Australia is an amazing place. There are gorgeous beaches, nature, good economy, they speak English. Who wouldn’t wan’t to move here? There is one sacrifice you will have to make, which is being far from the loved ones. Because Australia is far from.. well, everywhere. It’s not only about flying 15-24 hours one way to go back home, the time zone difference also makes it harder to stay connected to your family. I am not going to sugarcoat it; it doesn’t get easier, but the good news is that with technology and a bit of effort you won’t drift apart. Even after 11 years of living abroad I am as involved in the family life as if I was there. Here is how I did it.
1. Don’t make Skype dates
To stay connected to your family, the best thing is to call them regularly. We all have a busy life, but make sure that you speak often. Calling each other shouldn’t be an occasion. I never agree with my Mum that we will Skype at XYZ time, I just call her. If she is not free she will call me back when she is.
2. Call them on the go
Don’t worry about ‘making time’ to call your family. I call my grandparents while I am in the supermarket, walking down the street or cooking dinner. Just call them any time you can.
3. Speak about trivial things
What did you eat today, the size of the cockroach you caught yesterday or anything. This will make speaking to each other less of an occasion and more of an every day thing. This habit makes me feel like I am still very much part of the family.
4. Pay attention
To stay close to your family, make sure that you pay attention when you speak to each other. The phone can be un-personal sometimes and it’s up to you to make it meaningful. It’s going to be harder to pick up when your parents need you and for them when you need them.
5. Get a Skype subscription
If your grandparents are not tech savvy, get a Skype subscription. You pay $5-15 and can call landlines and even mobile phones. You can chose different packages from calling a whole continent to calling a specific country.
6. Don’t calculate time zones
Get a multiple time zone widget and set a secondary, ever tertiary clock on your phone. Do this on your parents and grandparents phone as well. That way you never need to think about whether it is the right time to call them.
7. Share pictures
If your family is a bit more savvy, you can create a Google photos folder and add pictures of the places you’ve been, things you ate, and everything so they can really immerse in your life. My grandma was hopeless with technology, but we got her an iPad which is super intuitive. Next thing you know she is hanging out in public places taking photos of things with a tablet. If your fam is even savvier and you are fairly confident with their filtering skills, get them to follow you on Instagram. And when I say filtering skills I don’t mean making the right decision between Amaro and Mayfair, but more like their judgement on what’s appropriate to comment when you post images of a queer night. Not cool Mum… not cool…
8. Keep the traditions and celebrations
This one is really really important. To stay connected to your family you need to make sure that you keep all the celebrations and family traditions. Make sure you are not missing any birthdays. There are people who send presents to their family from here, you can order them from your home country and get them delivered locally. I usually wish happy birthday over the phone and give the presents next time I see them. I also participate in major family events like 80th birthdays, yearly family re-union and others over Skype.
9. Travel together
When I first moved abroad to uni I naturally spent all my holidays going back to Hungary. After starting to have a life abroad, especially when I started working, I wanted to see other places as well. One of the best family traditions we started doing is meeting in other places and go on holidays together.