Any expat that tells you they never wanted to come home is probably not telling the whole truth. It is par for the course that the expat blues will set in at some point, as the adrenaline of a move to a new country wears off and the holiday vibe gives way to normality.
Many expats describe being hit by homesickness that’s almost like grief. They mourn the loss of family, friends and everything familiar. Grief is a good analogy, because the emotional stages an expat goes through are very similar: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and, finally, acceptance. But, for a small minority, the feeling of comfortable acceptance of their life in a new country, is elusive.
So, when is it ok to say: I’m not happy; I’m going home? If the feeling of being unsettled persists, how long should you wait before you throw in the towel and book a return ticket?
The answer is that it’s completely individual. The important thing is to do some honest soul searching before you make any rash decision. If you stopped beating yourself up about your understandable feelings of loneliness and displacement, could you take one day at a time?
If you decide you can manage the 24-hours-at-a-time approach, there are a few strategies you can try to immerse yourself in expat life and find a sense of belonging:
1. Stay connected
When you’re an expat, it’s OK to be a smartphone addict. Stay connected with people at home through email, Facebook, Instagram, and Skype. Your phone is also your best friend when it comes to researching and exploring your new area.
2. Read/write expat blogs
Reading about other people’s expat experiences will make you face the fact that you aren’t alone. Everything you’re feeling right now has been felt by thousands before you. The courageous act of moving to another country is fraught with anxieties and these are well documented in expat blogs, forums and Facebook communities.
If you feel brave enough to start your own blog, this can be a great way to share your new life with people back home. Many expats also find it therapeutic to use their blog to offload their feelings, both when expat life is rosy and when it feels less so.
3. Immerse yourself
Keep busy with work, volunteering, studying and social engagements – when you’re busy your mind has other things to focus on than anxieties. Getting out and meeting people is also crucial – once you have people to say “Hi” to, or even go out for a coffee with, you will start to see the potential for making new friends.
4. Indulge in some home comforts
Keep some of your favourite foods from home in the cupboard, stream your favourite TV shows or radio programmes from home. There’s no need to leave it all behind!
5. Plan a daily adventure
Try something new every day… A different route to the supermarket, a coffee shop that caught your eye, taking the train, or saying hello to someone you pass on your walk to work. You’ll feel good about taking small steps towards being at home.
6. Do what you love
Discover exercise classes, revive your hobbies, go for a walk, join a book club. One thing hasn’t changed – you are still YOU, so give yourself time and space to do the things that you enjoy. Exercise and hobbies are a great way of living in the moment, practising mindfulness, and escaping the stress of looking to the past, or future.
Taking a day at a time, and making an effort to integrate, helps overcome the hurdle of homesickness and allows expats to continue living abroad for as long as it suits them. Most adjust, although it’s common for it to take six months or longer to really feel ‘at home’.
Many expats do come home eventually, with the top five reasons being: financial difficulties, cultural differences, visa expiration and lack of social interaction. However, it is now thought that 1.2 million British people live abroad and that number is rising. In the year to September 2015, around 40,000 more British nationals left the UK to live abroad than came back.
If you are considering a move abroad PSS International removals can help. We are a family run company and our desire is to ensure your family receives a friendly, professional and stress free overseas move. We have specialised in international removals for over 34 years, so whether you are planning on sending a full or part household removal, excess baggage or a vehicle we recognise the importance of ensuring our customers receive the same level of care and attention that we would expect ourselves.
Contact us now for a free estimator’s survey, or simply fill in our online moving or baggage quote form.
Image: ‘A Moment to reflect’ by Jonathan Combe https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/