Across The Miles (To France And Back)

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Through the years, I’ve been getting used to seeing my family in France sporadically.

I have been living abroad for the past 9 years, coming back now and then for holidays.

I am lucky enough to have quite a close family. We’ve always enjoyed spending time together, and if anything, as time went, I felt the bond going stronger. My visits have been some of the happiest times of my years.

When the lockdown was announced, I reassured myself and thought “at least, not being able to see my family and friend as often as I would like, is something I know. I can handle this”.

How wrong was I! One thing I can say for sure is that being separated from loved ones, whether they live close by or not, is tough. 

I discovered that it is completely different, deciding to visit my friends and family on my own time and at my own pace, and having this choice made for me. I was biding my time and counting the days, but I didn’t know how many days I was counting.

When I finally booked my flight and arranged for a weekend, I was overjoyed.

The weekend went in a whirlwind, and gave me a massive boost in morale.

It also reassured me.

You see, after years apart, I am always worried that not seeing each other enough will affect our relationship. Once again, I was proven wrong: we all had a great time together.

Sure, we miss each other when we are not able to visit. But there are so many ways to connect nowadays. So, while waiting for my flight to bring me back to Scotland, I had a bit of time to reflect.

Video helps to break the distance

As far as I’m concerned, nothing beats a face-to-face meeting. However, I am deeply grateful for technology enabling video conversations.

My nephew is only little, and growing so fast. However, despite not seeing him often, I can still be a part of his life.

I saw him crawling on camera, and starting to walk, and I can hear him talk. Most important, to him, I’m not a distant memory: I am a familiar face he sees and talks to regularly — albeit through the phone.

Everyone has their own catching up preferences

I find that with my youngest sister an almost daily video call, for 10 min, while we exercise together, is our best fit. With my best friend, we’ll talk less often . . . but for hours!

My brother and I are sending each other small videos instead of having continuous conversations. My dad recently said that he finds phone calls easier than video calls. For some, emails are more convenient to read and respond to.

Finally, a letter or a card never loses its charm. It’s all about adapting the way we talk, to suit our schedule and catch-up habits.

I’ve even discovered Skype-Apéro during lockdown! Apéro is short for “apéritif” in French.

Very common in France, it is a time just before dinner when you’re having a drink with a few snacks while chatting with friends. Supposedly, it is a mean to open your appetites. Mostly, it is used as a way to catch-up.

And it turns out, even with a screen between us, it was quite fun!

Be proactive, at your own pace

I always thought that one needed to be proactive to keep any relationship going.

While social media can help us feel that we’re keeping a tab on each other, putting in the effort to write and talk to each other is necessary to stay in each other’s lives.

That said, I learnt that there is no rulebook dictating the frequency in which those efforts need to be made. It’s once again down to everyone to decide.

Those videos my brother and I send to each other? It’s about once every four months. But he is one of those people that will make you feel that no time has passed when you meet him again. We joked and chatted as if our last conversation was just moments ago.

I know many of us are in this case.

We either made the decision to live elsewhere, or our family and friends moved due to work, studies or simply the need something different. It is becoming more common to have family and friends living in separate cities or countries.

What tips do you find useful to cope with the distance? Let us know over on “The People’s Friend” Twitter page.

For more from the “Friend” team, read our blog here.

Manon Gandiolle