Moving abroad changes you as a person and often impacts your relationships with your family and friends. When you move abroad, you will go through a lot of changes in a short amount of time. You will adapt to a new living environment, face unique challenges, and deal with various unknown and new things.
And while you probably will enjoy this life-changing experience, your move abroad can influence your relationships with family and friends back home. You might lose friendships and strengthen others. And although losing and gaining friends is part of life, a move abroad can test your relationships more than ever before.
To prepare you for the changes you might face in your relationships back home, I’ve rounded up common ways that friends and family can respond to your move abroad.
#1 Missing important events can change the dynamic in your relationships
A harsh fact of living abroad is that you can’t always attend events back home. You’ll miss weddings, birthday parties, and sometimes even funerals.
And although we (thankfully) have modern technology to stay in touch with friends and family, a zoom call is not the same as giving your friend a big hug after a breakup.
Most people will accept that new status quo and keep in touch with you. But missing important events and having a long-distance relationship with your family and friends could change the dynamic between you and them. For example, you might not be the first person your BF will call if something happens. Or people will expect you not to come to birthday parties and stop inviting you.
Make sure that your friends and family know you will be there for them, regardless of the distance, and try to stay close and involved in the lives of the people you care about.
#2 You’ll outgrow people
When you move abroad, you build a new life from scratch. You’ll be confronted with challenges but also face exciting opportunities. You’ll be surrounded by new people, cultures, and experiences, ultimately leading you on a personal growth journey. In short, you’ll change. You might not realize all these changes in you at first, but when you reconnect with friends, you might find that it’s hard to find common ground.
Your interest, beliefs, and values can change after moving abroad and strain your relationships back home. Outgrowing your friends can be complex and emotionally challenging for you. Of course, you want to love them and continue your relationship with them, but it can get harder and harder over the years.
It might be hard to let go when you realize you’ve outgrown some of your friends. But, it is part of life and often better for both parties to let go.
#3 Some friends will envy you
Even though you have a 9-5 job and go to the dentist on a Wednesday morning, people back home will perceive your life abroad as exotic and exciting.
Although it might not be true (most of the time), your adventures abroad can leave even the most loving friend a bit envious. Many of your friends will be proud of your achievements and support you. But others might become too envious of your life and find it difficult to be happy for you. They will respond negatively to your stories and might even write you off as boastful and self-centered.
When you experience envious behavior from friends back home, don’t blame it on yourself! Don’t ever feel bad for enjoying your life and making the most of it. You can have an open conversation with your friend(s) and discuss their behavior towards you, or at some point, realize that it is time to let go.
#4 Some friends find it hard to relate
Imagine that after a year abroad, you visit your home country for the summer and catch up with friends and family. Most of the reunions with your friends are great, sharing stories of things that happened this past year – but some fall flat.
For example, you are catching up with a college friend and suddenly notice that they are not listening to stories of your life abroad. Instead, they are changing the topic or even avoiding it altogether. You might wonder what is going on, maybe even get frustrated with the disinterest in your life.
Stop for a second and see it from your friend’s perspective. They might avoid discussing your life abroad because they find it hard to relate. Their life back home has been the same, with maybe two or three noteworthy events over the last 12 months. In comparison, you have experienced many new things and can talk non-stop about new friends, spontaneous road trips, and other exciting things. Although your friends might want to support you and be there for you, it is challenging for them to relate to your stories.
If this is the case with one of your dear friendships, show empathy towards your friend and try to talk about other topics as well. You might find that your relationship can continue to blossom by finding a common interest that you can continue to share while being mindful of sharing less about your life abroad.
#5 Some relationships will get stronger
After reading this, you might be disheartened by how moving abroad will affect your relationships – which is the last thing I want to do! So, I want you to leave today knowing that not all your relationships have to be affected by your move abroad.
In fact, moving abroad can strengthen friendships in ways that might surprise you. But…you (and your friends and family) must try to overcome the distance. One of the best ways to do that is by keeping each other involved. Whatsapp groups and weekly calls are great ways to maintain relationships and support each other. Stay connected by sharing the exciting big things, as well as the small and mundane.
You’ll find that doing so will maintain and nourish your friendships and sometimes make them even stronger.
Again, I want to stress that losing and gaining friends is part of life. Some friends will only join you for a short ride, and others will be around for a lifetime. That will be the case when you move abroad AND if you stay in your home country.
Today I merely wanted to share with you what you can expect so that you can prepare yourself emotionally and practically for how your friendships might change after moving abroad.
And stay tuned, as I will share more tips on nourishing and maintaining friendships while living abroad next week.
Want to get weekly tips on moving and living abroad? Make sure to follow us on Instagram!