Saying Goodbye: The Downside of Expat Life

Here’s the thing about expat life:

It sounds great, doesn’t it? It’s the ultimate fantasy– to travel the world and live abroad indefinitely, to be able to freely explore all corners of the earth, to dig deeper into different cultures and learn multiple languages and have friends on all corners of the globe. These are all the things about my life that I absolutely love.

But there are downsides to this lifestyle, and saying goodbye is probably the worst of them. It’s an art I have yet to master. I’m more for ghosting– skipping the awkward hugs lingering silences, and instead silently and invisibly slipping out the door.

But the fact is, living abroad means that you are forced to say a lot of hellos, and whole lot of goodbyes.

First, goodbyes to family, sick loved ones, best friends, and the comforts of home.



And then, goodbyes to new friends, current lovers, seas of acquaintances, new cities, familiar hangouts, and life-changing experiences.



Since May, it feels like it’s been a whirlwind of goodbyes: final soirées, going-away barbecues, cheers-ing another friend’s future endeavors over rounds of drinks, and waving Adieu from the platform at the train station, repeat about 20 times.

Anne laura cara

11013221_10152891549396611_4184336689945813562_n   Joe



In short, Goodbye is a key part of expat life, and it never gets easier, no matter how many times you have to do it. You always feel like you’ll have time to prepare, to play it out in your head, to rehearse the right things to say, and face the fear of potentially never saying hello to that person again. And then later you find yourself crying in your room, and wondering why you choose to put yourself through this again and again.

Having been on both sides of the totem pole, I’m not sure what’s worse: leaving or being left behind. Perhaps it’s just having to say goodbye to the people and places you love most in the world, both old and new, and knowing that things probably aren’t going to be the same, no matter how well you stay in touch.

Perhaps it’s just knowing that saying goodbye just makes the next hello closer.



17 thoughts on “Saying Goodbye: The Downside of Expat Life

  1. As always Dana, very astute! I find myself remembering my time abroad through a clearer lens because you put into words the things that I haven’t always been able to myself. Thank you!

  2. Hello Dana,

    I absolutely love your blog. I will be doing TAPIF in Nice this year. I was wondering if you still had any contacts for tutoring or working in Nice? Any help would be appreciated!
    As for saying goodbye… there is a saying in Italian: Non é arrividerci, ma à prossimo. “its not goodbye, its a see you later” 🙂

    Thank you,

    1. Thank you Kayla! I actually lived in toulon which was an hr and a half from Nice ! So no tutoring contacts unfortunately but if you put up an ad I’m sure you’ll find people. You’ll love Nice, it’s a great town!

      Love that saying! Because then it’s never forever 🙂

  3. It is hard to say goodbye but it gives you an excuse to revisit old friends. I spent a few days in Madrid after three years of being away a few weeks ago and found that my relationships with the friends I had left behind were pretty much the same. I also made a point to keep in touch with these people and it was gratifying to see that the effort had paid off.

    Also sorry for not getting together while I was in France! But my time was pretty limited and I was only there for a week. Next time I’ll try to make it up to Lille. 🙂

    1. Yes I agree! I’ve visited a lot of friends this year too and it’s great that t has paid off as you said! I think it will be a lot different once I’ve left Europe though …

      Not a problem! I know time was tight .. Next time! Xx

  4. Saying goodbye is so bitter sweet. I’m so used to moving around that it’s something that I know will be creeping up soon. Have a nice flight. Hopefully I get the chance to meet you on France! Loved your photos. Hope you’re ready to take another million photos while abroad.

  5. Have been on both ends and confirm it’s hard to say which is worse. You say you avoid the goodbyes (as do I!) but what strikes me is how happy you always look in all these photos. Something about life as an expat must agree with you!

    1. Aw thank you Mel! You’re right, I do look happy in these photos, though I distinctively remember crying in many of them (or just before or after!) I think expat life does suit me, at least for now. Hopefully it’s not the end 🙂


  6. Definitely can relate to this and it is so hard to say goodbye, but I think it might be a little easier to be the one leaving than the one being left behind. Just because you can visibly feel and see that absence rather than getting to go into a new environment that never really had those people as permanent fixtures.

    And as bad as saying goodbye is, it is a good thing! To feel emotionally torn means you have real connections and that’s something that’s awesome. And the fact that you have people to say goodbye to on a consistent basis — people who are willing to be there for you even as you live a life abroad is also so good. Not everyone can handle relationships like that!

    One last thing: I think being an expat sometimes means wondering “what if?” You wonder if you are missing things by not being there or whatever. But I have found that you can lose touch just as easily being back home and that actually, because being around is the norm, it’s easier to put off getting together or re-arranging your schedule to see each other. The normalcy of proximity can actually inhibit connections sometimes. Of course, it’s different for everyone but I thought I’d just share my two cents! 🙂

    1. I agree with all of these things! I’m so glad that I still have all of my friends around when I go home; and yes, I think it’s easier to be the one leaving. It’s humbling to see people sad to see you leave– it’s like you’re living a life people want to be apart of! 🙂 thanks for you comment!

  7. I can relate to this so much. Every summer it’s a flurry of goodbye to friends heading home/moving onwards to other places, and then come fall, it’s time to find new friends to hang out with. It’s emotionally draining, but I guess it’s one of the prices of living this kind of life.

    One of my favourite quotes alludes to this: You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart always will be elsewhere. That’s the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place. – Miriam Adeney

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