Goodbyes Are Bitter(semi)sweet

On Wednesday my parents left and after three wonderful weeks we had to say goodbye. As you may have read in my post Best of May, we had a relaxed, harmonious time and my husband and I got to sneak away from our routine for a few days. It was a lovely time and I’m so glad they came out. 

Saying goodbye is always hard 

If you’re an expat or immigrant living away from your home country, you know what I’m talking about. It was probably about the 16th or 17th time I had to say goodbye to my parents within the last nine years. Saying goodbye is tough. It keeps being heartbreaking because you know that you won’t see each other for a long time. You are aware that you will only be able to have a few, irregular FaceTime or phone conversations. Finally you realize once more that you will miss some special moments of each other’s life. That is what living abroad involves. You might be leading a happy, fulfilled life in a wonderful place, but you just don’t get to experience all the small or big events in your family’s life like a birthday, the first day of school, a wedding, sports events, a Sunday morning brunch etc. Maybe you manage to be there for some of them, but it is just not the same like being there all the time.

I love having visitors.

They always bring a bit of your home with them and they fill the house with joy, laughter and a healthy change to your usual routine. We love to show our friends and family all our favorite places and share our laid-back Californian lifestyle with them. I also enjoy to cook some fancy, California style meals for them, food they don’t necessarily get to eat back in Germany. And you have a good excuse to eat out a lot as well.

Having visitors is consuming, too. 

But, having people in your house 24/7 can be challenging as well. I often feel obligated to make everyone in the house happy but that is close to impossible. Some visitors are more demanding than others and you don’t necessarily know that before. It is not easy to accommodate the needs of six or even more people, sometimes between 2 and 75 years. Your routine is jumbled up and you have to plan your day even more carefully than usually to fit everything in.

The Goodbye is inevitable. 

After one or two weeks of enjoying lots of togetherness the goodbye is approaching. Your visitors might be ready to go back to their home and their routine as well as you are ready to have the house back to yourself. Hence, ready to get your office back, ready to clean and cook less. Finally, you are ready to have some alone time and time with your core family. That’s just normal, especially if you don’t have a huge house.

Benjamin Franklin once said “Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days”. In expat reality I wouldn’t say three days, rather two to  three weeks are definitely a time when visitors might start to be a bit smelly.


6 things to overcome your goodbye blues

The days after friends have left or I have dropped off family at the airport, I always feel pretty blue. They just leave and life is back to normal. They take “home” with them and you’re left off with your normal life abroad. These 6 things have helped me to make the goodbye a bit easier on me and the kids. (My husband is more resilient to goodbyes. That’s just how it is.)

  1. Remember the best moments of the visit and try to write down your highlights.
  2. Make a list of things you need to do differently when having visitors. For example, stick to your exercise routine, make them do a grocery run, have them watch your kids for a night, etc.
  3. Call your visitors a few days after they have left and share your favorite moments.
  4. Make a photo book, a slide show or a mini movie capturing the best moments and share it with your visitors.
  5. Have your kids write a Thank you note for them.
  6. Start a guest book and have your visitors write in it before they leave. It’ll be nice to read it a few months or years later.

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