The cold, hard reality of expat life: saying goodbye

It comes to us all eventually. Whether you live somewhere for two months, two years or two decades, you will have to hug someone you care about and will miss madly and say goodbye.

But it never gets any easier.

As anyone who follows this blog knows, we are preparing to leave Pretoria in the next few weeks and have reached the point where we are starting to say our farewells. We have have numerous dinners and Sunday get-togethers and parties for the kids with those who we consider our nearest and dearest. The ones who have brought this place to life for us, who have shared the ups and downs, made us laugh, accompanied us on the huge two-year adventure South Africa has been for us. The people who will bring a lump to my throat when I think about the enormous fun we had together living in this beautiful, crazy country.


But we have just reached the end of the school year and at this point many families are heading home for the holidays. So even though we will still be here making the most of the sun for a while longer, I won’t see them again before we leave. So yes we have reached crunch time – the hugs, the kisses, the tears, the “see you in Ecuador” or “catch up in Florida” or “you must make sure to call us on your London stop-over”. You know the drill, you expats who spend your life moving between far-flung places in this world.

Because of course the only way to deal with this awful period of goodbyes is to pretend it’s not forever, even if you fear that really it probably is. I remember when I left school (it was a boarding school so we were all a lot closer than we would have been at a normal school), someone said to me: “have a nice life”. It stuck in my head as it sounded so…final. You really don’t know if you will ever bump into someone again or not, you don’t know where your future path will take you or where theirs will take them. And isn’t it so much easier to say “hasta luego” than “goodbye”?

So in the weeks ahead I will probably say goodbye to dozens of friends, and watch my children do the same. We will hug and talk about keeping in touch (on Facebook or WhatsApp or whatever will come next).  It won’t be easy, it never is. But, sadly, it is just one of those things about expat life you have to get used too.

One of those, hard cold things.

Friends of Pretoria: I will miss you.

Group hug photo – Meg Cheng

13 thoughts on “The cold, hard reality of expat life: saying goodbye

  1. Been there…I can never get over how much of our lives we leave behind. It seems like a weird life sometimes, to have such intense experiences and then move on. But people show up or you meet in new places in the world. And I seem to have more places I can travel to where I will know someone.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. My family and I are going through the same thing in San Francisco at the moment. Yesterday I witnessed my five year old running down the corridor with her friend that she met on the day we moved into our apartment 2 years ago and I had a very large lump in my throat. It was going to be the last time they did that together. We are moving back to Singapore.

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  3. Oh gosh, this is so true. The thing that surprised me most about leaving my first “home” abroad is how long it took me to get over leaving. It was kind of like a breakup and then jumping immediately into a new relationship. It took me probably three months to see all the great things about living in Madrid because I was too busy dealing with leaving behind home in Colombia.

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  4. It’s never easy saying a long, “see you later” to people you have bonded with and shared moments with! But fully agreeing with Caths comment above with her TS Elliot quote – hope your move went well and best of luck for your futures 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Like the great Bon Jovi once said Never say goodbye. I always say laters, or adiós. Emotional feelings are part of the expat life, but that’s one of the downsides of this crazy world. Good luck with the move!


  6. I think one of the hardest parts of expat life is the constant goodbyes. People are coming in and out of our lives on their own journeys. But I think the lovely part is reminding ourselves that we now have friends from all over the world! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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