top of page

Some of the most common emotional challenges for expats and how to covercome them

Ever since I finished university, I have worked and lived in over 20 different countries. This has often been by choice, but sometimes it has been part and parcel of the job I was doing, so it was not as if I could choose to stay. Well, technically I could have, but that would have left me filling up the lines of the unemployment office. Believe me, I used to love travelling, getting to know new places, new people… and I would not change it for the world. However, let’s be honest, being a nomad has its toll on us.

Having been a migrant myself for many years, where I also worked with migrants and often lived with expats, I collected a series of not so nice experiences that we, expats often face, and also several tips on how to overcome them. Here I share some of them with you.

  • COMMENT Nr 1: “Oh my Goodness, you’re so lucky travelling to all those countries!”

  • COMMENT Nr 2: “Well, if you don’t find a job here you can move somewhere else, right? You’ve travelled so much already!”

  • COMMENT Nr 3: “When are YOU coming home to visit us?”

If you’ve lived abroad long enough you might be familiar with some (or all) of these comments coming from friends or family. And, confess, don’t you feel like yelling at them? I wonder whether they would continue to make these comments if they knew the dark side of moving abroad… In fact, moving to another country comes with a series of challenges and losses that are important to acknowledge and be prepared to deal with.

3 Common Expat Challenges and How to Deal With Them

1. Overwhelm

When you land in a new country, there are endless practical tasks that you need to sort out: moving from the Airbnb (for which you’re paying an arm and a leg) to a regular rent apartment, to finding an Internet provider, or registering in the townhall so that you can open a bank account and subscribe to local offers. On top of this, you should maybe add the language barrier, and there you go, you might end up experiencing the so-called expat fatigue, which might lead to burn out and a sense of dislike towards the new place.

What to do? Accept that these things are coming and that you won’t be able to address them all at the same time. Acknowledge the effort and emotional stress these things take and give yourself some credit for it. Be sure that things will get sorted sooner or later.

2. Acknowledging that your social support network back home, is right there: back home!

This is probably one of the toughest issues and also one of the ones that we often refuse to let go of. As harsh as it may sound, relocating often involves losing your network of friends and family that used to offer us support in difficult times. Although we know for a fact that they’re still there and we probably put a lot of effort on keeping the bonds alive, the truth is that time and distance make people grow apart at some level. You might soon realise that your best friend did not invite you to his birthday party, although you might tell yourself: “why should she, if I’m living 10,000km away?” it will still hurt. Or maybe it is your father’s 70th birthday and you’re not there, but the whole family still gathers to celebrate.

What to do? While you might still participate in family events (even if it’s through a screen), and your best friend might still call you to tell you about her latest romantic disappointment, the truth is that you’re not there and we all have to move on with our lives and the people on them. So, there are three things you can do here. First, schedule weekly or monthly calls with family and close friends. It does not have to be a 2h conversation, but just something to catch up and say; “Hey, I care for you and I am thinking about you.” Second, do not take it personally of people do not have time for a chat. We all have busy lives and sometimes it is hard, especially if you live in different time zones. Just try and be flexible enough to keep the relationship alive. Third, see next point.

3. Building a new social network

While keeping your “back home” relationships is important for your mental emotional wellbeing, it is also important for you to understand that now you MUST build a new social support network. Why? Well, to start with, you need people who are in a similar situation and understand you. Have you ever tried to explain to your mother how upset you were at the income tax officer who refused to help you for whatever silly reason and your mum goes like: “Oh dear, I’m so sorry… well, did I tell you who I met yesterday?” When this happens, it is normal to feel frustrated, but rather taking it out on our poor mother, it is a much better idea to find an expat friend to vent about these things. Having expat friends is not only good for your emotional and mental help, but also for other practicalities, like: where to find the best German bread, or the unique Spanish paella. Believe me, they often know…

What to do? With so many online technologies you can find loads of expat groups in Facebook. Some of these groups are specific for women or for doing certain things, like selling/buying stuff, or going out pub crawling, if that’s your thing. There are many other platforms available out there to meet new people. If you’d like to know more about it and the latest developments, join my monthly newsletter for new updates.

If some (or all) of these situations resonate with you, sign up to my newsletter to receive a comple guide of expat dilemmas and how to overcome them. If you need some personal advice, please, feel free to send me a note with your situation and we can talk :-)


bottom of page