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Three Unusual Tips for Maintaining Friendships from Back Home

There is plenty of advice for staying in touch with family and friends while abroad — most of it centered around some sort of technology. And while things like social media, blogging, and cell phones are definitely helpful, in the long run, basing all communication around electronics could do more harm than good. Here are three unusual tips for keeping up with loved ones back home, without spending life on your phone.

Get Off Social Media

You can post one picture with a caption and it’s immediately available to all of your friends and followers. But this convenience comes at a cost.

When I first moved abroad, I got into a long-distance fight with one of my best friends from back home — one that I suspect was caused by a bit of envy. After thinking about it, the photos of stunning views and awesome culture that I was posting were likely making my friend a bit upset that she wasn’t here, too.

What I found to be a solution was to call her and tell her stories. This way, she got to hear all sides of my experiences — the entertaining, the awkward, and the difficult. Posting a photo on social media with some short caption cannot capture the true essence of an experience abroad, and often only showcases the highlights. A good telephone conversation, on the other hand, can help you share more than just the highlights of your life abroad.

With busy schedules for both you and your friends and family abroad, a great way to stay in touch is to schedule a weekly phone call. Whether you video chat or simply voice call, nothing can replace speaking to someone “in person.”

Start an International Book Club

It’s easy to get into a rhythm of “how was your week?” or “what are you up to today?” when talking to those back home. And while these types of conversation are great, they can easily become mundane or shallow over time.

One great way to avoid falling into the small-talk trap, is to start a cross-borders book club. It’s really as simple as it sounds: find a novel that both you and your friend or family member will enjoy and set deadlines for finishing chapters. Then give each other a call and talk about the chapters that you’ve both read. This will give you a great basis for meaningful conversation that goes beyond simply catching up on each other’s lives.

Grab a Pen & Paper

If you want to really go old-fashioned, one sure fire way to keep a friendship going while abroad is to write. Whether it’s as simple as a postcard or as long as a letter, no emojis or GIFS can replace genuine storytelling. Taking the time to sit down and write something to send to a friend or family member back home will show how much you value them and that you are willing to take some time out of your busy day to keep in contact. And sure, it can take quite a while for a letter to travel across the world, but a friendship worth keeping will stand the test of time.

So, while social media and different communication apps are great for sharing your expat experiences with the world, these technologies often leave out the most crucial moments of your life. It is the difficult and embarrassing moments abroad that change you and make you a better person, not just the cool sights and awesome adventures.

If you really want to stay connected with friends and family back home, it’s probably a good idea to keep them updated on more than just the awesome things you’re doing — tell them your embarrassing stories and awkward moments (because as an expat you’re guaranteed to have a few). Get creative with your communication, move beyond the typical social media posts, and try a good old-fashioned phone call or book club to keep the genuine conversation alive between you and your loved ones back home.

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