TCK & Expat: 10 Steps to Keeping in Touch with Friends

This is the third part to a series about Third Culture Kids (TCKs) and friendships. In the first two parts,  TCK: Saying Goodbye to Friends Pt. I and TCK: Saying Goodbye to Friends Pt. II the focus was on the effects a nomadic life has on friendships.  While some friendships can remain intact, many and most slowly slip away with each move to a new location.  When facing the cycle of continual loss, how can you recover and maintain your social circles?

“A Third Culture Kid (TCK) is a person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside the parents’ culture. The TCK frequently builds relationships to all of the cultures, while not having full ownership in any. Although elements from each culture may be assimilated into the TCK’s life experience, the sense of belonging is in relationship to others of similar background.” – Wikipedia on the Definition of a TCK

Nomadic children and ATCK (Adult Third Culture Kids) are also joined by the Expat adults when it comes to having to say goodbye to friendships and hello to new ones.  Having to constantly make new relationships as an adult has already proven itself as harder than when we were kids.  You are no longer in an education system forced to spend hours every day with your peers.  You are in the work place and in the community where friendships now have had time to really grow for those who do not move away.  It can prove challenging to break into social groups.  However challenging it opens you up to a new world of relationships and experiences.  So what do you do now when you have to say goodbye and move to another city, country, or continent?  What about the friends you leave behind and how do they adjust to your departure? Is there a way to return to old friendships after you get busy with your own separate lives?

My tips for keeping in touch with your friends:

1. Use the Phone.  Whether your friend is in the same or different country you can more than likely keep in contact every month with the phone.  There is nothing like hearing the voice of your friend and even a quick five minute call can do wonders for a long distance friendship. If you are unable to phone your friend, due to long distance charges, there are many smart phone aps that you can use to converse with your friend. Send free messages and calls with Viber, send free messages with Whatsapp, and send free messages and video chat with Skype and Google Hangout.  The point is to keep that open channel of communication.

  1. 2. Write letters. By this I mean get actual paper and write a letter to your friend that you can send through the mail.  Email is great because you can quickly send something off and it will be received instantly. While that is perfect for social networking and business it can really lack the personal touch that can help a friendship flourish.  If you ever had a penpal when you were younger you can remember how great it was to recieve a letter in the mail and find out what your friend has been up too.  Just remember to send the letter after you write it. It can be too easy to put off taking it ot the post office and letting the contents of the letter become old and irrelevent.  Sometimes when you have not written a letter in a while it can be hard to get it started.  Just think about what you would like to know about the friend you are sending it too and share that bit of information from your life.  Let your friend know what you have been up too.  Pretend like you are talking to them when you write your letter and do not worry about being boring.  Just put your personality and how you normally talk in conversation into the letter and talk from the heart. 
3. Send Cards and Care packages. Surprises in the mail are the best, so why not surprise your friend with a nice note card from your local stationary shop? Or better yet put together a care package full of items that remind you of your friend and local delicacies from the place where you are currently living.  It is a great way to show to your friend that you care and are thinking of them.  Plus sending them items from your current home can help connect them to your current life.  If they use to live where you live now, getting a care package with some of their favourite and now hard to get items will certainly brighten their day. Just remember that sometimes it is the littlest things (ie inexpensive gifts and trinkets) that can show how much you care.
4. Use Electronic Mail. Of course  make sure you both have each other’s e-mail addresses so you can keep in contact online.  As great as ‘snail mail’ can be, it can also be great to just quickly check in online with your friends.  Especially during stressful times and during hardships, being able to get a quick message or make sure your frined is okay shows how valuable email can be.   
5. Chat Online. You can also use instant messenger services online.  For example with MSN, AIM, Yahoo, and Google you can talk with your friends and do so all at once in a chat. There is nothing like turning on your computer and checking your inbox for updates from your friends.  
6. Video Chat.  Face time can be some of the best time shared between friends who are separated by distance.  There is nothing like being able to see your friend and watch their reactions as you talk.  Video conferencing now a days is even better than when it was first available to the public.  Using services such as Google Hangout you can talk to more than one friend all at the same time.  Depending on the quality of the connection it can be the next best thing to seeing your friend in person. 
7.  Make Plans.  It is easier to keep in touch with friends when you know you have plans to see each other.  Before it use to be hard to return back home because in the nomadic community that means the home you once knew may not be the same one to where your return.  It becomes not only the question to how you will get there, but where will you stay, where will you go when you get there and what do you do with your things when you do? Using the website Friends of Friends Travel, you can plan your next trip to see each other or even travel together to a new destination. The best part of FOF Travel is that you keep your travel network within your friends and their friends so when you travel you know that you are safe.  Within your travel network you have many different services you offer and take advantage of complimentary. Be it a place stay, a change to meet up with a trustworthy and friendly local, somewhere to leave your stuff, and access to travel advice and tips.  If you become a premium member at FOF Travel you get access to a whole line of travel services that include (and not limited to) flights, travel insurance and tour packages.  No longer do you have to reminisce about the good time and wish you could go back to the places you once lived and where you have traveled.  The world is at your fingertips with your social travel network at FOF Travel.  All you have to do then is make a plan to see each other.  Where you go from there is up to you. 
8. Be Assertive.  Step up and contact your friend.  Do not wait on them to make the first move, for them to check up on you, or to get a letter from them.  Make it your responsibility to keep in touch. Friendship is a two way street, but sometimes all it needs is a jump start from one end to revive itself.
9. Ask questions.  It is so easy to share information about our own lives. Make sure to think about questions a head of time and even write them down if you need too.  Keep your friendship strong by making sure the relationship is not all about you.  Even if you have known someone a long time, by asking questions you are letting them know you care and letting them be open with you about how they feel about a certain subject.  In turn they are letting you into their life, sharing themselves with you and furthering the bond of trust in the relationship.  The important part is to make sure your friend knows that you care about them. 
10. Go with the Flow. Friendships and relationships all have peaks and valleys.  Do not get strung out or dramatic when at times things dont seem to be the same as they used to be.  Just go with the flow and work on the above steps to keep your friendship refreshed.  
*See this Article on Friends of Friends Travel:
**For more information on Third Culture Kids, TCKs, and ATCKS
***Photographs and wording belong to Bonnie Rose Photography © 2013 All rights reserved | 
  • Michelloui

    These are GREAT tips! I see a lot of different kinds of tips around for expats but most of what I see are for adults. I love the different slant on these. Off to share…

  • Charmaine Sylvia

    Really great tips and such a cute picture of of friends in the middle!

    All in a Soiree
    Sparkles of everything design and events!

  • Tammy Jorrak Cagle

    omg love the picture! So cute! I need to use your tips and get reconnected :)miss you!

    Bella | Hi Life & Love