Why, why, why, why, why, why, do you
Say "Goodbye, goodbye, bye, bye".
Oh no.
You say "Goodbye" and I say "Hello, hello, hello".
I don't know why you say "Goodbye", I say "Hello, hello, hello".
I don't know why you say "Goodbye", I say "Hello".


For most expats, setting up a social life is an important part of feeling more at home. But at the same time there is a lot of turmoil in expat friendships, with a constant stream of hello’s and goodbye’s due to the nomadic expat lifestyle. It seems to be inherent to life as an expat: you meet lots of new people, but at the same time you are always saying goodbye to friends who are leaving.

Building a social network is not easy, but when you do have a click with someone you share something special together. You are in the same boat: the same foreign country, the same adjustment problems, the same journey of finding your way and new routine (shopping, sports, leisure). But finding the right people can be challenging. Who can I call when I’m down, to drink coffee with and poor my heart out? Who can I ask if I am bored and want to do something fun? With whom can we organize family holidays?

This ever going cycle of building a social network and saying goodbye sooner rather than later is experienced twice in expat families with children. Because not only do you as parents have to say goodbye to your friends, your kids will miss their friends as well. How can you deal with your own feelings of loss when you have to say goodbye? And how do you guide your kids get through the pain of saying goodbye?

1. Allow yourself the feeling of missing
The process of saying goodbye often starts long before the moment of actually saying goodbye. This is part of the process. Do not put these feelings away, but acknowledge and accept that you are preparing for the moment of saying goodbye. Also discuss this with your child: he or she may feel sad about the approaching farewell.

2. What will you miss?
It is often difficult and painful to think about what you are going to miss about the other person. Yet these feelings and thoughts are also real and it is important to reflect on this, also in conversation with your children. What was so nice about this person? What did you share? Knowing what you will miss can help you prepare for the actual miss.

3. Plan a happy farewell
Saying goodbye is not a happy activity, but you could alleviate the goodbye by doing something together that you both enjoy. Did you used to eat out together, or did you practice a sport together? Then let that be a nice ending. Did your child always play a certain game together with a friend? Then let them play that on their last play date.

4. Staying in touch

Perhaps there is a desire to stay in touch in the future. This feeling can become very strong, certainly when the approaching farewell comes closer. Yet it is important to be realistic about how and how intensively you want to keep in touch and to manage expectations, especially with kids. It’s important not to promise anything that you cannot fulfill and to set realistic goals about how to stay in touch.