This Clash song is always going through my mind when new Expat opportunities arise in our lives. There is no perfect answer. But without doubt, in every Expat community when 'That Time of Year Again' comes around there is a general sadness as people start to say good-byes. It's hard to leave but it is even more hard if you are staying and losing good friends.
The end of the school year is the most common time for families to move on, which results in the Expat Exodus. How to deal with this depends of course on your personality. Here are some of my tips to make this time easier, whether as the leaver or the stayer who needs to say good-bye.
Tip 1: Build a RAFT
But one of the simplest transition plans to follow is to build a RAFT. This method was developed by Dr.David Pollock who studied Third Culture Kids, so really does know what he is talking about. The short version of how to build a RAFT is:
Reconciliation: Strained or Broken Relationships don't go away when you do - make amends before you leave.
Affirmation: People can not mind read. Don't assume they know how much impact they have had on your life - tell them.
Farewell: Different people need different goodbyes. Different ages also. Don't just plan to say goodbye to people but also places, pets and possessions too, especially if you are moving with minimal luggage and young children.
Think Forward: Think about your destination, even if you are going "home", it will have changed. Think forward about how the new life will be. My article "Take 5 before You Go" will help with some questions to answer.
Tip 2: Leaving is a PROCESS
Leaving isn't just about an exact date, but a process. In your brain you started leaving when you decided to go. If you are staying you started disconnecting subconsciously with your friends who told you they are leaving from the moment they uttered those words.
Everything you do from the point of deciding to go to actually stepping on the airplane is part of leaving. This is the time that you make out the bucket list of places to visit before you go. Who will you want to see right in those last moments, what foods, feeling, traditions will you take with you? Some food stuffs can be carried to the next location and may help with the settling in period. All these thoughts are part of the leaving process, the actual final date is a very small part of it.
Tip 3: Manage your Good-byes with Grace
You will not have time to say good-bye individually to every person you have met. So you will have to work out your priorities in how to say good-bye gracefully to a large number of people.
I suggest to spend quality alone time with only your closest friends.And take the opportunity to tell them with emotion how they have affected your life, what they mean to you, and arrange a date and time to Skype after you have gone. Do not leave it vague. Plan it now. Plan a holiday time you may host them in your new location. Having the joy of showing old friends a new location really helps settling in for the next stage.
Good friends who are part of a group, go out together in that group for dinner or drinks. Only do a party if you have a good friend who can arrange and host for you, as your mind will not be up to it closer to that date, and some of your belongings may already be on the way to the next destination.
All others, a facebook post or e-mail or letter will suffice. This advice may sound harsh, but it makes for a more graceful good-bye.