As you reach your thirties, your friendships begin to change and evolve, as well as what you want from your friendships. When I was at university, all I needed was someone to go out and drink with. When things got rough, I am fortunate to have had two very good friends to help me through it. We are still helping each other through things now. When I moved abroad, I left all of my childhood, high school and college friends behind to start a new life.
I threw a great big leaving party, which they all came to, and I told them I would be back in a year. Five years later and when I return every summer I still throw a party, but now it’s a chance to touch base with my dearest friends. For me, I don’t need to talk to my friends every weekend to know that they are there for me. As I am now in my late twenties, I understand that my friends focused has shifted from texting everyone on top-up friday and going out to the pub, to focusing on their career, relationship or further study. This applies to my friends in Hong Kong too. Hong Kong is a transient place. People leave all the time. People come back all the time.
I have had many people leave, many people disappear and then reappear into my life after marriage, children or study. The best advice I can have is always be open to friendship. This doesn’t include toxic relationships where someone is taking advantage of you or an emotional vampire.I have witnessed this many times. I am not a big fan of “hi and bye” friends, very much a part of the expat culture in Hong Kong. This is understandable, as I said a lot of people leave. In terms of meeting people always get out there as I have, be it yoga, zumba, drinks, dinner, dance class, Cantonese class, Mandarin class, further education, networking events, meetup, alumni events and so on.
Anyway here are some of my tips for maintaining friendships when you live overseas or far away from your friends. These are things I have found helpful, and by no means an exhaustive list!
This is tricky for me during the week, due to the time difference, but at the weekend I make a point of Skyping at least one of my close friends. And my mum.
Call me an old soul if you wish, but my friends and grandma love receiving letters from me decked out in cute stationery that I got in Japan.
Send birthday cards
As you can’t celebrate with them in person, send them a cheerful card from overseas.
Although I often forget to reply to these, if you are too busy to call home properly, a text lets them know you are thinking about them.
When I travel to a new place I like to send people a small gift from that country. It could be a Japanese facemask or some kind of snack.
Sadly I have missed many weddings, birthdays, parties and even a funeral because of being overseas. However, as a rule of thumb I travel home for Christmas and two weeks in the summer. My friends know this and plan accordingly.
Throw a party
Last year my lovely mother threw me a bridal shower, which also doubled up as reunion for my friends and family. I had friends attend who I hadn’t seen for five years! I felt so blessed and lucky. Plus everyone loves a party don’t they!
If someone doesn’t want to maintain the friendship, let it go. I have had a couple of occasions where I return home, and make many plans to meet with an old friend, that inevitably fall through. If someone is busy that’s fine, but learn when someone has no real interest in maintaining the friendship. That’s fine. Some people just move on!
Let me know if I have missed any tips here. As always, thanks for reading!