|source (obviously this is a meme and I didn't do this picture)|
But there is another kind of long distance relationship, that more readers may be familiar with. That's the relationship(s) nurtured with everyone else left behind once an expat does their expatting.
At first I was terrible with keeping in touch with family and friends back in the motherland, so much so that I recently announced an apology to some of my high school friends. For the first six months of being in the USA I have to admit that I was more focused on spending time with my husband after nearly 3 years of fleeting distance loving, plus trying to adjust to life as a US resident.
In some ways it was easier to be long distance with just one loved one, despite the heartache of missing my husband!
I'm getting better now at keeping in touch with my various British bods, though there's still room for improvement. Over the next few weeks I'll tell you how I maintain my newly overseas relationships. If you're an expat/traveller and have any tips, I'd love to hear them.
As the picture suggests, my grandparents are Skyped up, and even have Facebook for tracking all of their extended family. They pretend they don't know what they're doing but my grandfather was a radio engineer for years so I'm not sure I believe him.
I need to take a leaf out of my grandparents' filofaxes though because they never miss a birthday or special occasion, and always send a card on time. They even send a back-up e-card and Facebook greetings should any other method of communication fail. My grandfather still insists on sending hard cash in the mail, but by some miracle it always arrives.
My other gran (yes, I'm very lucky) sends me regular email forwards and sometimes surprisingly naughty jokes. I like to respond with pictures of baby animals.
The great thing about keeping in touch with my grandparents is they put everything into perspective. They were alive during WW2, experienced the blitz, had their houses bombed, and remember sleeping in London tube stations doubling as air raid shelters. My grandfather was evacuated from London and had to live with a different family that he didn't even know. Whenever I express frustration to them it's like a real life Monty Python sketch:
Me: We totalled the front of the car. It's going to be expensive.
Grandparents: Oh, don't worry, you'll get it fixed. We couldn't afford a car for YEARS so we had an old motorbike, your gran had to hold onto the back and I'd take her to the train station.
Me: We would like to get our own house, but we just aren't in the position right now. House prices are low, but so are wages. When we are in a better position house prices will probably have risen.
Grandparents: Oh don't worry. We used to live in two rooms and share a bathroom with an old lady. We weren't allowed to have baths after 2pm. It took 7 years before we got our own place because back then the mortgage was only based on the man's income. Eventually we bought a plot of land and lived in a shed while we built our own house.
Me: The TV broke.
Grandparents: Don't worry, when we lived in our shed while building our own house, our TV was oil powered and it broke. Your grandfather used oil from the motorbike to keep it going. And our radio was an old shoebox that your grandfather built. We changed channels using a pencil, but of course there were only two channels back then.
Me: I've been sick recently.
Grandparents: Don't worry. I had the flu during the blitz. One time we got bombed and the lights went out. I felt a hot sticky liquid on my arm and thought I was bleeding. Turns out I had just spilled my honey and lemon.
And this totally works! If I'm down I try to imagine building an iPhone from a shoebox and can't help but laugh out loud.
If you're an expat and you're feeling down, Skype the oldest member of your family right RIGHT NOW. They'll probably be able to put it into hilarious perspective for you, and they'll appreciate the call.