maintaining relationships when moving abroad

Maintaining Relationships During an International Move

When life declares it’s time for a move, you may worry about losing touch with the very people that help make it meaningful. You also can’t afford to lose track of those relationships that are necessary to your professional life. 

Most of us are more connected than we realize, and it doesn’t matter if you’re staying on the same continent or moving to the far side of the world, you’ll have to adjust the way you communicate with the people you know.

It can feel like a big task, but by keeping a few considerations in mind, you can board your flight with the confidence that you’ll be able to keep up with the most important relationships in your life.

The Single Biggest Challenge of Maintaining Relationships When You Move Abroad?

Time zones

This might not be such a big deal if you’re moving from North America to South America, or just across the border. If that’s you then feel free to skip ahead, but if you’re leaving the Americas behind altogether you’ll face a few unique challenges that come with communicating from one time zone to another.

Related: The Complete Guide to International Financial Planning

Let’s look at an example from my own life. The difference between my time zone here in Corvallis, Oregon, and my sister’s time zone back in Melbourne, Australia, is a full 17 hours. Practically, that means when I’m finally putting my kids to bed at 8 p.m., she’s only just finishing up her lunch hour and getting back to work at 1 p.m. the following day.

Staying connected with her isn’t impossible, but the time differences do present some challenges we’ve had to overcome. It could be worse, but it does mean that we have to plan ahead if we want to line up our free times to enjoy a good, long chat.

This is going to require both you and your loved ones to be flexible, and you’ll need to be willing to figure out those times that work for both of you. When you can settle on a routine that works well for both of you—maybe calling once a week on a set day at the same time—you’re well on your way. 

This might take a fair bit of planning on your part, and it might take a few missed calls until you get it right, but establishing regularly scheduled communications will help you stay connected with loved ones even at a distance—and you get the added bonus of reporting on the latest details of your new adventure!

One piece of advice to keep in mind: If too much time goes by from one communication to the next it can sometimes be awkward to simply strike up a fresh conversation, I find this is especially true with any kids you hope to stay in touch with. 

The small details of daily life may not seem important to share, but they allow others to relate to your journey. A fresh supply of stories and situations to update one another on can be a big help to make your conversations flow easily.

Want help navigating your move abroad? Click here to schedule a complimentary consultation with Dr. Kim Hall, our international planning specialist. 

How Technology Can Help You Maintain Relationships When Moving Abroad

Technology has made staying in touch easier than ever (for better or worse), so you have plenty of options available to help you stay connected with loved ones.

Use an App

One way to help facilitate a steady flow of back-and-forth is through web-based communication apps like WhatsApp or Signal. With one of these free apps, you can make your international communications easy and fun!

Start a Blog

Another fun way to stay connected with family and friends could be to maintain a blog with updates on your move and glimpses of your new environment. Not everyone is comfortable with the public nature of a blog, however, with a private, password-protected blog you can make sure that your posts will only be seen by people you know and trust.

Social Media

Let’s not forget that social media is always an option (love it or hate it). Whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat or another preferred network, you’re sure to find a way to stay connected with your favorite people no matter how far the distance.

Just like a blog, if privacy is important to you it’s easy enough with most social networks to adjust your privacy settings. This way you can control exactly who can see your activity, and who can’t.

Photo Sharing

One of the most meaningful ways to connect with the people you love is to see and share photos with each other. With Google Photos or Apple Photos, you can set up a private account just for your personal circle of family or friends. Again, this can allow you to keep your special moments both private and safe.

Video Chat

The only thing better than a picture or a call is a face-to-face chat. With so many options to choose from these days—from FaceTime to Google Hangout to Zoom—your close circle of family and friends can easily settle on the platform you like best. 

How to Approach Professional Relationships

Similar to family and friends, you’ll need to maintain your professional relationships too, and communicating across time zones can present a similar obstacle. 

Related: Common Questions to Answer when Moving Abroad

At Work

If you’re working remotely with a team on another continent, you’ll have to find a time that works for meetings. You may have to get creative.

I have heard of American companies who schedule specific meetings first thing in the morning because they have remote employees in the Philippines who only have an hour left in their workday. Sure, it comes with its challenges, but the pandemic has forced many companies to adjust their expectations and turnaround times to make room for an increasingly remote workforce.

This new flexibility for remote workers can work in your favor, but you’ll need to be proactive about setting expectations with your team. Sit down with your boss and relevant coworkers and figure out a schedule that works for everyone. You’ll need to figure out a window when you can communicate for work and when you can arrange for purely social interactions.

It’s really important that you resist the urge to skip check-ins. When work is piling up and meetings are virtual rather than physical, those weekly or daily meetings are often the first to go on the chopping block. For the health of your work relationships and to strengthen your connections with your team, prioritize those meetings above all else. 

Other Professional Relationships

If you’re moving out of the country for any extended length of time, you will want to establish relationships with local health professionals, if for no other reason than in case of an emergency. Nobody plans on having an emergency but you don’t want to be caught unprepared when one arises.

People often wonder if they will need a new financial advisor when they move. Ideally, you can find a financial advisor who specializes in cross-border planning (like me!) who can help you before and after your move. If so, you should not need to find an advisor in your new country.

Moving abroad is a complex process with a lot of moving parts, but thanks in large part to technology, keeping up with your most important relationships can be surprisingly easy.