Learn what are the things that all expats are tired of hearing over and over again. If you’re an expat, I’m sure you are going to relate. And if you’re a friend, family or co-worker from an expat, please bear in mind and not say these seven phrases and learn what to say instead!
Living abroad is a beautiful experience, and it’s filled with adventures, new people, new experiences, but it’s also tricky, and it has its dark sides.
We experience those wonderful things, but also stress, depression, funk, overwhelm, loneliness. We have to face those things, too. When we hear those phrases, it becomes more and more frustrating, and we feel misunderstood.
Please don’t say this to an expat. Expats are tired of hearing this 7 Phrases:
1.- You live in continuous holiday
Some people believe that we expats live in a constant holiday; every day is to rest or explore and discover different things. That is partially true. Sometimes we have these opportunities to travel around a new country or the countries surrounding it.
It is also a fact that we have an everyday life.
Expats have to work, support our partner, take care of the kids, make new friends, learn the language, adapt to the new country.
We deal with similar tasks you are dealing with and additional challenges that you may not be familiar with: Culture shock and language adaptation. And from that, other struggles are adding like loneliness, anxiety, demanding too much from ourselves.
Please, don’t assume that we live along a never-ending holiday because it is not like that.
2.- At least you get to live abroad
This is a difficult one because it is also associated with toxic positivity . At least it’s not helpful, is not comforting.
We know we’re lucky. We know we are presented with a great opportunity. But that doesn’t diminish that we are feeling unpleasant feelings.
We are dealing with tough challenges sometimes. We don’t need for you to say “at least you get to live abroad” or “you should be thankful” or “you should be grateful.”
That’s not helpful. That’s not useful. It creates an effect of rejection from us and for you, too.
3.- You chose to go away, so deal with it
We are very aware of our decision. If an expat moved abroad, they know that the choice was conscious and their choice. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t need reassurance, a helping hand or an ear from someone we love. Yes, we are dealing with it as well as we can, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t need you.
Try to listen to what we have to say and do not dismiss it or diminish it with deal with it. That’s not enough.
4.- You are gone; it is not of your business anymore
If we move, that doesn’t mean that we don’t care about the country’s situation or our family or our dear friend.
If we want to make it our business: political situation, family affairs, our friends having troubles, that is indeed our business.
If we hear, “is not your business anymore because you went away,” it hurts deeply like a knife into the heart.
Please include us as well, maybe not directly, but if we have an opinion and we want to share it with you, listen to us. It is crucial for us expats to have a piece of us still there in our home country.
5.- I know this person from (your home country) living in (your host country), do you know them?
That happened to me all the time when I moved to Austria. I’m from Chile, and everyone I knew that knew someone from Chile, were sure that I knew this person.
“I know someone from Chile; do you know her, do you know him?” As if in Chile, we all knew each other. That’s very typical for people to say, and that’s nice; they often meant it positively. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not annoying because, of course, most likely we don’t know this person.
6.- You should only befriend locals
Unsolicited advice is irritating, especially from someone who doesn’t know the reality of being an expat. It is even more upsetting saying it as if it was easy.
As expats, we deal with the challenges of loneliness, isolation and making friends from wherever they are. It isn’t easy, especially if you’re an adult.
Befriending the locals can be more challenging:
- Maybe we don’t speak the language or feel secure enough to speak that local language.
- More often than not, locals are not that open to meet new people or make new friends. Maybe they don’t have the time or space or the energy to understand the expat lifestyle.
It can be tough to befriend locals. Please don’t say that lightly.
7.- When are you coming back home?
Home. That’s a complicated and tricky question because whatever we say is usually not the right answer, is not what the other person wants to hear.
It is a question that puts us under much pressure. We probably don’t know if we want to come back and if we come back, we don’t know for how long, how long we are going to stay there. It is very individual, and it depends on many factors, not only our decision, we have to involve kids, partner, job, etc. It’s not just that I want to come back or not.
Asking that to a person who doesn’t know precisely when or how or if they want to come back or not, it’s not recommendable.
Expats are tired of listening to all these phrases. But I have a solution for you!
What to say to an expat?
How are you doing?
Is there something I can help you with?
Do you need me to listen?
Do you want to be in contact?
Do you want me to call you?
Those are the things that expats want to hear. They need contact and connection with people they love and with people who love them.
Be there for them, and do not throw unsolicited advice. Ask them how they are doing, how they cope with the stress and dares of life abroad. Because living abroad is not only sugar, honey and beautiful things, it is also very demanding, challenging and stressful.
If you are an expat and need support in this or other challenges of living abroad, contact me. As an online psychologist specialized in expat women living abroad, I can help you work through these struggles and identify productive ways to manage this significant transition and journey.
Take the reins now and live a fulfilled and happy international life, wherever you are, wherever you are heading!
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Still not sure about making the next move? Read the testimonials of my clients living the life abroad they want!
By your side,
Gabriela Encina is an online psychologist specialized in expat women and supports them with the guidance and tools they need to feel confident, make the best decisions for their lives, build and maintain meaningful relationships and prioritize their well-being.
Her approach is practical, solution-oriented and focused on the present.
Gabriela offers counseling to expat women in Spanish, English and German.