How To Maintain Good Long-Distance Friendships

I’m going to tell you something that may surprise you. After almost four years of living in America, I’m still closer with the friends I had in Jamaica than I am with friends here. I talk to my long-distance friends far more often, and they know way more about all the private details of my life. Some of them, I had not seen for years before I left the island, but we’ve kept in touch.

In Jamaica, we say, “Show me your friends, and I’ll tell you who you are”. If you know anything about me, what I’m about to say next will not surprise you. Most of my friends are overseas, and I don’t mean back in Jamaica. Most moved to other areas of America (none are in Atlanta) and the others are as far-flung as Japan and Ireland.

That said, keeping in touch requires more creativity than connecting with people here. Yet, I find that these relationships are more effortless than my newer connections in America. How is this? As my mother has said of her own long-distance friendships:

When you’re an immigrant in someone else’s country, having friends that can relate to your situation is what really gets you through it.

On that note, in 2017, I wrote an article entitled How to Make Friends When You Move to a New Location. In some ways, I suppose this is an extension of that. So, if you’re relocating to a new country or state, or your bestie is moving away, here’s how to build an even stronger relationship than what you had before the separation.

1. Stalk Them on Social Media

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Social media is the number one way I keep up with my long-distance friends. Even when we don’t speak to each other for weeks at a time, I know when they find the one and get married, when they adopt a new puppy, or when they go to Israel for a birthday trip. I see it all. From Facebook to Instagram to Twitter, we keep tabs on virtually every postable aspect of each other’s personal lives.

This way, the next time we have a chat, we’re not asking dumb questions like, “So what have you been up to?” Who has time for that? My friends and I rarely — if ever — engage in small talk. Instead, when we catch up, it’s more like, “How did you end up all the way in Israel? Did you finally get your puppy to stop peeing on the carpet? Are you sure joining the military at this time was the best idea?”

Because of social media, I’ve also created long-distance relationships with people I have never even met. One such friend is Rochelle, my future doctor and travel buddy.

2. Chat on WhatsApp or Telegram

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In the West Indian, European and Asian communities, and among people who travel often, these two apps are lifesavers. This is how we keep in touch:

  • When texting and calling while overseas to avoid roaming charges
  • With people overseas who may not have access to free text messages and calls to international numbers

One of the features I love about these is being able to send voice notes. My friends and I use these when we have a long tale to tell, but know that we may be in different time zones and on different schedules. You get the pleasure of hearing their voice, but the convenience of checking it when you have the time.

You can also use these apps for actual calling, including video calls. My Mom has used this to even remotely babysit my nephew, while his Mom takes a quick shower. Today my Dad rolled his eyes saying, “Your family in Jamaica sees you more than we do, and we live in the same house!”

3. Travel to See Each Other

When I renovated the mother-in-law suite on the property I bought with my Mom, I prioritised the fact that my friends might come to visit. One of them, who is an architect, even helped me design the space. In reality, none has ended up staying at my home and most times, I’m the one who ends up visiting them. But, I have the option nonetheless to play host.

I have travelled to see more than half a dozen friends across the United States, so far. In fact, my trip to see Tristan in Las Vegas in 2017 was what really took my travel adventures from the east coast to the west.

4. Travel With Them

Since flying out to Vegas to see Tristan, who also works with Alexis Chateau PR, we’ve gone as far up the west coast as Juneau, Alaska and as far south as San Diego, California.

When we head to the Maldives this September, Tristan won’t be the only long-distance friend coming along. One of my friends in the UK and another in New York are also trying to make the trip. Another friend in Florida is interested, but his wife just had a baby, so we’ll see. Fingers crossed! Can you imagine, all of us are originally from Jamaica? Boy, do we get around!

For some of my long-distance friends, we talk almost every day. And for most, every week. There is hardly ever a major update in each other’s lives of which we’re not aware, more so than the people who see us on an everyday basis.

I’ve also found that my closest and most successful friendships are with the people I met in college or shortly after graduation. And, even more interesting, we’re closer now post-college than we ever were while we were running around like roosters without heads, trying to meet school deadlines.

So, what about you? Do you have long-distance friends with whom you maintain a strong, ongoing relationship? How do you pull it off? Share your advice in the comments below!

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37 thoughts on “How To Maintain Good Long-Distance Friendships

  1. I just discovered Whatsapp last year and I love it! I have a really good friend in Nigeria that I’ve been friends with for over a year and we talk frequently. When we’re not talking I’m stalking him on Social media…lol. It’s funny because last night out of the blue he was up, I was up and we talked for almost 2 hours! not surprising for us but the time difference is like 6 hours apart…lol. True friends always make time to spend with each other no matter what, my other bestie – we talked last night through text and it was long…lol, she’s out of town right now with her daughter but I get such joy with talking to both of them. Great Advice on keeping those long distance friends close and even those close ones. You always have the best adventures! =)

    1. That’s amazing!! It just goes to show that technology doesn’t divide us. It all comes down to how we use it.

      Some people may point out that while we’re focusing on these people far away, we’re missing out on those around us. But you know…sometimes the people around us suck. 😅

  2. My very bestest friend lives in my phone. Well, she lives in Oregon, but I keep up with her in my phone. So I totally get you when you say your long-distance friendships are the effortless ones. Maybe it’s because I’m a progressive liberal in rural Texas?

    1. Buahahahaha! That makes perfect sense. I suppose I don’t fit it in Atlanta because I’m not materialistic enough. 🤔

      How long have you been friends with her?

      1. That’s quite some time!

        Yes, Atlanta is all about showing off. I noticed that when I first visited in 2004. It’s way worse now that so many businesses have set up shop here. A lot of them are leaving now so let’s see how that plays out!

  3. And the Maldives! Yes, girl! I’m so excited that I actually made noise out loud and startled my friend who thought I won money (as if that has ever happened 🤣). *humbly places request to fit in suitcase & works on my yoga so I’ll fit.*

    I can relate to friends living overseas though and being just as close to them as if they lived in Jamaica. One of my closest friends currently lives in LA (previously NY for 7 years) and while we don’t talk often (perhaps once every few months) since we’re so busy, any time she messages to get advice on some thing or the other, I just clear whatever plans I’d had for the night because it will be a long catchup and vice versa 🤣. Our conversations pick up as if we haven’t stopped talking. Thank God for the internet & Whatsapp (esp voicenotes)! Every time she has visited Kingston since, it’s lovely to see our in-real-life friendship feels as natural too as if I saw her last month.

    1. Thank you! We’re planning on going in September and then in October I’m heading out to Cali to look for land for my tiny home. 🙃

      I think Jamaicans are used to this setup, just because it’s so normal for family and friends to migrate. When you say LA, do you mean the state or the city?

      1. That’s true. I always find it hilarious that our diaspora is estimated to be the same population as Jamaica itself! If they didn’t leave, where would we fit all these people?? 😂 And LA the city.

      2. LoL I guess we could pile up over Haiti and Cuba 😂

        I’ll be about 2 hours drive from LA, so you’re in luck. 🙂

  4. I’m so flattered! 😭😭 *ugly cries* Still vex I made school get in the way of us meeting up last year but chu! I value your friendship too dearie even if you don’t pack me in your luggage when you visit my bucket list places. 😤 (ehem.. Mayan ruins for example).

    1. Buahahahaha! Tell you what! When I finish building my house, you have free accomodations. 99% chance it will be out in the desert in the middle of like 4 state and national parks, so it will be a welcome change you’ll enjoy. Just make sure you aim for spring. I find that’s the best time to travel to the desert. Insanely hot in the summer unless you’re going to a beach spot, like San Diego.

  5. Only 6 months later when I moved to London, but I didn’t want to spend too much time with them as I wanted to improve my English as much as possible before going back to Spain.

    1. That’s understandable. I’ve heard the same from my Spanish friends in Jamaica, that they hated spending too much time with their Spanish friends because it made it difficult to keep up with English. Smart move!

    2. Speaking of which, I really need to get back on top of my Spanish. I say this every year and here I am! 😂

      1. Aw, I will! When you see me chattering Spanish gibberish on Twitter in the near future, feel free to correct it 😂

  6. I have a friend that I talk to almost everyday. She is also my spiritual mother and I work as an Administrative Assistant with her non profit. I live in NC and she lives in IL. We haven’t seen each other physically in over 2 years, but we facebook each other and video chat on messenger, we also do Zoom calls whenever we need to have business meetings. This has kept our 17 friendship growing. We try to surprise trip one another and that never works because we are always doing something and we could end up missing each other. Hopefully, we see each other in person soon before 2 years become 4. Great post.

    1. Aw, I hope you get to see her soon! How did the separation come about? Who moved? Or was it always like that?

      Now, I’m thinking that working with the person should be on the list, since Tristan works with me too. 😂

      1. The separation came about because I moved from IL to LA back in 2015 then I moved to NC in 2017. I went back home IL twice since leaving, but she has never visited me.

        Absolutely include working together as an way of staying connected. She is the only constant in my life since leaving there except my mom.

      2. I’m like you then. I’m usually the one who does the visiting. Only one of my friends ever made it here to see me. Coincidentally, she’s also the first friend from Jamaica I met up with after moving here. I moved to ATL in July and saw her in either late August or early September in NYC.

  7. I can totally relate to that. When I first came to the UK as an au pair, aged 18, I was in a tiny village living with a farming family and was often alone with the toddler I looked after. I felt very lonely and sometimes very miserable, as I could not always communicate with my host family very well due to my lack of English. I relied on letters to and from Spain that took about a week to reach their recipient in either direction and my own parents didn’t even have a phone, so if I wanted to talk to my family, I had to call a neighbour! What I wouldn’t have given for Social Media and mobile phones back then. Now, I’m in touch with everyone through FB and WhatsApp. 👍😃

    1. Did you meet any Spanish friends there eventually? I find that fellow immigrants make the journey so much better, even when they’re not from our own home country.

    2. @fatimasaysell

      I could not imagine being in a foreign place and I could not communicate with my Mom. My heart would break because when I am lonely and miserable my Queen is the one who puts a smile on my face. I am sorry you had to experience that. I hope you met some people who spoke your language eventually and that took some of the loneliness away.

      @Alexischateau

      This is such a great conversation piece. Question: do you feel some type of way being the main one to visit? Sometimes I do. Because not only do I come all the way there. People actually feel some type of way if I don’t come to their homes personally. That bothers me to no end😒😔. I am like I came 14 hours and 1100 miles to see everyone. The least you can do is come to my hotel or meet me at a resturant. Geesh…..😂😂😂

      1. Thank you very much for your kind and thoughtful comment. I was very much the only Spaniard in the village for the first 6 months, but, although it was frustrating at first, my English improved enormously and gave me the confidence to go to London, where I found people from all over the world, which I found fascinating and fun. I also had some friends from the air hostess school in Madrid I had attended the year before.

      2. Agreed! I’m booking my Maldives tickets next week thereabout. Cali is already booked. Those are my only 2 big trips for this year.

      3. Very true, but one must escape the madness of a red state to remain sane. 😆😂

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