The hardest thing for people living abroad is often the distance from the family back home. I’m no exception. I left France more than four years ago to live in Australia. Being in the other part of the world, 15,000 kilometres from home, is hard for family relationships. It is, at least, a 30-hour trip for a visit. Yet, despite the distance, I’ve never been closer to my family than today.
Of course, I miss seeing them physically, and I am not saying that having such a long distance between us is great. There are times when I need to cope with homesickness.
To tolerate all the hard moments I go through as an expat thinking about home and all the special things I miss… I wanted to highlight in a post that – although it does feel like this –being far away from family is not entirely negative. It may hopefully help some expats or expats-to-be to put some things in perspective and nurture some positive sides of it.
So, how being 15,000 km apart can actually bring us closer?
Long story short. If I were in France, I’d probably see my mother and my father once in a while for lunch or dinner. Sometimes as a duty. It’s of course completely different now that I live abroad.
When I get to see them, the joy is extreme
I get excited weeks before we meet. It’s the best thing ever. We are delighted to spend time together. We forget all these little things that may have annoyed us in the past. Only the happiness of being reunited is left.
On the other hand, when we have to say goodbye, it tears us apart. I had never felt extreme feelings like this before. It’s not easy at all to deal with them, but I find that it creates interesting relationships.
When we catch up on the phone, we’re 100% catching up
With a 10-hour difference between France and Australia, we need to be organised when we want to catch up. It does not happen very often, and it does not happen whenever we want. As much as I never use my voice credit on my phone, I am not a big fan of Skype and these types of telecommunication tools. And I refuse to commit to spending my Sunday evenings calling one by one my relatives back home. I’ve always wanted freedom from this. So when we do get to catch up, we’re not cooking at the same time – or doing something else.
We write to each other’s
Because of the time difference again, it’s also easier to write an email. I love how much I write to my family. That’s sometimes a lot more interesting than chatting in-person. It brings up some topics we wouldn’t have talked about around a dinner table. With only one recipient, writing allows a one-on-one relationship. It easily gives privacy and an opportunity for creating a different communication.
For example, I often have lengthy exchanges with my father about politics and sociology, based on news articles we find and share. It’s fascinating to hear each others’ points of view. I’m not sure I would spend that much time maintaining these written discussions if we saw each other often.
I share more about my personal events
I also share a lot more about my events than before moving to Australia. I don’t mean very personal things, but stuff like my routine. I don’t think I would take the time to send photos of my day-to-day life if I were still in France. Because it would not be exciting at all – they would already know my routine. And I would see them soon, so I could tell them later… or never, as I may forget!
We share better quality time
In France, the activities I had with my family were limited. We did do some short excursions around where they live. But as adults, we would have never thought about going on a trip together. I mean, I’d go on a trip with my friends or just with my partner… But with my parents…?! I would not even think about it.
But now, visiting one another is a trip. It then makes sense to consider travelling together. A few years ago, I spent a weekend with my mother and my brother on the Great Ocean Road, near Melbourne. It was the first time we were the three of us together on a plane. We had a fantastic time. Last summer, we went all together with our partners on a 2-week holiday trip to New Caledonia. We shared unforgettable moments. We would have never imagined sharing such an adventure together as a family.
I have found an excellent balance and an incredible way of life in Queensland. I’m blooming down there. I’m closer to Nature, and I get to do the activities I love every weekend. It fits me so much more than the life I had in the suburbs of Paris. Not physically seeing my family is a hard price to pay, but in the end, I am happy in my life. And for my loved ones, that’s probably the most important thing. Although it does not reduce the envy to see each other’s, it helps support the distance. And when you’re happy, you often have healthier relationships.