Moving abroad is always a step out of someone’s comfort zone. You’re starting over in a country and culture that is different from your own and this comes with its own set of challenges. Here are the aspects that an expat struggles with the most.
Being Homesick is Inevitable
Having bouts of homesickness is part of being an expat in general. You are physically distanced from your family, friends, pets, favorite local places and foods – all the time. And frankly, leaving your support systems behind is the hardest to adjust to. When I go through these feelings I find it best to remind myself why I came here, what I’m thankful for and ask myself whether going home solves anything. During these times it’s important to reach out and connect with others.
Half of my heart will always be in California but when I go through rough patches of being homesick it’s nice to have friends to connect with. Keep in mind that for expats it usually takes about 18-months to 2 years for their life to stabilize.
Making Friends is Hard
Many expats are moving to a country where they have no roots so it’s important to make connections and friends. As social beings, we need this human interaction, especially when you’re on your own abroad. However, making friends in a new environment and culture can be scary and is the number #1 expat struggle foreigners have. I had no issue making friends when I moved abroad for university. However, moving abroad for work became a real expat struggle. It’s easy to feel isolated when your colleagues have their own routines and set of friends. Depending on the country and culture this may be harder to easier to break and fit into.
But what you can do is join a club, sports team, and even getting a part-time job can help with meeting people. When I lived in London going to the gym provided a way to meet people. We already had a similar interest, working out, so it wasn’t too hard to find some common ground. Signing up for expat events like meetup.com. Events are planned every day and a great way to step out of your comfort zone and meet people.
Ongoing Language & Communication Issues
If I can sum this up in one word I will go with stressful. Language is one of or the most difficult aspects expats struggle with. If you don’t speak the language, yet alone at a native level, then there’s going to be a continuous communication barrier. You feel frustrated and it makes it hard to do simple things like grocery shopping. For instance, I had been studying French for a few years during university but once I actually moved to Paris, things were different. The slang, local dialect, speaking with employees proved to be harder than I thought I was ready for.
This is why I suggest learning the local language as fast as possible in order to ease adjustment and put off anxieties. Once you start learning and getting a hang of the language, a whole new world of perspective and opportunity opens up. You understand the culture, its people and start to feel that this place is home.
Weather and Climate
Depending on what geographic location you move to, the climate and weather can take some serious adjusting. Moving from Southern California, where we have sun and blue skies throughout the whole year set the bar high. Moving to the Netherlands was and is an expat struggle because of the climate and rainy weather. It can be depressing during the wintertime because of the lack of sunshine in colder climates. The same struggle can be for countries with warmer climates.