Losing touch with friends and family in the old country

I made a video about some greeting cards my daughter sent me, and in the video I mention how losing touch with friends and family is very easy for an expat.

A Year’s Worth of Greeting Cards

I thought she had a great idea to send an entire year’s worth of greeting cards in the balikbayan box. The mail is so slow here, it is hard to get cards anywhere near the right holiday.

The video, embedded below, does show the cards but I wanted to go ahead and post them here as well. Then, I will discuss how easy it is to lose touch with friends and family back in the old country.

My daughter has always been crafty (I think she gets that from me). She had her two young daughters help her make & decorate the cards. My grand-kids were 2 1/2 years old, and 6 months old, at the time.

Please check out the video for better pics of the card, and more description.

Losing touch with friends and family

I have talked to quite a few expats and many share the same story as mine. When I first moved to the Philippines I was in contact with friends and family back in the old country quite a lot.

As time progressed the contact became less and less. It was nothing intentional (on my part) but just a natural occurrence. I think it is the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ principle.

I noticed it starting some back in my Navy days. We moved from Texas to California, then to Hawaii. There were some letters and phone calls at first. then over time they decreased. I attributed it to the difficulty of long distance communication, at the time.

This was way before e-mail or internet… Letters were cheap, but no one in my family was ever much into letter writing. Long distance phone calls were prohibitively expensive. So during the 4 years of deployments contact frequency dropped – a lot.

Now, with the advent of the internet, there should be no excuse to lose touch. But human nature seems to say otherwise. Over the last 6 years I have found myself losing touch with friends and family back in the old country. Just like back in the old Navy days.

Causes of losing touch

As I said losing touch with friends and family was a gradual process, and nothing intentional. It happened from both ends. At first we talked quite often. As a matter of fact my YouTube videos started at the request of my brother – he wanted to see where I lived. Other people started watching, and the channel grew. And, I think in the same time period, my family started watching less of the videos. They cannot really relate to my life here.

People are people, so it is not that foreign here, but it is far removed. To paraphrase Baum ‘Tito, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Texas anymore.’ I have a very different life over here, than I did back in the old country. No work, no real responsibilities. I am not in ‘vacation mode’ all the time, but I am almost on vacation all the time.

My friends and family still work, have kids, lots of bills, all the rat race fun that I am no longer involved in. We are not just physically separated, our lifestyles are also very different. We just don’t have as much in common as we used to.

I really think that is why we have lost touch. The last 2 years I did not even get my birthday phone calls. I do still call my kids and siblings on their birthdays. But that is only I call a year each.

We do talk on Facebook, but the family is almost becoming Facebook friends… kind of a bummer.

How to avoid losing touch

With the new tech there really is no excuse to lose contact. But it seems to happen to a lot if guys here. We have e-mail, Facebook Messenger (which includes free video chat), and my MagicJack even has “local” text.

The MagicJack is a great app. Just install it on your smartphone, choose a “local” number (for me Texas), and you can call the old country. Over the years that I have used it, the price has not gone up, but they have increased the service. Being able to just text my kid’s phones is great.

I need to make a more concerted effort to stay in touch with my family back in the US. And, for it to work, they will also need to make more of an effort.

My siblings and my daughter are pretty good at returning texts, my son… not so much. But even when I was in the US he was not so good at returning texts ha ha. Some things never change.

Schedule time for calls

I think scheduling time for calls or video chats would be the best way to stay in contact. It will rely on dependable internet, though. I never know from one day to the next if my net will be working (yeah, Globe is as bad as AT&T!).

My schedule is wide open, but they seem to have a hard time keeping up with the time zone differences. They work, and have family responsibilities, so I never know when a good time to call is. Scheduling calls/video chats would alleviate any confusion.

When I call, using the MagicJack, I have started to turn off the wifi on my phone, and just use the phone load. My cell service is much more reliable, and faster, than my home wifi. Over the wifi the call gets dropped numerous times in one conversation. Constant dropped calls are not conducive to open communication.

There is no sure fire way to keep from drifting apart. It just seems to be part of most guys lives over here. As I said I think it is the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ effect. And, we just have less and less in common with the old country.

It is an unfortunate thing, but something you need to be aware if you are planning on moving overseas. Stay vigilant. Remind yourself to call/text often.

And enjoy your day in paradise!

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