Wednesday, 7 May 2014

How to deal with expat cold feet

In the days before a move abroad, it’s likely that your house will be a mass of boxes; you’ll be busy trying to arrange last minute details and saying goodbye to friends and family. You’ll feel excited but also a bit nervous – perhaps you’ll even question whether you’re making the right decision.

It is absolutely normal to feel a bit odd before moving to a new country and having second thoughts definitely is not unusual - especially when you’re swapping continents. The good news is that you’re not alone! Many people who are already living abroad will have experienced the ‘expat blues’ at some point.  The language, religion and culture will be all new and may feel strange, not to mention the food and the smells on the streets.

Talk, talk, talk

It might sound clich├ęd, but talking about things will always help – particularly if you’re talking to people who’ve been through the same experience. The most important thing is to realise that acknowledging nervousness or expat blues will help you to get past it and you don’t have to suffer in silence! You’ll have friends and family who will always be happy to listen, but you can’t underestimate the value of reaching out to other expats too – and it’s easier than ever. Explore how you can connect with other expats at work, or use social media, forums or networking websites to get in touch. If you aren’t already, follow @expatexplorer and join in our conversations too; you’re always welcome! 

Get out there

Building up a network is important. Once you have a few people around you, you’ll be surprised how much more settled you feel. The only snag is there’s no instant, easy way to meet people – you’ll need to put yourself out there and make the most of every opportunity – but there are lots of different ways to do this.

The most obvious way to meet people is probably through work, but there are plenty of other options too. If you have kids, you might find that the school gates are a good place to bond with fellow parents. Otherwise, explore whether there are any local workshops, classes or exercise groups nearby that you can join.

Seeking out friends of friends is also another way to broaden your circle – it doesn’t seem to matter how distant the connection, if you are two expats in a different country then it’s definitely worth getting in touch – and it’s reassuring to know that you’re not the only one who has ever felt challenged by a move abroad! 

creativecommons/David Feltkamp 

Keep busy

Having lots of time to yourself can be great – but it can also make you overthink and question things. Perhaps you’ve followed your spouse across the world and find yourself in the house without much to do, or maybe you haven’t started work yet. Either way, keeping busy is a good way to stave off any feelings of regret that might creep in.

Explore your surroundings, discover local restaurants, take a bike ride, or just go food shopping – anything! Depending on how much time you have, you could think about volunteering locally, perhaps for a local charity, community project or animal shelter. Not only will this keep you busy, but it’s a great way to mingle and get to know other people locally.

And don’t forget, when you are an expat, you might need to say goodbye twice. Firstly, when you are leaving home and starting your expat experience and secondly when you have to leave your expat life behind you and go back home. The second one might be the hardest…

If you’ve made the move abroad, we want to hear from you! The 2015 Expat Explorer survey is now open! Take 15 minutes to help fellow expats by letting us know your views on life abroad and spread the word to expat family and friends by sharing the link and using the hashtag #EESurvey15.

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