Sometimes the greatest girl gangs have miles of distance between them. Here’s how to make the best of friendships over the Internet.

How many WhatsApp groups are you in? A countless amount? Us too. Have you muted any for eight hours, or a year? The uncoordinated ramblings of a birthday get-together with no final date and location in place, two weeks into its creation? We’re with you. The work related group with that one incessant colleague chiming in about non-issues that don’t exist past the 21:00 watershed? Rude.

The heart-stopping ‘CONGRATULATIONS you have won $1,000,000’ from a raffle you may or may not have entered at an airport, sent from an unknown country code without a display picture with 100+ other unknown numbers added into the group? Oh that comedown. Instant block and report.

And then there’s the ‘Girls International’ group (or a name to that effect) with besties far and wide. Your morning post. Your breaking news. Your silent giggling at work. Your meme shares. Your de facto therapy. We love those. Most of us have those saving grace groups.

When you live the life of an expat, you have to deal with a lot. Not to sound ungrateful, because expatdom is a choice – and a brilliant choice at that – but concessions are part of that choice. The main concession is being away from your people – your besties. And it’s a whole other ball game when you’re long-distance friends – but we think, it’s the best kind. Read on.

 

Friendships operate on a broad spectrum of scenarios. From the all-consuming type of being in each other’s space (virtual or otherwise) from when you first wake up to when you go to bed. And then the ones where you see each other every six months but have voice notes as long as an audio book of Anna Karenina between you. How revolutionary was it when the hands-free lock option came in last year’s WhatsApp update?

When you leave your post, you pack everything up and leave your friends behind. But you don’t pack away your friendships. Not the ones you’ve shared all your TMIs with. Not the ones you have a telepathic connection with and know the sequence of their thoughts. Not the ones you have compelling conspiracy theory chats with on why Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie are no more. Basically, you don’t let your Oprah Winfrey and Gayle King (the patron saints of bestie friendships) bond break. You take them with you – extra baggage charges may apply.

As much as you might think friendships from afar suffer, you get the best version of your friendship at a distance. At the beginning of your long-distance friendship, it doesn’t feel that different. You’re still mentally attuned to each other’s rhythm and are constantly at each other’s beck and call before the reality of the change sets in. And then time veers us off course into a new life and you enter your fresh friendship phase.

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One of the benefits of a friendship from afar is how you cut out the drone of daily life – you give each other the exciting scoops in one fell swoop and boy does it spice up your day. Your video dates are practically events to leave other events early for. It becomes more sacred and complete. Assuming, of course, your friendship in its initial physical closeness was solid to begin with.

There are also the friends who naturally lop off – the ones who you met at a mutual friends’ clothes charity sale, hit it off like a house on fire but then acted like you didn’t know each other in Zara three weekends later and now with distance between you, your friendship has amounted to a few fair-weather likes on Instagram and a very false sense of companionship. No harm, no foul, in life people come in for a reason, a season or a lifetime – being at a distance means your true tribe shines through and you can do a friend cull without it getting messy or too personal.

The best kind of friendship (and you’ll know this when it happens) is when you haven’t seen a chum for yonks – not even on video platforms – and you collide after months or years of being apart and nothing has changed. And all is well in the world. There’s this unconditional love in friendships that is hard to replicate in any other kind of relationship. And when you’re at a distance from each other, no matter what barriers you face, you just make it work however best you can.

FIVE WAYS TO GO THE DISTANCE

1. Pencil each other in

There is some low-level administration required to keep your friendships on top form – from both/every party. It doesn’t have to be a prescriptive, thrice weekly catch up but every other Saturday afternoon, a screen-to-screen can be rather life-giving. You’ll find that you won’t hang up before 2 h 36 m 55 s because you’re analysing each other’s rogue chin hairs and the state of Ireland’s 8th amendment outcome.

2. Make impromptu gestures

When you live apart and one of you (or both) is going through a tough time of it, you need to check in with each other – beyond your mutually agreed schedule. If your bestie is starting a new job, get someone to leave a note, send some flowers, make a video with people they may not even know but have the right level of clown about them. It’s touching.

3. Tag each other

Nothing speaks to your soul more than being tagged in a meme of a sausage dog squished in a hotdog bun by your bestie saying ‘this is us after a Friday take away’. Tag your friends in exclamatory posts over the sheer outrage that the Flamingo emoji is yet to be on the emoticon keyboard. Scatological humoured posts are always a crowd pleaser too.

4. Make those milestone moments 

There are times when you need to do things IRL. Your constant WhatsApp dialogue needs to come alive at seminal birthdays (happy 30th in Copenhagen?) or summer holidays in Mykonos a la Sisterhood of The Travelling Pants and the weddings. All the weddings.

5. Manage your expectations

This one can be a life sucker if you’re not both on the same page. Don’t torpedo on your bestie if she falls off the face of the earth because she got married, had a child or changed jobs. It might seem weirdly nefarious when one of you doesn’t seem as committed but when circumstances change, let them recalibrate and figure out where they’re at.

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