Starting a new life abroad is an exciting time. The move brings new career opportunities, an improved quality of living and better weather. So far so good. But settling into a new country can also bring with it a mixture of negative feelings and pressures.
Why Staying Connected is Crucial to Expat Happiness
Culture shock can take hold. It can be striking how different the work environment and social structure of a new country can be. The way colleagues do business, dress and conduct meetings can be a revelation. Equally, the way neighbours interact, or the way husbands and wives treat each other, can be different to the ‘norm’ you are used to.
When everything feels strange, one of the biggest issues for any expat is battling with feelings of isolation or loneliness. The lack of a familiar support network can make even the smallest problem seem insurmountable. They key to banishing these feelings is staying connected with friends and family – either in person, or through technology.
Skype and FaceTime make talking to people back home both easy and cheap. Arranging a specific time each week to speak to them brings a sense of routine to this contact. Keep a diary so that you can remember all the things you want to share with them, good and bad. Colourful chats make distant friends and family feel a part of your new life.
Getting out there
If you have a job, make a point of grabbing lunch with colleagues or arranging after work drinks. It takes time and effort but slowly you will begin to open doors to new friendships. For home-based expats, talking to a neighbour, pursuing a hobby or joining a sports club are proactive ways to make you feel integrated and give you something to look forward to.
Work at relationships
Relationships can come under strain when you’re in a new environment. Any small weaknesses in a marriage, or in your relationships with your children, can be magnified by the stress of a move abroad and feelings of displacement.
In some cases, problems arise when roles are changed. Maybe you both worked back home, but now one of you has taken on more domestic or childcare duties. This can cause resentment, especially if the person going to work is finding friends and the other isn’t.
The key to overcoming these blips in relationships is to keep talking. Make sure you maintain honesty and don’t try to brush emotions under the carpet. Talk to each other first and, if problems persist, to a professional. Relationships Australia offer family and relationship counselling whilst the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy offers a database of practitioners and general information.
It can also be helpful to research around the common issues expats face – and draw on the experience of others in similar situations. Thankfully, there are lots of websites and blogs to refer to – and expat communities on social media to join. In this digital age, there is less reason than ever to feel alone.
Establishing yourself into a new country, making new friends, building relationships with work colleagues, exploring new hobbies and interests and throwing yourself into social and community life can be … simply exhausting! Sometimes, you need a night off to recharge and surround yourself with home comforts.
For these occasions we recommend: PJs, your favourite British shows on TV, a cup of Tetley tea and a packet of custard creams. Make sure you use British Corner Shop to keep your favourite tastes of home stocked up.
PSS International Removals is a family run company, which provides a friendly, professional service. PSS has specialised in international removals for over 34 years. For useful articles and tips on moving to other countries and life as an expat, please read the PSS blog, like its Facebook page and follow its Twitter profile.