5 Ways to Maintain Your Closest Friendships Remotely When You Live Abroad

If you or your best friend are committed to a life of travel or you live in separate countries, you might be worried about your relationship fizzling out. There’s no need to fear, however; you just need to make a little extra effort to keep your friendship flourishing.

Maintaining friendships while abroad is vital for your well-being and happiness. Thanks to the internet and ever-evolving technology, there are plenty of ways to keep the banter and love going with your overseas friends when you’re unable to socialize in person.

1. Join a Watch Party to View Your Favorite Movie Together

screenshot by Charlotte Osborn — no attribution required

Maintaining long-distance friendships can be as simple as sticking a movie on together, even when you’re living far apart. Using a watch party app, such as Teleparty for Netflix or Amazon Prime Watch Party (two of the most popular services) allows you and your buddies to synchronize streaming a movie together online, no matter where you are both located. The only caveat here is that you’ll both need an active subscription to the same streaming service (e.g. to use Teleparty, you both need to have a Netflix subscription).

Most watch party services allow you to chat in-app while you watch your movie or show together. This means you’ll be able to discuss what you’re watching, as you would if you were sitting on the same sofa.

If one of you needs to grab a drink or take a comfort break during the screening, hitting the pause button will affect both screens, meaning you’ll stay in perfect synchronization throughout the watch party. There are several ways to join a watch party online, meaning that the show or movie you and your best friends were watching together in person can continue remotely.

2. Game Together While Apart

Screenshot of words with friends for maintaining long-distance friendships

Whether continuing a simple rally game of Words With Friends or a full-blown gathering on The Jackbox Party Pack, gaming remotely can keep the fun and camaraderie (or competitiveness!) in your friendship.

Playing remote games together is a fun way to maintain long-distance friendships, and most modern consoles support online multiplayer games. In fact, many games can be played cross-platform, so you and your bestie don’t even need to own the same console to engage.

Popular online multiplayer games range from tactical first-person action games such as Valorant and Overwatch 2 to calmer games such as Animal Crossing and Minecraft. If you don’t own the same console, or if the traveler in your friendship needs to save money, there are plenty of free online games you can play together.

3. Catch Up Face to Face With Video Calls

Screenshot of microsoft teams for maintaining long-distance friendships

This might seem like an obvious suggestion, but video calling is a good way of maintaining long-distance friendships. Video calls can feel more personal and fulfilling than a simple phone call or Whatsapp conversation, and seeing your best friend’s face can boost your mood if you’re feeling low.

There are plenty of apps you can use to video call your friends, including Whatsapp, Facebook, Zoom, Google Hangouts, and Microsoft Teams. Many video calling apps offer encryption for messages and calls, so you can be assured that speaking to your overseas friends is safe. If you don’t want to download new software to your device, however, there are video call services that don’t require registration, such as JumpChat.

If you’re worried about the tendency for video calls to feel a bit awkward or forced (no one wants to relieve the “Zoom Boom” of 2020), then there are various games you can play online via video call apps to lighten the mood.

4. Remember and Celebrate Your Friends’ Birthdays

Calendar app for birthday reminders to maintain long-distance friendships

Remembering birthdays while you are abroad is far from just a formality—it confirms to your long-distance friends that you’re thinking of them. It can also make your friend feel truly valued by you, even when you’re not physically there to celebrate with them.

There are plenty of apps to remind you of friends’ birthdays, including simple calendar apps and simply checking their birthday on the Facebook app. Adding these important dates to your calendar and setting reminders ahead of the date is a great way to maintain long-distance friendships.

You can even take it a step further and send your friend a birthday card or gift, whether you or they live abroad. Independent online marketplaces, such as Etsy, offer worldwide shipping. If your budget is tight, why not create a virtual birthday card using a mobile app for sending eCards?

5. Start a Remote Hobby Together

screenshot of meetup.com to start remote hobby for maintaining long-distance friendships

Having shared interests is one thing, but participating in a common hobby together can help elevate your friendship connection to a whole new level.

Whether you thought about joining a dancing class or wanted to learn a foreign language that both you and your friend could speak, you can start a remote hobby with your friends by following these tips:

  • Meet up online. Find your shared online interests and connect on Meetup—a social networking site for finding and joining groups related to your personal interests. You’ll find a vast variety of hobbies to join together, from online book clubs and writing clubs to photography courses and coding classes.
  • Learn a new language together. You and your best friend can pledge to both learn the same language. Find an online language tutor and pledge to speak to one another in your new chosen language at least once a week to stay accountable.
  • Run together. Apps like Nike Run Club allow you to add your friends and track each other’s progress, so you can keep the momentum going while apart.
  • Share virtual goals and reminders. For new hobbies that you can’t necessarily track with a dedicated app (such as in-person dance classes, skating lessons, or similar), then an app like Microsoft To Do can help. With this app, you can create shared lists and goals to keep each other motivated and accountable for your new chosen hobby. (Read this beginner’s guide to using Microsoft To Do for more help).

Maintaining Long-Distance Friendships Is Nothing to Worry About

There are plenty of ways you can maintain long-distance friendships when one of you lives abroad. The only slight complication might be the timing of trying to virtually meet up (especially if you’re living in different time zones), but using a scheduling app can help you work around this.

You can even use some tips in this article to create new friendships. Websites like Meetup and online gaming platforms, for example, both welcome and encourage new connections and friendships.

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