Moving abroad is a big decision – it literally can be a life changing event and it can be difficult to leave behind your friends and family, not to mention the food, the currency, the culture (probably not the weather). With what can be a dramatic shift it is not surprising there can be some bumps along the way.
Some people settle quicker than others and loneliness is a very common expat problem, and can be one of the toughest issues to conquer. Leaving family and friends behind can be difficult and even if you quickly develop a network of friends in your new country, it is easy to still feel lonely from time to time, especially when you are not used to the language, it can be difficult to settle in.
Solutions for these expat problems:
- Push yourself to get out there and meet new people, socialise in local circles, immerse yourself in your new country.
- Communicate with those back home: Facetime, Skype and WhatsApp are all great apps for staying in touch with your friends.
- Maybe avoid things that remind you of home for the time being – focus your energy instead on all the exciting aspects of your new life.
- Plan a visit home or a trip for friends to visit you.
- You can re-invent yourself: Remember that no-one knows you, so you can be as friendly and loud as you like.
Leaving behind your established support network can be daunting, and that separation from friends and family is a reason that many don’t take the leap and move abroad. However, along with tens of millions of other expats globally you have started the adventure.
There is no quick fix, but it does get easier with time. As you make new friends, find groups of interest and join communities the sense of lack of support will fade as a new support network forms. Don’t forget that all your friends and family are still there for you and are just a Skype or FaceTime away.
Suggestions to help deal with the loss of your support network:
- Keep in regular contact with friends and family back home.
- Seek out expat communities and local groups, take a class or join a local sports club.
- Learn the language, breaking down any language barrier will make it easy to integrate with the community.
- Get out in the community, introduce yourself to your neighbours and meet people.
- Plan a trip for your friends or family to visit you.
One of the toughest things to do when you move overseas is learn the language - a common expat problem. Learning a language can be a considerable commitment, and there are no quick fixes, it simply requires study.
Here are few tips to help you learn the language:
- Take a language course before you relocate abroad. If you sign up for a course you are more likely to complete it, rather than buying a phrase book.
- Practice makes perfect, try and find people who speak the language and talk to them.
- Use language software online to learn the basics.
- Sign up for a language course when you arrive in your new home (this may also help you meet people).
- Try to speak your new native language as much as possible, the locals will appreciate the effort and may help you with a few corrections.
Making new friends as an adult is not easy especially in an unfamiliar environment. This issue can be compounded by a language barrier and the different culture, however it’s not uncommon, so give it time.
Creating a social life or building a circle of friends is a common expat problem. If you have made the move abroad with your partner or family this may be less apparent, but for those expats who are living overseas by themselves it can be lonely to start with but you are not alone, there are likely to be people in the same boat – other expats who live in the area.
Here’s a couple of suggestions to help make friends when living abroad
- Introduce yourself to your neighbours and co-workers.
- Seek out expat communities and groups in the area. Maybe join a local sports club or gym.
- Sign up for language course or any other course that has piqued your interest.
- Speak to co-workers or neighbours about local events.
- Identify expat forums which discuss your area and have a conversation.
- Visit the local pubs and restaurants regularly.
- Do some volunteer work.
- If you’re single, you could try a dating site.
Partner or children are unhappy
A move to a different country can be hard for trailing spouses or families, and one of the biggest worries for expats can be making sure their partner or children are happy. Making the move with children can throw up a number of concerns;, find a good school, their ability to make new friends and the language.
A key factor to making the move abroad with your family a success is making sure that all parties want to move as much as the others. It is well reported that a move overseas can put significant strain on relationships, and it is not uncommon for relationships to break down where one person wants the move more than another.
What can you do about these expat concerns?
- Identify the best schools.
- Ask on expat forums for recommended schools.
- Consider local or international schools?
- The same applies to making friends for yourself. Look for groups, clubs and communities of interest.
- Break down the language barrier, sign up for language courses.
- ‘Play dates’ may help your children integrate at school and in the community.
- Suggest a get together with co-workers – your company may have a ‘settling in’ scheme.
Healthcare is a vital issue which must be addressed ahead of your move. At some point, everyone needs medical assistance, and this can be a concern for expats who are new to their country. Healthcare is different all over the World so it is worth doing your research before you go and make sure you have appropriate cover in place to avoid any problems.
Here are few things to check for:
- Investigate the standard of any national healthcare system or private healthcare in your new country.
- Check whether there is any difference between medical services for residents and expats.
- Will the healthcare service become available to you at some point? What do you need to do to receive this healthcare?
- Would private healthcare be a better option for you?
- If you take regular medication make sure you can take it into the country and that it is available there.
- Do you need health insurance? If so, what type? Consider your options.
- On a slight tangent, another thing to consider: make a note of the location of the nearest hospital and pharmacy.
Above I have offered insights into just a few difficulties that expats commonly experience when moving abroad, along with some things you can do to alleviate these issues. These subjects are well documented and although this list is not exhaustive I hope it has helped answer some of the big questions regarding a move overseas. I would suggest researching common problems experienced in the country you are moving to, and reaching out to those who have already made the move as there may be specific issues which you would benefits from knowing about upfront.