choose: job and lifestyle OR friends and family
January 25, 2014 12:57 AM   Subscribe

Which would you choose: a great job and lifestyle OR being close to your family and friends? Especially if you really can't have both at the same time...?

Be brutally honest. I'm going to lay it all out here.

I'm married and have one young child. My husband and I are currently overseas, on the first year of a two year contract. This is our second contract.

We have a good job and a good lifestyle. We live in a great home in an area where we can afford a maid/nanny. We each have great jobs where we feel professionally fulfilled and respected. The weather is fantastic and we have great travel opportunities. However, I am very lonely. I've had a hard time making friends. I have some acquaintances that I go out with sometimes, but there is no one I'm really close to and I don't see that changing any time soon. My efforts at reaching out to be people haven't gotten me very far and I feel isolated often. This is getting worse lately, not better.

Back home, we have very strong family relationships and an incredible social circle. I have friends that I'm very close to and miss dearly. When home during our breaks, I love spending time with our family and friends. Our families would love a closer relationship with our child. However, the job market for our field is pretty terrible, the cost of living is very high, and there is absolutely no way we could afford the same lifestyle or travel opportunities that we have here.

So which would you choose? Soon enough, we'll have to decide whether to renew our contracts or finish them out and go home. Would you choose a great job and lifestyle at the expense of family and close friendships or time with family and friends in a depressed job market with a high cost of living?

I really don't know what to do anymore. So I'm putting this out to the often very wise and thoughtful people of AskMeFi.
posted by elizamina to Human Relations (33 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Wait it out another one to three years max, save a ton of money and job hunt, then move home.
posted by quincunx at 1:20 AM on January 25, 2014 [10 favorites]

I'm not quite understanding how long you've been where you are? If around a year, I think it can often take longer than that to settle in and make friends. If it's more like three years and you're getting more and more lonely, move.

Can you move somewhere closer to home but with good career opportunities and a better cultural fit for you? I personally think I would feel lonely in any community where everyone including myself had maids because that wouldn't be a good cultural fit for me, but ymmv.
posted by hazyjane at 2:00 AM on January 25, 2014

It sounds like there would be fewer obstacles to fixing the loneliness problem while on your contract then there would be to trying to find jobs back home. Most people get worse at making friends in mid-adulthood - but it is by no means impossible and there have never been so many ways of meeting up with like minded strangers in a particular place. Consider carefully what it was that gave you such a great circle of family and friends at home: to what extent was the building of that circle done by you and to what extent was it done by others? On your current posting are you employing the same tactics to get out and see people as you where before? Is there anything you could be doing better?

For many overseas contact jobs high pay is the main motivator that has to be set against danger, boredom, isolation, etc. The money, in this case, is really there as a compensation for the degree to which the job is eating you away. But strangely you don't mention money- instead you talk about things like professional respect, having a maid and good weather. That list makes me wonder if there is a clear goal that you and your husband share for why you are doing this? Is all the work allows you to pay of a mortgage early or have the option of getting lower pressure jobs on your return - then it might be worthwhile. Or maybe the sunshine and the adventure is enough - get out a spreadsheet and do some balancing.
posted by rongorongo at 2:13 AM on January 25, 2014 [3 favorites]

Speaking from experience ... Choose friends and family. I cannot vouch for or comment on the other choice (I did not choose that) but I can say that having friends and family close by has been empowering and fulfilling throughout my life. Ultimately I found or created success within this environment and did not have to leave to achieve same. You sound smart and capable so I expect you will find or create success where you choose to exist and will improve the lives of those around you in the process. As it turns out, choosing friends and family is not a compromise. I believe that strongly. Read Russell Conwell's "Acres of Diamonds" speech and/or read about his philosophy on this very issue.
posted by imthebadgerdamnit at 2:30 AM on January 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

My aunt and uncle have lived overseas, in an Asian country, for as long as I've been alive. My uncle is very well off and they enjoy a fancy expat lifestyle. My aunt is smart and sweet and adventurous and took lots of opportunities to explore the world, but she always wanted a child. It's been a really long time but they finally have one! He's turning two now, and it's obvious that this kid is the light of my aunt's life. My aunt is also the one who has closer ties to family in the states, and, frankly, it seems like she's put up with my uncle's desire to be a big fish in a small pond long enough. From what I know of the family gossip, the plan was to finish building a house on some land they've had for decades now by the time their kid is five, and move back to the states and live there. But my uncle keeps waffling, making up excuses... It's turning into this unfortunate possibility that this kid, whose father is already quite old, might only see him when he deigns to visit his wife and child while on business in the US. This, despite my uncle clearly doting on his kid, being little clones of each other, spending every possible moment in his super busy lifestyle with him. We're all kind of confused and concerned and hoping everything works out for everyone's best happiness.

In short, choose family. But decide which family to choose, and why, and how. I think that there are definitely advances in communication and social structure that can help you be more flexible with any choice you make, but you have to have the patience to spend time teaching people new tricks.
posted by Mizu at 3:02 AM on January 25, 2014

Is this a matter of 'tropical overseas paradise' versus 'New York City'?

If so, is it possible that there might be a middle ground between those two points, like a progressive but not headslappingly expensive New England city, or even farther away, but on the same continent (with the same cultural expectations you have, so it's easier to make connections so you do have a support network where you actually live, as well as easier access to family and old friends).

Do you absolutely have to choose between those two extremes or are there other possibilities that aren't such stark choices?
posted by A Terrible Llama at 3:02 AM on January 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

I have a couple random thoughts that don't all connect, but I'm going to toss them here anyways:

- In the Peace Corps they mapped out the emotional cycle that we would go through during our two years abroad. I wish I could find that again ... it was amazingly prescient. Almost to the month. For the first year they warned us that the highs and lows would be extreme. The second year would be a more moderate version of the same cycle.

- They also encouraged us to limit our time 'home' for the first year. The idea was that we needed to let go in order to form new connections.

- While I was away the social circles I was in evolved into something new. And something without me. That was rough. When I visited my hometown it was great. We all got together, and it was like old times, but better. Then I moved back home, and discovered that that circle was only getting back together for my visits, that it didn't really exist in the same way anymore. That was rough. It will happen to you. But knowing this, you will also know that nostalgia for the life you left is a trap.

- Expat friendships can be intense - they are possibly some of the most intense friendships I've ever formed. I suppose this depends on where you are, and what your role is. I don't know if it's military, missionary work, or a professional job. Whichever ... there is probably a community you can tap into.

- But also, ex-pat communities can be the worst - insular, alcoholic, and culturally clueless. I guess it depends on where you are. Local friendships can be more challenging; I think people in the US, for all I complain, form easier friendships than people in many countries. So this is site specific, but: reaching out to the local rather than the expat community can be difficult but rewarding.

Edit: The loneliest days of my life were overseas. There were days I just wanted it to all be over. But also: it was an amazing, life-changing experience. And there were a lot of good times too! You only have another year. Hang in there! Year 2 is always easier.
posted by kanewai at 3:15 AM on January 25, 2014 [19 favorites]

For me, it would be family and friends, in a heartbeat, with the caveat that unemployment is terrible and the stress of it can quickly corrode the happiness of a marriage. If the job market in your home town is truly so bad that it would force you to, say, stay in a bad job because you couldn't find another, then that would give me serious pause.

Other than that? I would choose a loving network over a luxurious lifestyle in a hot second. I find loneliness very stressful.
posted by fingersandtoes at 3:18 AM on January 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have been profoundly lonely as an expat, I have been broke and unfulfilled in my work, and I have even been both at the same time! I would take being profoundly lonely every time. I cannot stress the toll that struggling in a depressed job market and having no money can take on you and on your relationships (leaving you profoundly lonely anyway!).

But I also say that because, as others here have mentioned, you really haven't given yourself enough time. I've moved around a few times, and I've noticed it take at least a couple of years to settle in to a new place. It takes time to make friends and connections. You are probably also idealizing life back home to some extent, which is normal.

So, my advice: renew the contract for another two years and re-evaluate how you feel at the three-year mark. At the same time, you can also think about your longer term goals, put away some savings, and consider a strategy for returning home if that is what you decide to do.
posted by tiger tiger at 5:10 AM on January 25, 2014 [6 favorites]

Sorry, just reread the question and realized I'm not sure whether you're one year or three years in. Okay, if you're three years in, you've probably given things enough time but still--I'd suggest renewing the contract one more time, saving like crazy, and making contingency plans upon contingency plans for your return in three years' time.
posted by tiger tiger at 5:12 AM on January 25, 2014

Friends and family.
posted by SyraCarol at 5:39 AM on January 25, 2014

Another point of view.

You're comparing the way your social circle / family life feels on short visits home to the way everyday life feels in your current location. That's not a fair comparison. When you're home for a week, everyone's excited to see you and makes time for you -- when you move back home, you may find it's not as enriching as you imagined.

And: I can't tell from your question whether you're saying "I wouldn't be able to get as high-paying a job at home" or "There's a serious risk there'd be no jobs for us at home." If it's the latter, boy, I'd think very carefully about whether a period of prolonged unemployment is what you want for you, your marriage, and your kid.
posted by escabeche at 5:47 AM on January 25, 2014 [15 favorites]

The whole expat thing is very different when you have children. I'm what's called a Foreign Service brat, I lived in several different countries as a child, and yes, we had maids, we had travel to beautiful places, all of that. What I didn't have was any sense of security, of belonging, of being a part of a culture. We'd come back to the US every couple of years and I felt like an alien. It wasn't like being an immigrant, I didn't have a foreign home culture, it was just being weird. I spoke perfect American English, but I didn't have any of my peers' cultural reference points.

I raised my kids in one place, and they have a much better sense of self and community than I think I did. If you can find a way to live closer to friends and family do it.
posted by mareli at 6:06 AM on January 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Lifestyle and career. Your friends and family will always be that. Family doesn't fade away. Use some of your available wealth to being friends to you! But also as escabeche said you have to let go to settle more in the long distance role. Travel and an understanding of the world will make your children better humans and citizens of the world and you're setting yourself up for long term financial success. Moving back to shit jobs and bad pay will set you back, maybe for a very long time... And think if this: is it better to miss your dear friends or somehow blame them in your heart because you hate your hometown job and crappy apartment that you can't get away from because you can't travel? Especially when you spend 60 hours a week involved with work and maybe 5-10 max with friends and family.

Career and lifestyle. The modern world demands this choice. Thankfully the modern world is very small with Skype and direct flights to everywhere.

Enjoy your experience. So many never get the chance to leave their hometown and experience the world or game financial freedom. You get to do both. Embrace it and put the same effort into integrating into your new culture as you do into staying in touch with home.

Best of luck, hang in there. It DOES get easier.
posted by chasles at 6:13 AM on January 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

I've confused people by stating contracts instead of years. This is our fifth year overseas, but the first year of our current contract. By the time the contract finishes, we'll have been overseas for six years. So if that changes the responses...
posted by elizamina at 6:23 AM on January 25, 2014

The experience of actually living near friends and family is a lot different then what it is like when you visit them periodically and think, "gee, I should move closer to be with them!"

That said, I don't think that being a foreign expat is a viable choice over the long term for anyone. Eventually you will have to settle somewhere and make it your home. Try to figure out a way to finding someplace closer to friends and family than you are now, even if being in the town/city/state itself isn't an option.
posted by deanc at 6:24 AM on January 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

- In the Peace Corps they mapped out the emotional cycle that we would go through during our two years abroad. I wish I could find that again ... it was amazingly prescient. Almost to the month. For the first year they warned us that the highs and lows would be extreme. The second year would be a more moderate version of the same cycle.

Here is a version of that chart -- it's slightly different than the one we were shown when I was a volunteer in that it's missing the timeline, but it charts the key ups and downs, and as mentioned is somewhat creepily accurate. One of the interesting things about it is that it scales easily up and down -- you go through versions of the ups and downs both in short cycles and over multiple years, so there's a chance that you are coinciding low moments both in the new job contract and over the five years of your expat life. Those overlapping down moments are absolutely the toughest, which is when thinking of it as a predictable cycle can really help give perspective.

I think the comment above about how your friends and family have changed while you are away is important. How, for example, would you feel if you quit your overseas jobs, came back, and then discovered that half of your closest friends are all moving away for graduate school, and two others are separating and in the process dividing up the remaining friends? Be careful that you are not creating a more perfect version of "home" in your head than really exists, based on the fun and intensity of your visits (just like tourists often imagine the perfection of being able to stay in the place they are visiting, not thinking through all the petty frustrations of living in a place versus vacationing there).
posted by Dip Flash at 6:36 AM on January 25, 2014 [11 favorites]

It seems like you are sort of answering it by your actions. The first 4 or 5 years the choice was obvious, lifestyle. Now, you are drifting towards family. I think the fear is signing another two year contract. I think this is so individualized, but if it were me, I would opt for lifestyle. I have life long friends, ones I have known since kindergarten. They live all over the country. We talk, we get together in some city for a weekend and we email. It is terrific. My family is also supportive, but they live in different cities as well. I view the most important people in my life as my spouse and children, my immediate family. Spending time with them is enough. I don't think you can analyze your way to an answer. If you are enjoying your lifestyle but are lonely, I would not count on moving back to make you happy. Living some place is a big difference from visiting for a week or two at a time. Also, it is my experience as an older person observing a lot of relationships, that financial struggles play a big part in causing problems in those relationships. To me, it would suck having family and friends around to help me pick up the pieces of a broken relationship. I would rather have the relationship and email my family and friends.

One other random thought. As your young child gets older and goes to school, it will be easier to meet other parents of children your child's age. Almost all of my friends I made as an adult are people that I know through activities whith my children. These are good friends I can go out with and drink 6 shots of tequila with type friends. Guys who come over to watch the big game.

I would opt to stay, but what do I know.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:12 AM on January 25, 2014 [3 favorites]

How old is your young child? I'm presuming that you and your spouse are first-time parents. My take on reading your question is that you've been living as expats for a long time (five years) and that it's the discomfiting experience of shifting into your roles as parents that is prompting this question.

Having children intensifies the need for financial security and also brings to the fore the explicit recognition that the family and social networks around you and them is really, really important. It's a lot easier to be cavalier about either or both of those things as a single person or a married couple without kids.

I'm going to think a little outside the box here--not so much that any of these are workable solutions, but I think that there may be ways to find a middle ground that will both acknowledge your financial security and the importance of connection with people that you really love.

Is there a way that you and your husband could work out a way to live part of the year in your hometown and part of the year in your expat life? You say "we" are on our second contract and "we" are professionally fulfilled. Are you both working? Do you work together, in the same field, or do you share a business? Or are you using the royal "we" to represent your husband's job? Could all of you go back home for sabbatical or work-from-a-distance for a few months? Could you and the baby? If you are in a position where you can establish this kind of fluid lifestyle you could split the difference a bit that way.

Alternatively, could you bring some of your family and friends to you? If you're living in an amazing place, maybe your parents/sister/nephew/best friend would like to come out and live for six months or a year near or with you? You can broaden their horizon and share the wonderful things about your expat life, while also strengthening that relationship and including them in your child's life.

Not sure what the answer is, but I think this is a good situation to practice cultivating your optimism. Sounds like neither of your options is perfect, but frankly, each of them has some really strong positives. However you choose to do it, you're going to have something really good in your life. Hang in there!
posted by Sublimity at 7:25 AM on January 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Following up to second JohnnyGunn's observation, that when kids reach school age it loops you into the school and parent community more than you might anticipate. So indeed, if you're in the preschool years, those tend to be the toughest and yes, most isolating.
posted by Sublimity at 7:27 AM on January 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think people are making a lot of great points, especially escabeche and kanewai. Your friends and family will likely have changed (in terms of life stages and relationships and how they fill their time) when you are gone, and as happy as they will be to see you, their lives will all be busy too and you need to have your own things going on. Which is GREAT if you have both jobs and are comfortable and happy. If you are unemployed without the financial and emotional resources to weather that comfortably if it drags on, well, that would be a problem.

Anyway, I've been an expat for a long time and basically those are the reasons why. However, if I had gone back, things would probably have worked out in some way, and the longer you stay the harder it gets to return, again for all the same reasons, so there's that too.
posted by bquarters at 7:30 AM on January 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Many of the Foreign Service brats I knew who survived really well were those whose parents owned homes or summer homes in the US that they returned to every summer. This gave those kids a sense of continuity and family/friends community. If you're making a lot of money overseas then consider buying a vacation home in the US, perhaps in conjunction with siblings.
posted by mareli at 8:46 AM on January 25, 2014

The place you live sounds like a great travel destination. Set up a room to accommodate guests (even if that just means a sofabed) and reach out to friends and family to visit, staying with you for free and spending time with you when you're not working, and time in their own when you're at work. Having visits will help keep you close to the ones you love while you enjoy the lifestyle you have, and they get a cheaper vacation along with being able to see you.
posted by davejay at 9:15 AM on January 25, 2014

Friends and family. Save aggressively now, and lay the groundwork for your return (get to schmoozing on LinkedIn, get headhunters working for you, contact companies of interest). Parents get old, and friends move on or into different grooves. Despite Facebook, despite trips, it's not easy to keep up the closeness and connectedness most of us need at a distance, and it's rarely enough if there's none of that in the place where you live, to fill the gap between Christmasses. From a distance, your child will know your parents, sibs and friends as familiar acquaintances.. it's not the same as being able to go for a Sunday brunch just whenever, or sharing joys and successes and frustrations day to day and face to face. I grew up far from my extended family and always felt the lack.
posted by cotton dress sock at 10:12 AM on January 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

From previous questions it looks like your daughter is quite young - 18 months or so?

That is quite a stressful time, and being away from home without the resource family and friends can be in giving you help and respite...that's probably a large part of how you're feeling.

Are there places where you can meet other parents? Nursery school, parks, play groups...anywhere you can potentially form some friendships with other people in the same stage of life.

I would say that if the job market back home really is that bad, I'd try whatever I could to settle in for the duration. And if you're staying, it may be time to burn the ships and decide to plant roots. If you're always thinking about going back, that's going to hamper connections with other people, especially if it's clear you're unhappy there.

Whatever you do, go all-in. There is no "best" option in that situation, but being halfway in the middle is definitely not good.
posted by guster4lovers at 10:39 AM on January 25, 2014

Go back home. It sounds like you want to.
Then after a year or two, consider whether you want another overseas contract or can telecommute or find other opportunities that keep you closer to home. Whatever you choose now doesn't have to be permanent, does it?
posted by chickenmagazine at 11:13 AM on January 25, 2014

My husband and I are in the midst of making a very similar decision right now - we are actually planning to move further from friends and family for job reasons. It has been a wrenching decision. But both of our dads had long spells of unemployment and failed entrepreneurship when we were kids, and we didn't want to put our kids through that. Our industry is very regional and after we had our first child it no longer felt like an acceptable risk to be in a city where it wasn't strong.

My parents and sisters are very upset with us, and my husband still hasn't told his nearby extended family. But now that we are parents we feel much more like we have to put security first. Before we had our daughter I think we both thought we would see family every week once she arrived, making staying here worth it. But that just hasn't been the case. And when we do see them, it's only for a couple hours at a time. I think we'd honestly prefer having houseguests and getting more intense, less frequent interaction.

Maybe this is a "grass is always greener" thing and we'll come to regret it... I hope not, but who can tell.
posted by town of cats at 11:25 AM on January 25, 2014 [3 favorites]

At the end of your life, will you be glad you had a maid, or that you were surrounded by the people you love? You've given it enough time to know it's not for you, and it sounds like you want to move back. If the job market is truly terrible where your friends and family are, maybe you can find somewhere else within a 2-3 hour drive that has better prospects.

Life goes by so fast, and you only get one go-round. Make the most of it.
posted by ravioli at 12:22 PM on January 25, 2014

People seem to be getting hung up on "the maid" part, but I don't see your question as being "should I be rich, or should I be around family"? The fact is, your jobs, economic viability and the ability to provide for pay your daughter are very real issues. Also the idealization of "the place you are not currently living in" is also an issue (for me, anyway).

If you want to move home, maybe put out feelers and try to find jobs close by or within a reasonable drive, as people have suggested. But just pulling up stakes and showing up unemployed is bold move, can you afford to stay unemployed for awhile and live off savings?
posted by bquarters at 2:54 PM on January 25, 2014

I'm married with one on the way. We're an international couple, so our choices are between his home country (better wages, lifestyle, national healthcare; but we're not as close to his family and don't fit in as well here in general) or my country (we fit in and love my family, but... poverty). We've lived in both, and have settled in his country.

However, I am very lonely. I've had a hard time making friends. I have some acquaintances that I go out with sometimes, but there is no one I'm really close to and I don't see that changing any time soon.

I think this is part of being an adult. Link One, Link Two - note the hundreds of comments. Being an expat is hard too, but I'm not sure moving home would magically fix it either. Every time you're home, it's an "event" - it's not the day-to-day reality. Being a day-to-day friend is different, and when I lived at home I had different friends than I thought I would, and they were hard to find a few between too.

My experience has been similar to town-of-cats'. When I'm "far away" there's lots of emailing, skype-ing, punctuated with memorable intense visits. When I lived driving distance I only saw people more because *I* instigated it and because my grandmother was ill and often other people were around helping her out. I lived 'home' for two years, and my dad visited once. I've been overseas for two years... and my dad's visited once AND I get heaps of emails and stuff. It really depends on your family. In my experience with my family AND my husband's family is that unless you're all around the corner from each other - literally - everyone is too busy to see each other as much as they say they want. I adore my family and we like each other and get along, and want nothing more than to live in a great big co-op house everyone... but it's not real. They have their own jobs, their own friends, their own in-laws, etc... too. They have their own lives, and I need to have mine too.

I think I had to accept (and it's hard) that part of growing up is forging my own path and life. We were living pay-check to pay-check in my country - any little thing would have been a disaster (pregnancy, major car repairs, etc...). In the two years we were there, my husband went home to visit zero times. It wasn't living. A depressed economy and high cost of living are very real things that prevent people from living full adult lives. It is NOT fun. This has been a massive lesson in imperfection and not getting everything I want (or thought I'd have) in a really really basic way. There are no good answers, no one 'has it all', we're all making choices and doing are best, and it's always messy.

I like the idea of having a vacation house in the US. I'm trying to rope everyone into bi-annual camping trips. I love my family, but not enough to go back to making $10/hr as an independent contractor. My grandmother missed me, but said she'd have made the same choice if she'd had it.

Remember too, that this is a lucky choice and a difficult one, but not a new one. It's the choice my great-grandparents made when they left Russia and Denmark, my husband's grandmother when she left Germany, etc. It's hard. I'm very thankful for the internet, airplanes, the the ability to afford both.

This might be worth hashing out with a therapist.
posted by jrobin276 at 3:28 PM on January 25, 2014 [6 favorites]

You are trying to run away from a new situation. Why don't you see this as a challenge and try to survive and thrive. Maybe you are so wrapped up in your loss that you cannot get over it and look at the new place with new eyes. You cannot carry your past everywhere with you all the time. Things change, life changes. Adapt.
posted by Greenlight2b at 4:17 PM on January 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

My husband and I just moved back to our home country after four years overseas. In some ways, it has been a difficult adjustment, and we still haven't completely settled our employment situation. I had a great time living abroad, with a nice living situation and plenty of travel opportunities.

But overall, returning has made me extremely happy. I can now be so much more involved in the lives of my friends and family. They can call me whenever they want without having to calculate time differences or schedule it ahead of time. I can go to bachlorette parties, birthday parties, weddings, camping trips, see new babies right away, go to the park with my nephew or just grab drinks with people when they're having a bad day. When we were abroad, I would come back for the holidays or the big events and it was fun, but I always missed the smaller moments that build a community.

For me, the first couple of years living far away were stressful and exciting. But gradually, the excitement wore off, and I became more and more conscious of what I was missing back home. It got to the point, where I was using all of my vacation time to go visit family (instead of traveling to new places) and I hated getting back on that plane at the end of my leave. When I reached that point, it was time to move. It sounds like you're starting to reach that point as well.

My advice would be to start making plans for re-entry. Save up as much money as you can and start job hunting like crazy. It might take you a year or two to get your ducks in a row, but at least you'll be heading that direction.
posted by oryelle at 8:05 AM on January 26, 2014

One of my little brothers is on his second year teaching in Japan. Last year when he renewed his contract, my parents flew him home for a long weekend. The entire family was at my parents' house most of the weekend. My other brothers took him out for drinks and stayed up until the wee hours talking and laughing. I (with my two children) even stopped by every day, and I have a horrible strained relationship with my parents.

Then he left, and everyone went back to their normal lives in which we only see each other on holidays. The only time I have been to my parents' house since that July visit was Christmas.

My little brother in Japan writes blog posts with nostalgic memories of when he, my other brother, his wife and their roommate were all in college and good buddies and hung out all the time and spent every weekend on the same patio. That really was the case before he left. But if he came back to the states expecting to pick up the same way he left - he would be so disappointed. People have grown up. Everyone has their own jobs/lives/distractions. And this is only within a year and a half.

Maybe your community is different, and your family/friends group in the states really does spend lots of time together in the way you would be imagining. It's just a lot, lot less likely than most of the "moved away" people tend to think.
posted by celtalitha at 8:26 AM on January 26, 2014

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