Should I Stay or Should I Go?
The definitive guide to moving abroad and whether it's right for you

Family and Friends

This is a preview to the chapter Family and Friends from the book Should I Stay or Should I Go? by Paul Allen.
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“Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.” – Families (1978) by Jane Howard, US editor, teacher and writer (1935-96)

According to the 2006 ICM emigration survey of Britons conducted for BBC Online, the most important factor preventing respondents from emigrating overseas was that their family and friends remained in the UK – a consideration cited by 43 percent of the survey’s participants1.

The next biggest reason, that they like Britain/British way of life, polled only half that number (21 percent). Meanwhile, concerns over language/cultural barriers and getting a job overseas were both referenced by just 6 percent of the respondents.

Of course, some people can’t wait to get away from their families and start enjoying a little freedom. As George Burns, the US actor and comedian, put it: “Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city.”

Others though find that separation from their nearest and dearest a tough, even painful, experience.

Ditto your friends. OK, so new ones can be made wherever you go. In this sense they are more replaceable than family. Nevertheless, many people have deep and lasting friendships – some stretching back to childhood – that can be a great source of joy in their lives.

Not surprising then that a NatWest International Personal Banking Quality of Life Report – which surveyed British expatriates from around the world – found 73 percent of respondents miss family and friends. It was far and away the biggest thing they missed as a result of emigrating.

“To me, the only hard part of being abroad was the separation from people I love,” says American columnist Alan Paul. “During our first year in China my father was diagnosed with bladder cancer, and being far away was difficult. I went back for a visit, and thankfully he made a full recovery and visited us six months later. We also missed some significant family events – bar mitzvahs, graduations, a last gathering in my parents’ house before they moved. Everything else I thought would be hard – acclimatising to local traditions/way of life, missing American sports or its humour, etc – was easy.”

And there is growing evidence coming out of the ‘positive psychology’ movement that the key to happiness comes from having strong ties to family and friends, and in spending time with them2. Therefore putting distance between yourself and your core social group can have a profound negative impact on your quality of life.

Your feelings can change over time too mind, for better or worse. The ache of separation may fade as you become ensconced in your new country and forge new relationships.

Like so many others, for author Vicky Gray the hardest part of living in Australia has been leaving behind family and friends. “I remember when we’d been living here six months and feeling physically sick with jealousy when I heard of anyone going back to visit the UK. There is no easy way to deal with this. But as with any type of ‘grieving process’ – because sometimes that is what it feels like – time is the only answer. So many people go back at the first hurdle, then regret it when they realise that everything ‘British’ they were craving was simply exaggerated in their memory. They then miss everything about Australia and end up coming back ... and there you have your classic ‘to and from Pom’!”
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What else is in the chapter 'Family and Friends'?

1) Are you comfortable – happy even – with being away from your family and friends?

Do the plus points of living abroad so far outweigh any drawbacks that there really is no contest? ...

2) What distance can you cope with?

If you’re heading off to the Antipodes then think carefully about how often you will, in reality, be able to make the journey home. Or how frequently you envisage your ...


1) How close is your relationship with your parents, siblings, grandparents, etc? Who would you miss most if you move abroad? Are you OK with being separated from them? 2) If ...


"The question to move abroad is a complex one, but Paul Allen's book, Should I Stay or Should I Go:..."

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