Five ways to maintain the bond with friends and family ‘back home’

Moving abroad can be daunting, especially if you’re used to regularly seeing close friends and family. It might not be as easy to drop in for a cup of coffee but with a bit of effort you can maintain and even strengthen your relationships.

Five ways to maintain the bond with friends and family 'back home'
Photo credit: Pexels

If you’re planning a long distance move, you’re probably feeling a wave of different emotions. Starting a new life is scary and exciting but it also doesn’t need to mean leaving the old one behind.

Find out how AXA’s Global Health Plans makes your move abroad much easier

Technology helps people to stay in touch despite the distance and can even act as a safety net following the move. For instance, when you take out a global health plan with AXA you can manage your international health insurance online and, with some of the plans, speak to a doctor by video. Anyone who has previously relocated will know how reassuring it can be to speak to a doctor in your own language, especially when you have children.

Perhaps best of all, technology allows you to easily keep in touch with friends and family, wherever you are in the world. So there’s no need to sit down and pen a five-page letter which takes three weeks to arrive!

Here are five ways to stay in touch with friends and family after the big move.

Video calling

There are plenty of apps which allow you to speak face to face (via video call, not teleportation). If you’re in different timezones, it can help to schedule a regular time to talk – ideally when the whole family is together and there are no tired or hungry children to contend with.

Click here to get support with your international health plan

Some of the most popular video calling apps include Skype, Facebook messenger and WhatsApp. If you’re connected to wifi the video call is totally free, otherwise you’ll be charged for the data you use. So there really is no excuse to not call your mum more often!

Send a letter

Expats no longer need to rely on snail mail to stay in touch with friends and family back home. That said, it’s still much more of an experience to send or receive letter. There’s something more personal about sitting down to read a letter someone has taken the time to write. If you have children, you could also ask them to draw pictures or write short stories to send with the letter – it’s a great way to get them to really think about the person they’re writing to.

…or a message

If you’re worried about things going missing in the post, send what you can over social media or email instead. You may already be speaking regularly by video call but so much happens throughout the day that you might want to share. Especially if you have young children! So get snap happy: take tonnes of photos and share them with friends and family on social media.

Everyday rituals

If you’ve moved abroad with your children, it’s up to you to make sure they feel connected to the people back home. Find ways to make grandparents part of your children’s everyday lives; set up a daily video call so they can read the bedtime story, tell your children stories about their family members or create a photo album that they help to organise. Distance doesn’t need to get in the way of closeness, you might just have to work a little harder.

Reconnect in person

Nothing beats a visit home but it can end up being quite tiring if you try to fit everyone in. Prioritise who you want to see and if you can, get them to come to you. Consider renting a holiday home somewhere central and inviting anyone who wants to see you to come there – it will save you driving up and down the country and tuckering the whole family out.

Find out more about AXA’s global health plans for wherever life takes you

AXA’s global health cover can help you stay in touch with friends and family, but they can protect you and your loved ones every step of the big move. Find out more about AXA’s international health insurance and tick one major relocation task off your list.

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UPDATE: What are Switzerland’s rules for cannabis consumption?

Switzerland has a complicated set of rules for both medical and recreational cannabis consumption. Here's what you need to know.

UPDATE: What are Switzerland's rules for cannabis consumption?

Long prohibited and seen as a gateway drug with potentially dangerous impacts, countries across the globe have begun legalising cannabis in recent years. 

While the legalisation for medical use has been widespread, there have also been successful legalisation campaigns in several countries. 

The situation in Switzerland is also in flux and has been complicated by a range of recent changes.

Whether referred to as cannabis, marijuana or hemp, Switzerland’s Narcotics Act qualifies it as “a psychoactive substance”, with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) being its most intoxicating ingredient.

The law specifies that “only THC is controlled under the Narcotics Act. Other active substances like cannabidiol (CBD) are not subject to the Narcotics Act as they do not have comparable psychoactive effects”.

Here’s what you need to know. 

Switzerland has legalised medical marijuana 

As of August 1st, the use of cannabis for medical purposes will be allowed in Switzerland

Patients who are medically prescribed the drug will no longer need to seek exceptional permission from the health ministry, as was the case prior to August 1st. 

Demand for cannabis-based treatments has risen sharply, with the health ministry issuing 3,000 exceptional authorisations in 2019.

The government “intends to facilitate access to cannabis for medical use for patients” and was therefore lifting the ban on its use for that purpose, it said in a statement.

The previous procedure involved “tedious administrative procedures”, said the ministry. “Sick people must be able to access these medicines without excessive bureaucracy.”

As of August 1st, “the decision as to whether a cannabis medicinal product is to be used therapeutically will be made by the doctor together with the patient” the government wrote

The sale and consumption of cannabis for non-medical purposes will remain prohibited.

READ MORE: Switzerland to lift ban on medical use cannabis

The new regulations could benefit thousands of people suffering from severe chronic pain, it added, including those with cancer and multiple sclerosis.

READ ALSO: Why Basel is about to become Switzerland’s marijuana capital

The law change will also mean that the cultivation, processing, manufacture and trade of cannabis for medical use will be subject to the Swissmedic regulatory authority, just as with other narcotics for medical use such as cocaine, methadone and morphine.

Legality of recreational cannabis is determined by the THC

THC of at least 1 percent is generally prohibited in Switzerland and use of products with this (or higher) content may be punishable by a 100-franc fine.

Of course, if someone is determined to smoke it, 100 francs may not be much a deterrent — but that’s a subject for another article.

“By contrast, possession of up to 10g of cannabis for personal use is not considered a criminal offence”, the law states, as long as it is not used by or sold to minors.

Italy's constitutional court has blocked the latest efforts to legalise cannabis.

Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP.

And, as with nearly everything else in decentralised Switzerland, “there are still considerable differences between cantons regarding implementation of the fixed penalty procedure”.

However, “cannabis flowers intended for smoking with a high proportion of cannabidiol (CBD) and less than 1 percent THC can be sold and purchased legally”, according to the legislation. 

That’s because, unlike the THC, cannabidiol “does not have a psychoactive effect”.

In other words, low-content THC and CBD will not give the “high” that recreational users seek.

When will Switzerland legalise recreational cannabis?

Currently, small amounts of recreational cannabis are tolerated in Switzerland.

“The decisive factor for classification as a banned drug is how much THC is contained in a cannabis product. If the THC content exceeds one per cent, the product is prohibited. Hashish is prohibited regardless of its THC content.”

As noted by the Swiss government, “If you are caught in possession of a small amount of cannabis (no more than 10 grams) for your own consumption, you will not be fined. In addition, if you supply (but do not sell) up to 10 grams to an adult, e.g. when sharing joints, you will not be fined.”

“If you are caught using cannabis, you may be given a fixed penalty fine of 100 francs.”

In June 2020, the National Council approved a plan to start cannabis trials for recreational use.

The experiments are to be carried out in Switzerland’s larger cities. Basel, Bern, Biel, Geneva and Zurich have all expressed interest in conducting the trials. 

The study seeks to find out how the market for cannabis works – and how to combat the black market. The social effects of legalisation will also be examined. 

At this point, no decisions have been made. However, Swiss authorities have set certain conditions in case recreational use is approved.

The National Council said if cannabis were to be legalised, it must be locally grown in Switzerland – and it must be organic. 

Health Minister Alain Berset noted that legalisation should benefit Swiss farmers even though “very few producers have experience in this area”.

READ MORE: Switzerland backs recreational cannabis trials – with one condition

Can you grow your own cannabis?

In truth, a number of people cultivate marijuana plants on their balconies or in their (secluded) gardens for their own personal use.

As it turns out, the law allows it, as long as it is a variety of the plant that does not have a narcotic effect — that is, the THC content must be less than 1 percent. 

By the same token, cannabis-based products with THC content of below 1 percent can be brought into Switzerland from abroad.

However, the import rules differ depending on the type of product  it is — flowers, seeds, extracts, oils, or other goods.

How much cannabis is consumed in Switzerland each year?

Precise numbers are hard to come by, but according to an article in Le Temps, which based its information on a medical study, about 100 tonnes are consumed in the country annually.

Cannabis remains the largest market in terms of volume: it represents 85 percent of drugs consumed in Switzerland, netting between 340, 000 and 500,000 francs per year.

READ MORE: Drugs and alcohol: Just how much do the Swiss consume?