Things your expat friend wants you to know

In the modern age of travel, with the huge trend in gap years and discovering one’s self abroad, most groups of friends will have at least one expat friend. Perhaps they spend just a few months away and return even more hipster than before, or perhaps they consistently jet off, reappearing with new tales, particular tastes in food, and an increasingly odd fashion sense. You may feel like they don’t need you any more when they brag about their quirky, courageous, international friends, or that they’re not interested in your everyday life with their entirely different experiences. But as a three-year long expat, trust me: they still need you, and they are still interested. You are their perfect reminder of their home country, and probably the reason for their return visits. So, before you drop them from your life, let’s clear a few things up:

  1. They REALLY appreciate you visiting. When you move abroad, everyone promises to visit you countless times, but only a handful will go through with that promise. It’s understandable: everyone has busy, expensive lives, so finding the time and money is difficult. Expats know this (they make several journeys a year, so fully understand the cost of travel), and so appreciate even more so the ones who put in the effort to visit them, no matter how long their stay. Not only that, but the excitement of sharing their new life with you is like no other: they can act as a tour guide, create new stories with you, and most importantly finally have someone understand exactly what their life is like in this foreign place.

  2. But often, they aren’t just “on holiday”. This isn’t always the case, since everyone does it differently. Some people will save enough money beforehand to allow them full-time travel, but those doing study or work abroad courses, or who independently found work to support their time away, don’t have the constant holiday time that people assume. If they take it a step further and integrate themselves into the society, or make the move permanent, their timetable will be full of everyday appointments just as yours. Don’t assume that because they are in a holiday destination they are “on holiday”, or expect them to always be free for your visits. Give them some notice if you want to plan a trip, so they can make some time for you.

  3. They still want to be included. Just because they can’t make events 95% of the time, it doesn’t mean they don’t want to hear about them, and it doesn’t mean they don’t want to be invited. You never know, they might be able to organise a return trip around a social event. It might seem like they’re out of reach, but thanks to wifi and Europe wide phone contracts, they can be constantly available for messages and phone calls just as when they were at home. Sure, they might not be able to have a spontaneous lunch date at the pub between work, but they can answer the phone in a second to hear your story about the creepy guy in the club. As an expat, the worst thing about going home is discovering all the changes that have happened with friends, while I was completely oblivious. So tell them your stories as if they were still in the same country.

  4. They will change. Whether they want to or not, it’s only so long before the other culture finds its way in to their daily habits and behaviour. They might not want to return as a snob to their own traditions, but probably some of these traditions are going to seem strange after discovering different ways and become immersed in them. Just give them a couple of days to readjust to the homeland, and they’ll be back to their pub-going, pint-downing, takeaway-eating English self again in no time.

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