May is #MentalHealthAwarenessMonth. National Alliance on Mental Health amplifies the message of “You Are Not Alone”. You are not alone. We’ve been expats for almost a decade, so we know the challenges of living abroad. To our fellow expats, wherever you are, you are not alone. One of our contributors, Matthew, will be sharing the common challenges faced by expats and how to deal with homesickness to feel more at home.
If you are brave enough, moving and starting a new life in a new country can be the adventure of a lifetime. Being an expat is eventful, fun, and exciting, but it can also be challenging, especially if you have lived abroad since the pandemic struck. Due to the movement restrictions and social distancing guidelines in most countries, it has been particularly hard for expats to adjust abroad, especially those who had just relocated before the pandemic.
If you plan to move abroad as an expat, it is important to learn of the most common challenges you can expect to face and how to overcome homesickness.
Read also: Expat Life Interview Series
Common challenges faced by expats
1. Language barrier
This is the most common challenge expats face when they first move to a new country. Moving to a new country can be challenging if you do not speak the native language. Sometimes, you may be speaking the same language, but the accent also pose a communication barrier. Some countries, like Italy and France, are known to use their native languages, making it hard for you to communicate if you do not speak their language.
Without speaking the native language, something as simple as communicating with a taxi driver or a proprietor when discussing rental fees can be frustrating.
2. Culture shock
If you plan to move to a different country, one of the things you can expect is culture shock. Different countries do things differently, which may take a while to get used to. It gets worse if you are moving to a country that is deeply rooted in its culture that may involve unique and strict customs.
Read also: How To Deal With Reverse Culture Shock
Most expats face housing problems when they first move to a new country. Navigating through the housing market can be challenging, especially if you do not know anything about the housing culture in the new place. It helps to do a bit of groundwork before moving to ensure you are familiar with the options available.
4. Money management
Most expats face challenges with their personal finances when they first move abroad. It takes a while to understand international taxes, accounts, benefits, and other factors that affect your finances. Ensure you understand how moving to a new environment will affect your finances before your big move. This makes adjusting easier.
5. Loneliness and homesickness
Being away from friends and family can be frustrating and poses several challenges, especially in a pandemic. It has been harder to make new friends or acclimate to the new environment with curfews imposed and most people working from home. When you first move to a new place, you can expect to feel homesick and lonely.
Sometimes, you will miss the simplest things like the smell of your house back home, your food, and your friends. The first few weeks are the most challenging, but getting to know a few people makes it easier for you to get used to your new environment.
How expats can get over homesickness
Feeling homesick is normal when you are far from home and should not be a cause of shame. If you are struggling with homesickness and unable to travel back home, here are a few things you can do to make your new environment feel more like home.
1. Allow your mind to settle in the new environment
When you first move to a new place, it is normal for your mind to wander back to what it is used to, and this is what causes homesickness. To stop feeling homesick, you need to train your mind to start seeing the new place as your new home. Start by changing how you talk about your new place of residence, which will train your mind to adjust.
Simple things like starting to refer to your apartment as home whenever you refer to it can make a big difference for your mindset. Use most of the stuff you brought from your previous home in your new home to make your expat home more familiar.
Read also: How to Make Moving and Settling in Easy
2. Create a routine
Living in a new country can be characterized by long days that feel empty because you have not gotten into a routine yet. The best way to quickly adjust to a new environment is to start and stick to a routine. The best way is to establish a routine that is similar to the one you had before moving. If you liked working out every day, ensure you keep this up by making time to exercise, even when on a busy schedule.
If you prefer watching football on Sundays, you can continue with this routine in your new place. If you cannot access your local channels abroad, using a VPN service will allow you to access your favorite channels from home wherever you are.
Make time to tour the local market and get to know the local places to find more things to do that make the new place feel like home. Do not be afraid to start new traditions and routines in your new place too.
3. Stay in touch with family and friends back home
If you cannot plan a trip home to see your friends and family, schedule regular calls and chats to keep in touch with them. This is important for your new life abroad as it makes you feel closer to them, therefore feeling less lonely. Once it is safe to travel again, you can schedule a trip to see them as often as possible.
4. Make new friends
The best way to survive living in a new environment is to make new friends. While it may seem overwhelming at first, making new friends makes you feel more at home, which can cure your homesickness. Thanks to advancements in technology, the world is ultra-connected, offering endless opportunities for meeting new people.
You can meet new people in expat groups and forums online, at your workplace, at the gym, in the local market, and even in local bars and coffee shops. Find experiences and events that you like to improve your chances of meeting people you have things in common with. Ensure your groups of friends consist of fellow expats and locals to have the best of both worlds.
On a final note…
When you first move abroad, it becomes easy to slip into unhealthy habits and routines. Knowing what to do to get comfortable in your new environment can go a long way in ensuring your physical and mental health remains in check through your transition. Following the tips in this guide will make it easier for you to settle in your new environment and feel more at home.
Matthew Stern is a technology content strategist at TechFools, a tech blog aiming at informing readers about the potential dangers of technology and introducing them to the best ways to protect themselves online. As a tech enthusiast and an advocate for digital freedom, Matthew is dedicated to introducing his readers to the latest technology trends and teaching them how to gain control over their digital lives.
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12 thoughts on “Home Away From Home: Ways For Expats To Feel More At Home”
covid stopped my being an expat but I do hope to experience it one day anyway. once the world gets back to nromal
These are helpful ideas if you’re an expat. I know I always wonder how people who do it are able to cope with being away from home or being somewhere where they don’t speak the native language.
As one expat in Japan, I think one issue I face is the culture, especially the work culture. It’s hard to understand it and try to have relationships (and work) in it. How would you combat issues with culture, especially society and work?
I have never lived in another country but I have visited a few neighboring countries, even though these countries are neighbors with my country, I have faced language barrier a few times I have gone for vacation. I can’t imagine how hard it is for those who have relocated to another.
We lived in the UK, briefly, when my dad got the diplomatic post there. It was tough, as I was in my teens. I thought it would be very difficult for me to live away from home, but some of our best years as a family were in London.
And yes, it helped a lot that I kept in touch with friends back home. It was in the years before every household had internet connection, so it was snail mail all the way. But also, it helps to actually savor your time there (your home away from home).
A lot of filipinos are overseas workers so this article will be every helpful for them. I always wanted to eventually migrate to another country and thanks for sharing these things i should probably prepare for haha
I used to love eating at British style restaurants when I lived in Bangkok. Great article for expats to settle in but enjoy home country comforts.
Wow, I had no idea that there were so many struggles and difficulties that come from being an expat. I’m sure you’re helping so many expats feel heard and seen with this post. Thank you for sharing!
I never thought about the downside of being an expat. When you think of moving to another country. You imagine all the things you are going to do, but don’t think what are you going to do when it comes to missing family, language barriers, and other things. I absolutely agree with this list.
I have always imagined being an expat for a short while, but I never had the opportunity to try it. I think I only ever looked at the glamorous side. I never realized that it can be very lonely too, especially if you’re on your own and not doing it with a significant other or family. Thank you for sharing these tips. I don’t know if I’ll ever get a chance to use them, but I sure hope so!
I guess most expats struggle with homesickness more than anything else. Filipinos are a tightly-knit family and being alone in a foreign country will sometime test your focus. But, most of the tips here are helpful.
Of all the above mentioned, culture shock is on my top list and creating a routine will definitely help you cope up.