How Long Distance Friends Keep The Spark Alive

From snail mail to changing your world clocks – readers share their tips on how to make long distance friendships work.

There’s a beauty to having your best friend on your doorstep – or down the hall. You can call on them after a hard day at work, when you’re going through a tough time – and they’re right there for a good goss when you have news.

You seem them regularly, speak often, and they probably know every aspect of your lives. But what about when one of you moves away? How can you make sure your friendship lasts the distance?

Prince Harry is reportedly missing his pals since moving to Canada, a source told The Sun. “He’s been in a WhatsApp group with his mates for years and he uses that more than ever now to keep in touch and send pictures. The group are always sharing funny video clips they find as well.”

For those in the same position, we asked HuffPost UK readers and writers their hacks for keeping long-distance friendship alive. “Message everyday,” was a common theme among everyone who replied – but here are their other tips.

Use voice notes

Sure, this Whatsapp feature can be divisive, but lots of long distance pals shared this tip – favouring a voice note over a written message to their far away friends. Katie Evans says whether she’s had a rubbish day or wants to share a silly anecdote with her friend, she’ll send a voice note rather than text it.

“WhatsApp voice notes are the biggest help,” agrees Lauren Aitchison. “Because of time differences and schedules, it’s difficult to get time on the phone together and hearing each other’s voices makes all the difference. We call them our ‘podcast episodes’ because they end up being so long.”

Embrace snail mail

They might take longer to arrives, but letters, postcards, care packages and parcels can brighten your pal’s day and let them know you’re thinking of them. “I send her a steady flow of chocolate”, one reader said of her friendship cure, while another said they send a care package once a year.

“In the package was a book, a scented candle, a best friend keying (so 90s, but it made her laugh), a packet of her favourite tea (roobios) and some quote cards,” she said. “Other times I’ve just sent chocolate or a magazine. Once I sent her a mug, but it smashed in the post – don’t recommend!” Of course, it goes without saying that a surprise visit always goes down well, too.

Change the clocks

When our head of life Nancy Groves moved to Australia, she and her best pal, who lived in New York at the time, set up world clocks on their phones so they always knew what hour it was for each other – making it easier to organise video calls and know where their headspace was at any given time of the day.

Share the mundane

It’s all well and good keeping your LDBF updated when you have big stuff to share – new jobs, new partners, house moves or holiday plans – but what about the rest of your life? Hannah Fearn is a fan of “sharing pictures of even the mundane bits of our lives”. Karen Martin agrees. “We talk about literally everything: the weather where we are, how work is, what’s new... even the most boring questions seem to lead to long conversations. If you are genuinely interested, people will be willing to keep the conversation going.”

View from above smiley faces on smart phones
View from above smiley faces on smart phones

Create daily habits (and keep them up)

Long distance doesn’t always mean long haul. Rose Stokes’ best friend lives in Bath, while she’s in London. They’ve known each other all their lives since their mums were NCT pals. “We always say good morning and good night,” she says. “The past year we’ve been closer than ever!”

“We text very regularly,” says Sophie Trevitt, about her long-distance friends. “Silly things. Hard things. Anything. We call when we have a moment, and phone tag until we connect. Better to try and grab a sec.”

Walk a mile in their Facetime

For Annabel Blake, she keeps the spark alive by going on “morning walks” with her friend on the phone, “on the way to work or as a walk around the beach! It can feel just like a walk we’d do together if we lived near each other.” Alex Tsoi and her pal send each other letters every week – much better than a text, no?

Be a visitor not a stranger

Our Life reporter Tasha Hinde and her LDBF takes it in turns to visit each other for a weekend or a week. Regular planned visits mean you always have something to look forward to, and an IRL meet to get excited about.

Surena Chande, whose best friend lives in Manchester, says they’ll try and see each other every few months, switching up who is host and guest. And they meet up are around the world wherever possible to make it fair and easier.

Gifs that keeps giving

“We’re always tagging each other in memes,” said Surena, “or posts related to things we enjoy and find funny.” Marilyn Devonish and her long distance pal have “countless late-night gif-offs, and rolled with laughter from across the pond and airwaves discussing men, relationships and crazy relatives.”

Game the friendship

Connor Parker, whose friends live around the country and world, says his gang often catch up by arranging a gaming session. “We all enjoy it loads,” he says. “The game becomes secondary to just chatting about life most of the time.”

Love them for longer

Making time for lengthy conversations with your pal every now and then. Hayley Jordan, whose friend lives in New Zealand, says they Skype for two hours once or twice a month. Someone else said she and her friend will always put aside a few hours when they’ve agreed to call, so they can give their time to the conversation rather than rushing off to do something else.

And finally...

Respect that lives get busy. Holly Winter Stevens says the key thing among her friends is everyone understands how little time they have – especially as they are all working mums of two. They also respect the different ways people like to keep in touch. “The key is that we’re realistic, low maintenance and pick things up when we see each other in person, almost dying with laughter within about 30 seconds,” she says.

Ruth Harrison Davies says she can go months without speaking to her friend who lives abroad – following and liking his social media posts – but the moment he’s back in the UK, it’s feels like not a day has passed since they last met up.