Moving away from family & friends to live abroad? Afraid to tell them? Read This!

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Afraid to tell friends and family you're moving abroad?

Whether for love, school, work, or retirement, the prospect of moving abroad can be thrilling. But telling friends and family you’re moving to another country, not so much, especially if you’re afraid of the fallout. Here’s how to deal with unsupportive friends, fearful parents, and other concerned loved ones in a respectful and tactful way.

“I have learned along my journey that letting go doesn’t mean loving less.”-Alex Elle.

How to ease the minds of friends, family and loved ones left behind

Are you excited about moving abroad or even across the country?

Don’t crack open the champagne bottle just yet.

Depending on who you talk to, everyone will have a different reaction. 

Don’t be surprised if your friends, relatives, parents and even co-workers are the first in line to tell you that you’re making the biggest mistake of your life. 

Don’t take it personally

4 people holding emojis over their fact with different emotions

If your friends and family don’t support your decision to move abroad, don’t take it personally.

It’s a natural reaction for those left behind to voice their concerns. After all, you’re leaving the safety of your life behind to do something that may seem risky or out of character.

While the prospect of living abroad might be full of hope and potential for you, It’s also important to realize that moving away from family and friends to live in another country will impact their lives too. The loved ones you leave behind may struggle from you being far away.

Please don’t get defensive! Get ready for their questions and maybe a little pushback.

You might never be able to convince them or make them understand your reasons for wanting to move so far away, but you can help them prepare for the transition, come to terms with the idea, and let them know what to expect.

Here are some tips on how to deal with fearful parents, unsupportive friends, and other concerned loved ones in a respectful and tactful way. 

1) Make Them Feel Heard: Listen And Show Empathy

mother and daughter consoling a woman who is crying

Whether you’re telling your mom, dad, a family member or your best friend, moving away from family and friends, it’s important to consider how they might feel.

If someone gives you grief about your decision, try to put yourself in their shoes.

What’s the main reason they’re being unsupportive? Is it from a place of love?

Show some empathy and let them know you understand their concerns.

Your conversations will be more successful when you take the time to understand where the resistance is coming from.

2) Ease them into your decision

sad woman with pouty face

You’re excited about the possibilities of your new adventure and can’t wait to share the news, but for goodness sakes, don’t just blurt out, “surprise, I’m moving abroad.”

Remember, your moving away and they had no choice in the matter. 

Before you say anything, take some time to plan your approach.

You’ll be better prepared when the time comes for you to talk about this exciting news that may be difficult for them.

Obviously, you can’t take away someone’s pain or shock – but you can soften the blow a little.

Create a safe space for your loved onse to experience the conversation, whether at a café over drinks or at home in your living room.

Sit them down and break it to them lightly, especially your parents. They may disapprove, but at least they’ll be aware of what’s happening and can prepare.

3) Don’t Argue

crazy angry woman screaming with hair standing straight up

Arguments are draining and take the focus away from your main objective and goals.

Instead, listen and make them feel heard, smile, and thank them for their thoughtful input. Please don’t shut them out, give them the silent treatment, or speak condescendingly either.

  • Try explaining why you’re moving and why it’s important to you.
  • Ask for their support during your transition and let them know they can visit (if they want.)
  • When in doubt, apply tip #1 and show a little empathy.

4) Agree to disagree:

Mother pointing thumb down: daughter pointing thumbs up

If you come up against unsupportive friends and family, never react, raise your voice or show anger. If you don’t respond or react to negativity and naysaying, then they have no power over you.

The best you can do is agree to disagree.

See next point about disengaging.

5) Disengage:

man and woman holding hands out indicating to stop

There’s no convincing some people.

Instead of being constructive, your friends and family may criticize and make backhanded comments that make you feel bad. If this happens, excuse yourself, step away from the conversation and disengage. It will be a tough enough transition as it is, and you don’t need the added stress.

If you can’t avoid them, politely let them know that you’re not interested in talking about the move right now. 

6) Assure them that you’ll keep in touch regularly

It’s important to remember that your well-being is important to your close friends and family. Assure them that no matter how busy you are, you’ll keep in touch with them through Skype, WhatsApp, phone calls and other means of communication.

A fun way to keep them updated is to post photos on Instagram, Facebook or other social media platforms.

7) Tell them your plans for moving abroad

Hearing from someone you care about that they plan on moving away from family and friends can be difficult. Understandably, your friends, parents and other family members may be concerned for you.

Try to reassure them that you’ve done your research (or will do research) and will keep them updated about your relocation plans.

For example, tell them about your new home, if you’ve chosen one yet. If you’re moving abroad to study, tell them about the new school and the new city you’ll be moving to. 

8) Protect And Safeguard Your Plans

Think of your goals and dreams to move abroad as an ice sculpture.

What would happen if you created a beautiful ice sculpture and left it out in the sun? It would melt. 

If you tell everyone about your plans at once, it can be like exposing your ice sculpture to the direct sunlight.

Be selective and tactful about who you tell and when you tell them. 

Alternatively, you could also keep certain aspects of your move abroad vague if you think it will cause an argument or worry your friends and family, but don’t lie. 

9) Change The Subject

This probably won’t work with parents or concerned close friends, but it’s worth trying with co-workers. 

10) Don’t expect them to pay

Happy man holding money in left hand and passport in right hand

If you live with your parents or someone supporting you financially, they might feel like they have a say in what you do with your life.

Expecting them to partially or wholly subsidize flights or your new life abroad will only reassure them that you need their help. 

You have two choices:

  • Become financially independent:  Explain to them that you plan to save enough money for your big adventure on your own without their help and ask for their understanding. Yes, it might be scary, but if you want to take the leap and move abroad and someone is unwilling to support your ideas, it’s time you show you can take care of yourself.
  • Keep accepting their help: If you absolutely need them to help you financially, for instance, if you want to study abroad, respectfully continue trying to make your case. 

11) Ask Them To Help You

Bullhorn with the words help coming out of it

What would happen if you asked someone to help you accomplish your dream of living abroad?  It doesn’t have to be monetary, although that would be nice, wouldn’t it? They might even be interested in helping you plan for your big move abroad. 

If they’re interested in helping you, let them know how much it means to you, especially the fact that they respect your decision.

 Helping you plan your big voyage may even give them the satisfaction that they are part of your success.

12) Ease their minds with your Backup plan

Elderly woman showing how worried she is

Getting caught in difficult situations can be very frightening.

To reduce any concerns your parents or friends have about your new life abroad, share your backup plan.

Don’t have a backup plan yet?

It’s important to have one in the event something unexpected happens.

Here are some examples:

13) Surround Yourself With Supportive People

You know that feeling of renewed energy after a nap or a good night’s rest- like you can do anything? 

Surrounding yourself with positive people or people with the same goals as you is like that.

  • Negative people can suck your dreams dry.
  • Positive people fuel your ideas.

If you can’t find anyone nearby, there are many groups and forums online where people like you exist. Connect with them and start talking to them.

14) Taking the kids abroad and dealing with guilt trips

Super dad and daughter dressed like superman

If you want to move overseas with children and you’re unsure how to deal with the negative comments, read this article I wrote about Moving Abroad with children: Dealing with guilt trips and negative comments.

In it, I share six responses to six things naysayers and energy vampires have said to me to try and shame me or make me feel guilty about moving abroad with my kids.

15) Let It Fuel You!

If you’re like me, when someone tells me I shouldn’t do something because it’s a bad idea, it’s like adding gasoline to my determination. Nothing gives me more satisfaction than proving to someone that I can do something, especially after telling me I can’t.

Let their negativity be your fuel rather than a deterrent.

Tell Them Goodbye in Person

woman standing in front of big bon voyage sign

Life is full of hellos and goodbyes.

Telling your friends and family that you’re moving abroad can be difficult, but with a bit of empathy and preparation, you can help them understand and cope with the loss of your physical presence.

To show how much you care about those close to you, say goodbye in person to as many of them as possible. 

Go to the beach together, invite them over for coffee, or go out for a drink. Why not host a farewell party or throw yourself a going-away party before moving away?

Making these moments special together before you start your new journey abroad will show them how much you care about them.

Photo of Annie André: www.AnnieAndre.com

Annie André

About the author 

I’m A Bilingual North American With Thai And French Canadian Roots Who's Been Living In The South Of France For Over 10 Years. I Love Writing Weird, Wonderful, Interesting, Forgotten, And Fascinating Articles For Intellectually Curious People Amazed By France, French Culture, And World Travel.

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  1. Dear Annie,
    Helpful article but it’s hard to do so because i’ve been grown up in Nepali culture and background and even harder because i’m a girl.

    Smiles :)

    1. Sorry to hear that. I realize that the advice I am giving is for my situation and probably doesn’t apply to some countries like Nepal..

  2. HI Annie,

    After visiting my husband’s birth country of Vietnam, I absolutely loved it. I came back with the sense that this Canadian life we are living just spins us in circles all the time. I found myself asking myself why I owned a $200 coffee maker and fancy dinner plates. Why was I busting my butt to work at a job I don’t really enjoy, only to buy more crap, cause it’s what everyone does…. So after much consideration and pro-ing and con-ing, we decided that a movie to Ho Chi Minh is in order.

    My parents and siblings are devastated. Their first reaction was “how could you do this to me? How could you take your kids away from us?” Although reading your blog is 2 weeks too late and you can’t go back and change how you delivered the news, it’s still not too late to repair and recover. As the dust settles, I certainly plan on applying these 10 rules. I’m hoping that this smooths out some of the drama, so that they can muster the courage to show my 10 and 5 year old that they are excited for this new life they are about to live. Thanks for this blogpost. It saved me.

    1. Ally,
      It’s an impossible situation to be in; when our desires, dreams and the things that can potentially make us happy means leaving loved ones behind.

      I truly believe that trying to convince others who have their mind set that what you are doing is wrong (probably for selfish reasons), is futile.
      Maybe your best argument to calm the waters is to talk from the point of view that this is something that you really want to do and try. This is something that will make your happy and you need to experience and without it you feel like you will have a regret in your heart the size of mount Rushmore.
      It’s harder to argue with that point of view than trying to convince them that expensive coffee makers and dinner plates just don’t do it for you anymore.

      Good Luck Ally,

  3. Hi thank you for the advice.
    I’m putting off telling my mum my immigration for Canada arrived and i plan to go next year with my partner and children. Im so nervous she will have a break down. She knows it was on the cards but now its really happening I’m dreading breaking her heart….
    help :-(

    B

    1. B,
      This is such a tough spot to be in. Be brave and just be honest with her. Don’t react if she takes it badly. Listen to her concerns and let her know you understand her concerns and her feelings but also let her know that your mind is made up and that you would like her support. Good luck..

  4. Hey Annie. i always wanted to live abroad for a better future. but my parents are really very possessive about me and dont want me to get lost in this crazy world. can you beleive that? well you have mentioned some of the best methods. will give a try to it.

    1. Sunil,
      All parent i think are very posessive. I think it’s only natural that your parents want to protect you. The best you can do is follow your heart and do what makes you happy. THey will understand in time. Good luck to you Sunil.

  5. Hi Annie
    I found you through Adrienne so hope you don’t mind me visiting!
    I moved abroad with my husband 4 years ago, we left UK to live on a Greek island and when we first told family and friends they thought we were MAD!! and they tried to tell us all the bad things that could go wrong so you post made me smile as I could relate to all of it.
    We still moved of course and have not regretted one moment of it :)
    Have a great week
    Pauline

    1. Pauline,
      I love stories like this. I think had you not gone and listened to everyone you would have always had a regret or that big question in the back of your mind.. “what if i had gone” Even if your trip failed and you had to return to the UK you could at least have the satisfaction to say that you tried. Besides, Greece is not that far from the UK right?

      ps thanks for stopping by. I love Adrienne and her fabulous dog Kayla.

  6. Hi Annie,

    I actually am living abroad and it IS very interesting.

    Learning a new language is perhaps the biggest challenge to face. Without the language skills it is difficult to fully appreciate your new country.

    I liked everything you wrote in your post and it occurred to me that many of the guidelines you listed apply to all situations in life.

    Arguing is of little use 95% of the time. And it does not make relationships work better.

    I received support in my move from one family member and others were obviously disappointed but they did not try to interfere too much.

    Its always a bad feeling when you know that someone is against your plans.

    I like that you are able to take the energy from the naysayers and turn it into a positive.

    1. Hello David,
      thank you for your input. the language thing can be a bit of a hurdle but it can be so fun to learn a new language.

      i’m so glad that you at least received the support of one family member. It really is a bad feeling when family members don’t support you. This happened to me when i was 18 and decided to move to Japan. I understand their concerns and i wonder how i will react to my own children wanting to move abroad when they are older. hmmm.

  7. Hi Annie,
    It is so true what you mention here and I had that experience myself too. It was when I told everybody that I am going to follow my friend for a six month trip around the world. As you mention the reactions were different. Some people were just happy for us but some others thought that we are crazy. I did as you advise…i didn’t try to convince them about anything. It was a choice, nothing more. I was independent and I want to follow a dream for the first time in my life. The hardest was to announce the decision to my Greek parents. I have to tell you that we don’t do such things in Greece…Greeks do not just quit everything to travel for a long time..(backpacking style). So everybody though that i was an alien!
    I didn’t care about everybody but only about my parents. i tried to explain them. After all it was my decision and besides their worries they accepted it and now they feel proud of me. It is a nice feeling :)
    Thank you for this article. You give me the opportunity to share my experience.

    1. Oh Lenia,
      I didn’t know that about Greek Culture but it makes sense. I’m so glad your parents are not accepting of your choices. I wonder if it was just that they were worried that you were making a bad choice but now that they see that you are safe and sound that they feel like they can relax an trust you..

      Thank You for sharing. I love to hear these stories of obstacles that other people like you have encountered. I think it helps other people too..

  8. Hi Annie,

    Following your dreams and wanting to broaden your horizons is a perfectly natural way to live and all these Naysayers and energy vampires are probably simply worried as mentioned in the article. These tips are some of the best I’ve seen so far to set at ease those who worry.

    Best wishes to you, for a magnificent weekend.
    Daniel

    1. Daniel,
      Following your dreams IS a natural way to broaden your horizons. It’s too bad so many people don’t follow their dreams because they really do listen to naysayers.. thanks for stopping by.

  9. This is such an important piece of the puzzle Annie! It’s something that all of us have to face if we want to manifest our dream of living abroad! And it can be the hardest part of it all – because it’s so difficult to deal with disapproval from those we love or respect.

    You’ve got some insightful and helpful tips here. I love the one about asking them for help. That could really turn their attitude around if they realize they can be a part of this dream. It’s also great advice to be selective about who you tell. Why invite dream-crushers to the party?

    1. Sarah,
      so well said. I think many people who do plan on doing something unconventional don’t realize how powerful naysayers negativity is.And yes, i say don’t invite dream – crushers.

  10. It’s always amazing how many people will try to talk you out of what you want to do. I think you made some great points in how to handle those people.

    I haven’t lived abroad before, but I will be for two months later this year. But I’ve had to deal with discouraging people before when I’ve gone traveling. You would be surprised how many people tried to talk me out of traveling to Nicaragua. Everyone seemed so concerned about crime. Truth is, I felt completely safe when I was there.

    I’ve run into both the relative who is trying to protect me and the friend/co-worker who has convinced themselves that it can’t be done. I think you’re spot on with those. While it’s good to hear all their cautions and advice, you can’t let it stop you from living abroad.

    1. Interesting Steve that people would say that..I could see if it was a war zone but because of crime happening in the WHOLE COUNTRY? wow.
      ps where are you going for two months?

  11. I like the idea of using their doubt as fuel to move forward. That can be a great motivator, and a sign that you are on the right path!

    1. Hi John
      Yup, doubt as fuel is a great motivator. I think you may be as stubborn as me.

  12. Annie,

    When I was in college I wanted to travel abroad, I had opportunities to. When I told my parents they were very much against. I understand that they worried for my safety. And they pointed out all the negative- even the stuff that COULD happen. I was worried I was going to get raped if I went to Mexico City. Mugged in Paris. They convinced me it was too scary for a young girl.

    I look back in hind site and see what they were doing, they were scared for me. But I really needed to do more research and just do it.

    ~Allie

    1. Allie,
      I suppose anything cold happen right? you could have gotten run over by a car to the airport too.
      my dad said the same things to me when i was a teenager but it just fueled me and made me want to go live abroad all the more..
      As far as you travelling now though…
      It’s never too late. You could always spend a few months abroad while the kids are out of school. renting a house for the summer is cheaper than a hotel for 2 weeks.
      ps
      i’m working on all those questions you sent me..

  13. I like your point, Annie.

    You don’t need the approval of others to be you.

    1. Oh Stan,
      it’s easier said than done especially if you are a born introvert who learned how to be more of an extrovert. Introverts always need approval of others. Or at least i did. In the end, you are right, we shouldn’t need the approval of others..

  14. Hey, Annie…when I saw the title of this post, I had to stop over and read it!

    LOVE your suggestions. I think they’re great suggestions for any change in life.

    Setting boundaries is so difficult for many of us to do. Your 10-point formula is great!

    Especially the first one…LISTEN. That point is so important.

    1. Steve, you are so right that these suggestions could apply to any and all naysayers in your life.. I think some people don’t realize that moving abroad even if only temporarily can cause such negative reactions.
      So prepare yourself Steve… I know you’ll be travellign soon yourself non?

  15. Back in 2004 when I told my grandparents I was going to study abroad in Brazil, the first thing they said was “Did you know that Brazil has the world’s highest rate of deaths from lightning strikes?”

    Uhhhhh, no, I didn’t, but thanks…? Not exactly an energy vampire, but also not exactly the reaction I was hoping for!

    1. This was seriously the funniest thing i’ve heard in a long time. I told my husband and he laughed too.
      Thanks for sharing.. :)

  16. Hi Annie,

    I think a lot of people listen to our plans through their filters and their insecurities and then respond based upon that.

    It is not always what is good for us, but based upon what they see as good for them.

    Your advice is dead on.

    1. Jack
      I absolutely LUUUUV the way you explained this.. On another but similar topic, I’m guilty of listening to my kids plans through my own filters too. sometimes too much…

    2. That’s a great point, Jack! It’s hard to remember when we’re in the “moment” of someone disagreeing…but the simple technique of remembering that they are responding because of their interpretation of what’s going on has everything to do with them, and not as much to do with us. Great insight!

  17. Great info Annie!

    Though I have never traveled abroad, nor are there any scenes of us going out, but these surely are wonderful tips to remember for those who do, or even if I have to ever venture out.

    I guess what really matters most is that you take the required measures and follow your heart. If you really do want to go out you should listen to other people’s views, though do what you wish to do without having nay kinds of regrets in mind. And surrounding yourself with positive minded people who are supportive is a great way to feel good about your decisions also.

    Thanks for sharing :)

    1. Thanks Harleena for you input. You are so right, it’s about following your heart. Listen to others but ultimately do what makes you happy. The tough part is balancing what the heart wants with living your life and taking care of responsibilities. It can take years to find that balance.

  18. Ah yes – i’m familiar wtih that. I think i just kind of went about my way and didn’t listen to them. but i felt bitter, like no one would understand me. i didn’t “disengage” :(
    but that was 10 years ago. now my fiance is supportive of us moving around and my family – well they have gotten used to it :)
    Noch Noch

  19. Excellent post Annie…and oh so true! We resorted to #5. We only let people in on our plans at 3 wks from launch. It worked out, enabling us to focus most of our energy on our logistics leading up to departure.

    Of course #8 helps a ton! We did that by following lots of bloggers like you!

    Thanks for a great set of reminders on handling this situation.

    1. Oh Marvin,
      I’m so glad i’m not the only one who had to deal with the issue of naysayers.

      I really like how you handled your launch by only telling people 3 wks before you left. I think that’s great because by then you had everything planned out and worked out most of the bumps. I wish i had contacted more people before our departure. I only contacted 2 people but it was enough to keep me going. Thanks for your input, which i value very much..

  20. Oh, this can definitely apply to anything major you’re ready to accomplish in your life. There will always be those people who want to bring you down.

    Okay, maybe not intentionally. Like you said, they may have your best interests at heart as they see it. But at the same time I believe life is worth living and taking chances. No regrets right so go for what makes you happy and your tips for handling all those objections or other people’s opinions are great.

    I love your sound advice Annie. Like Dan mentioned, I love visiting your place. Anyone whoever wanted to take that plunge into doing anything differently should follow your sound advice.

    Can’t wait to see what else you’ll be sharing with us young lady!

    Hey, have a great week.

    ~Adrienne

    1. Hi Adrienne,
      It really can apply to any kind of naysayer can’t it..? I took a page from your book and try to take a piece of knowledge and apply it to my niche. i.e. how naysayers effect Long term travellers like me.
      I’m glad too that i am in the least holding your attention because i really want this site to be a place where arm chair travellers can get a feel for what it’s like and all you have to go through to travel and live abroad long term..

      Thanks for stopping by. You make the conversation so much more interesting.

  21. My mom has hesitations about me traveling, so much so that we are not even talking. I need to send her an email but I am at a loss of words. This has helped, thanks for sharing these tips and ideas.

    1. Oh Megan i’m so sorry. That is really rough.I can understand this from both your situation and your mums point of view.
      My father had the same reaction when i left at 18 to travel the world.. Even now i had a little resistance from people.

      I would definitely call your mom or email her and in the least you can say that you are going to do this no matter what and that you would like to have her support. I don’t think any amount of convincing is going to change her mind. Hopefully she can come to terms with it. Just remember don’t argue. It ends ugly if you do.. But i think you may already know this.

  22. Hey Annie,

    Every time I read your posts I want to move away for a year or two.

    I personally would love to give it a shot, but unfortunately, I fear my wife doesn’t share the same adventure or maybe she is just afraid of the unknown.

    I would like to approach it when Sam (baby boy) is a little older and more independent.

    Your tips don’t just apply to traveling either Annie, they are very useful for a lot of situations when fighting the naysayers.

    Thanks for sharing Annie much appreciated.

    Have a great week and coming Easter :-D

    Dan

    1. Hi Dan,
      you already live in a fantastic place so it’s like you are on a life vacation..

      Your comment actually brings up a good point. What do you do when your spouse doesn’t want to live abroad or travel and YOU DO?

      I’m lucky my husband wanted to live abroad but we almost didn’t do it, he being more practical than I, it took a little convincing. This requires a little more research. thanks for the idea though on a future post..

  23. Hey Annie,

    I love the way you laid this one out and it applies to lots of things worth doing.

    I had a similar story when I quit my job to spend a year in the countryside before moving to France (in the end our plans have changed to be even more flexible & location independent but our plan was exactly what you mention above).

    When I quit my (high paying) job people thought I was crazy. They still do. But I kind of like crazy.

    A couple of points I want to add to your post above which were the main factors for my decision (which actually came 2 years earlier than originally planned in the end):

    I knew I had to do it because if I never tried I would never know – this was huge for me.

    I am of the opinion that when something is worth doing, noise around you increases (there’s a crabs in a bucket and an experiment involving monkeys in a pit lurking in the back of my mind on this point).

    I’ve had to adjust lots along the way but it’s definitely been worth it.

    I now look at money in a completely different way too – but maybe that’s just me,

    great post Annie,
    Alan

    1. Alan, i can already imaging what people must have thought when you quit your high paying job. Something you said really struck me was that you had to do it because if you never tried you would never know. That thought alone used to eat me up inside. It’s a feeling that would NOT go away and you just know against all else you have to do it. It’s both a blessing and a curse.
      I also look at money in a whole new way. But for me, i don’t need masses of it anymore.

      always love your feedback..Alan.. Chat later.

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