Whilst there are many well-documented advantages to becoming an expatriate, particularly if you want to broaden your cultural, spiritual and actual horizons, there are some downsides to living your life as a foreigner in a foreign land.
For some people, these potential hurdles outweigh any benefits they could conceivably gain, and they stay put in their old life.
However, this is a real shame – because there is much to gain by exploring more of the world and at least spending an extended holiday abroad.
So, we thought we’d focus on overcoming the main challenges of living abroad as an expat in this report so that if you’re finding the thought of moving abroad too testing, you can use the benefit of our experience and get past those issues that are holding you back.
The main hurdles that expatriates face are the likes of loneliness, language barriers, making friends and coping with the fact that you are always going to be a foreigner in a foreign land.
However, these hurdles can be overcome. If you’re thinking of moving abroad then there are ways you can prepare yourself in advance so that you don’t become affected by these problems – and if you’re already living abroad and struggling with some of these problems, we have got solutions for you.
Coping with loneliness when living abroad
When you first relocate overseas there are no two ways about it, you will probably encounter at least a few moments of strong loneliness. This is one of the biggest challenges of living abroad. Even if you relocate with your family, the fact that everything is so new and so unfamiliar can really rock your boat.
You will be looking around you for something to anchor you in your new life – and because you won’t necessarily immediately find it, the most familiar sensation that you will experience is loneliness.
However, you are not really alone! Therefore this is the very first point that you need to hold on to. For those who have a family with them and/or who have moved to a location where they already have friends or know some familiar faces, reach out and have some social contact in a relaxed setting to settle yourself.
For others who are physically alone in their new setting with no familiar faces around them, an immediate solution is making contact with people back home.
This will ground you, it will tell you that life is continuing as it always has, that those who are important in your life are still a constant presence in your life.
This should hopefully give you the strength and courage you need to build up a new network of friends, familiar faces, acquaintances and colleagues in your new country abroad.
This is how you stave off any long-term feelings of loneliness…and it is very much up to you to work consistently hard at making friends and putting yourself in a position to meet people and spend time with them.
Missing family and friends back home
Going hand in hand with loneliness is a strong feeling of missing your friends and family back home – this is all born out of the fact that you have upset the familiarity in your world and removed your anchors and stability in life.
You need to remember why you have moved abroad and hold on to the positive reasons you have. You need to know that in a relatively short period of time you will settle down in your new life and thoroughly enjoy it and get the best out of it.
In the meantime, you can take practical steps so that you maintain good contact with those back home.
Set up Skype and a webcam so that you can keep in touch for free. Invite people over to stay with you and plan a time in a few months when you will go home or meet up with friends or family part of the way home perhaps in a new destination you can all explore and enjoy together.
Practical issues associated with caring for loved ones at long distance
For those who have ageing relatives who need care and attention, living abroad can be especially hard on all concerned. It’s imperative that you set up a care support network back home for those you love and have a duty to look after because living away at a distance will mean that in an emergency or if required at short notice, you will not be the easiest person to call upon.
You need to be very well organised and be in a position to call on the assistance of others.
What’s more, it will be very important to have good methods of communication in place so that you can keep regular contact with those who remain ‘at home.’
It will be up to you to put the structure in place that is required, but once it is in place you will be able to relax safe in the knowledge that you have done the best you can by those you care for.
The language barrier
The language barrier can become a real hurdle for expatriates who want to integrate well. Whilst in many international locations English is spoken or understood at least in the business environment if you want to get to know the locals and more about your new nation, a good understanding of the local language will be required.
The only way to overcome a language barrier is through hard work and dedication. You can start to put some effort in before you even move, and then once you’re immersed in your new nation you will find every opportunity to practice what you’re learning.
Take lessons, insist colleagues speak to you in the local tongue, buy baby books and tabloid papers, children’s magazines and teach yourself to read!
The harder you work at it the quicker it will come – and actually, there is nothing more satisfying than being able to speak a foreign language so well you are complimented by your colleagues and peers on a daily basis. It can and will happen for you if you just keep working at it.
Even countries like New Zealand that are supposedly so close to Britain in terms of culture are different! Fundamentally so. Therefore when you relocate overseas and begin from a point of admiring all that is different, you need to know that at some point you will come across issues and differences that begin to niggle you.
These niggles will increase occasionally to the point at which you disbelieve what you’re witnessing and you really question how and why you’re living in this God-forsaken country where nothing works – gaaa! This is an entirely normal reaction.
However, it’s how you handle the long-term understanding that there are aspects of your new nation that you maybe don’t understand and certainly don’t appreciate that counts.
At this point it usually helps to keep the following in mind: 1) there are many aspects of your new nation that you love, that work far better than where you lived before and that make living abroad excellent and 2) there is plenty about your old home nation that is absolutely wrong and flawed too.
Keeping these two perspectives in mind should help you cope with what’s not ideal about your new nation.
How to make friends abroad
It will be up to you to go about and build stability in your new life so that you can get on with enjoying life as an expatriate. One of the most important things that you will need to do to this end is making a core group of true and supportive friends.
These will be your new support network in your new country – but to find and make good friends requires time and effort. Firstly you need to take time to get to know more people – so you may have to force yourself out of your shell and into social situations where you can meet people.
You will then need to work out who are likely to be good friends for the long-term, and who is just interested in you because you’re a stranger!
Over time you will build up a good network of trustworthy, fun and good people, these people you can cherish and they will hopefully be lasting friends.
Whilst you may meet some of these people on the first day in your new country, you have to commit a lot of time and effort to getting to know them well and moulding the relationship you forge into that of deep and lasting friendship.
Don’t rush it – but at the same time, if you don’t put yourself out there and put yourself forward, how will you ever meet anyone.
Know that the effort falls on your shoulders at least initially…so get on with it! The sooner you have friends you can call on for support, the sooner your new home will feel like home.
Upsetting a stable life
Moving abroad changes everything – you upset what was probably a very stable life in terms of you knowing what to expect on a day-to-day basis. By turning everything on its head you create a great deal of disharmony in your life and initially, this will seem like fun, excitement and a great challenge.
However, in time it may feel like more than you want to bear. You won’t have the base familiarity in your life that gives you security and on a day-to-day basis, you may feel that as a feeling of being unsettled in your gut. This is simply something else that takes time to deal with.
As you experience more about your current life and get to grips with increasing aspects of it, the more times you visit the local supermarket and you eventually learn how everything works, so you will wake up one day and realise that actually, you’re at home in your new nation.
It does happen – and like the best things coming to those who wait, so conquering the life of an expat and making a new home in a new land is just THE best thing.