Expat loneliness and missing family are the difficult things in life as an expat. Especially when you just arrived in your new country and don’t know a lot of people. Missing family is something we have to deal with as long as we want to live this expat life. But that feeling of loneliness will get better in time especially when your social life starts to grow. I’m sure these tips will help you to create a group of friends around you.
In the first months of our life as expats, we were busy unpacking and organizing our new home. The hubby and the children went to work and school and I did my very best to create a warm home. A place to feel safe and to relax. A place to call home. We went out to discover the neighborhood in which we lived, visited the restaurants, and did our grocery shopping at the supermarkets. The weather, the food, and the different culture were also things that we had to get used to. And as soon as we all found our way, loneliness hit me.
I missed family, friends, but mostly a conversation with someone who knows and understands you well. Who knows how to comfort you or who can make you happy with a few words just because they have known you for so long.
Distance gives us a reason to love harder.
I missed the spontaneous visits to my parents. The tea chat with my friend. Chat with your neighbors in the supermarket during your weekly shopping. The conversations with other mothers along the soccer field. The social chats at the school gate. Those little simple daily things now turn out to be so valuable.
I believe that expat loneliness is one of the things that everyone experiences when moving to another country. Especially if you travel for your husband’s work and you don’t have work yet or if you are not able to work in your new country. Therefore I want to share some useful tips with you so you don’t have to struggle too much in this new life as an expat wife.
10 tips to fight Expat Loneliness
The best advice to give you when you experience the same is to accept these feelings of loneliness and try to connect with people. I will provide you with 10 tips to get in touch with people easily so you can go on with enjoying your new life.
1. Connect through work
Connect with people through your work or your husband’s work. Most of the time, there are more expat families from the same company. They were all in the same situation ones and usually willing to help you and answer your questions. It is also great to go out together on a lunch date or meet each other at a nice coffee shop. This is also a way to get to know the city better. And how nice if you can take your husband or the whole family to that one restaurant that you already know.
2. Connect through school
Pick up your kids from school to meet parents at the school gate. You all have so much in common and conversations are so accessible. Join parent’s meetings and school activities. More often the parent’s from your child’s class are united in a group chat on Line or WhatsApp. Join that group and introduce yourself. This also helps to recognize moms at the school gate. Ask your child’s teacher about these group chats.
When I miss you, I re-read our old messages and smile like an idiot.
3. Start a hobby
Take a cultural class like cooking class, dance class, yoga class, language class. Try to find the same activities that you also joined back home. Or that you wanted to join but never found the time to do it. This is your chance to meet people with the same hobbies as you have.
4. Go outside
Go to a park for a walk, take your camera if you like to take pictures. Visit a playground if you have kids. These are very social environments. All the kids can play together and you can have a chat with the other parents. You all have little kids so enough to talk about I think. If you don’t have kids great the people you meet in your walks through the neighborhood and you will see how easy it is to start a conversation. And I know this is scary especially when you are an introverted person like I am but it really is the way to meet other people. You will feel so proud once you step out of your comfort zone and meet your new friends.
5. Connect with other expats online
Families in global transitions.org is a website where you can connect with other people living a globally mobile life. You can become a member and connect with people online. They also have affiliates in many cities and host an Annual Conference in different locations around the world. Take a look at this website and become a member if you like this. There are also other groups to reach out to on social media. Especially on Facebook, you will find these groups to join. Search also for foreign groups in your new country. You are all in the same situation.
6. Join or visit events
If you search on Facebook for these groups in your new country as I told you in tip #5 you will also find more information about events that take place in your area. Especially in the periods around Easter and Christmas, you will find events like markets or places to celebrate together. There are also often groups with photographers who go out for a hike or to visit beautiful spots. These are great opportunities to meet other people.
7. Skype with family back home
Plan a Skype call once a week with family and friends back home. Especially in the beginning, it’s important to share your new life and your thoughts and doubts. Speaking about your feelings works so often as a good therapy session. If you have kids it’s an idea to let them chat with their classmates from their previous school once in a while, or with their best friend. Sharing their life and feelings with their friends also helps to adapt better.
8 Write down your feelings
Write down the things you are grateful for as well as the things you would like to see differently. Make a diary about your feelings. Writing it down and reading it back also helps to make you happier. It’s also nice to write a daily diary about your new life. It is great to have these memories written down in a diary to read back after a few years. Maybe it can even help you if you move to another country and you have to deal with another global transition.
9. Be open to new friendships
New friends will certainly be able to take away some of your loneliness as an expat. Step out of your comfort zone and start a conversation. If you feel a connection with a person that you met somewhere, try to make a lunch or dinner date. Ask him/her if they know a nice restaurant to go to. Show initiative! I know this is scary and awkward but you will feel so proud afterward and you need people around you to survive in a new country. If you are too scared to do this ask for someone’s phone number so you can send a message to reach out to them when you feel ready.
10. Don’t think of expat loneliness only as a negative
Feeling lonely will always be there simply because we love our loved ones. It isn’t always easy to be so far away from each other. Just accept these feelings and keep them negotiable. That will definitely help to adapt easier. For some, it will take a few months to adapt for others up to a year but it will go better. Most expats experience the same feeling so you are not alone in this. Search for help if you want to talk with other women that preceded you in this adventure. We are there to help each other. And once you feel better you can enjoy all the wonderful things about expat life. There are so many positive things about expat life too like exploring new cultures.
Give it some time.
I hope these tips will help you in your fight against loneliness as an expat. New friendships will definitely help you feel less alone. Step out of your comfort zone and try to establish conversations. I never thought I would be able to do this, but I succeeded.
Everything gets better in time.
If you want to connect with other families who live abroad check out this website.
The loneliness you feel is actually an opportunity to reconnect with others and yourself. – Maxime Lagacé –
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Do you have any additional tips regarding loneliness among expats? Or do you want to share your experiences about loneliness?
I’d love to hear them.