talk more or less, but it will always be worth it. Especially as making new friends as an adult is hard. So start implementing these 7 ways to stay in touch with friends that live abroad, and see your friendships flourish.
Welcome to Symptoms of Living! A place where I like to relieve myself of the barrage of thoughts and ideas filling my mind. Here I'll take a look at various topics, from books to BPD, series to self-harm, there's nothing that we can't, and shouldn't, talk about.
Having struggled with mental illness since the age of 15, one of the hardest parts was how alone I felt in it. While mental illness is beginning to be discussed more openly, and featured in the media, I still think there is room for improvement. So whether it is mental illness or merely mental health, a bad day or a bad year, let's make this a place to approach it and strip it back. Everyone has their own symptoms of living, and you certainly won't be the only one with it.
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