Moving abroad is an exhilarating adventure filled with new experiences and opportunities.
However, amidst the excitement, there is often an underlying loneliness, the need for connection and a sense of belonging.
Especially as an expat you’re often trying to integrate yourself, right?
You’re, you’re trying to learn this new culture, this new language to blend into the surroundings that you find yourself in.
Building friendships as an expat can be both challenging and rewarding, as we discover commonalities and face the realities of cultural differences. These difficulties can make our feeling of loneliness stronger.
In this blog post, I want to explore the journey of connecting with fellow expats, the importance of finding a community, and the significance of staying true to ourselves while navigating the complexities of language and integration and the impact that has on our feelings of loneliness.
The Complexity of Cultural Differences and Language Barriers
The cultural differences between our home country and our host country can significantly impact our ability to form meaningful connections.
From Vienna to Valencia (in my experience), or any other cross-cultural transition, each place brings its own set of norms, values, and social dynamics.
The contrast in cultural “warmth” or “coolness” can influence how easily we integrate and relate to the locals.
As expats we can feel that language barriers further complicate the process, as social interactions and friendships often rely on effective communication.
While some expats find it easier to connect with other expats who speak their native language, forging bonds with locals can be more challenging due to linguistic differences.
These complexities of culture and language barriers can be a big hurdle to overcome on your expat journey.
My Experience with loneliness as an expat
As an expat myself I went through an intense period of loneliness.
I didn’t feel like I belong in Austria. And I, I started to ask why, why am I doing here? I have no job, I have no friends and my relationship wasn’t in the best place.
I didn’t talk about my loneliness with anybody. I was just resented everybody. I was lonely, so it’s their fault.
I wasn’t talking about it so back home when talking to people, of course, everything was fine. My life is perfect.
I didn’t want to worry them, I didn’t want them to think or to see that I was sad because it would worry them.
Meanwhile in Vienna, I was rejecting anybody because I wasn’t seeing the point. It was like an active isolation from my part.
That was my lowest point.
It was really difficult. and it took a lot of self-work to get out of there because I was feeling really, really depressed.
Loneliness doesn’t last forever though.
In my experience, it was because I started to talk about it that I started to work towards a better place.
At the beginning I started to write, I kept journal. I started to put all these feelings and all these thoughts in a journal, and I started to feel more relief about it.
After that, when I felt ready, I spoke with my people in Chile, with my friends.
That was the beginning of a better place.
How to navigate loneliness and find your connections abroad
As an expat feeling loneliness the ‘shoulds’ can creep in.
I should do this. I should contact more people. I shouldn’t feel so lonely here. I should be presenting myrself to people all the time. You want to make a good impression, right? So you’re presenting yourself maybe in a way that you think that the others will like you.
If you don’t meet your own expectations and you’re presenting yourself in a good way you feel lonelier because you’re frustrated and you feel that you are not good enough for these people.
It’s like a vicious circle.
But it’s really complicated to get out of there because you are demanding so much of you. When you don’t get what you want in terms of meeting people, it’s your fault. You think it’s your fault, and the feeling of isolation, it’s worse.
So how do we navigate these intense feelings of loneliness as an expat?
Loneliness often sets in for expats after the initial excitement wears off, and the reality of being far from home sinks in. It’s essential to be patient with ourselves and persistent in our efforts to meet new people in our own way.
Embrace You: It sounds cliche but just be you, be the way you were at home. Trying to integrate with the local culture is a natural desire for many expats. However, it’s crucial not to lose sight of who you are and the aspects of your personality that make you unique.
Embrace your true self, even if it means deviating from cultural norms or social expectations. Authenticity attracts like-minded individuals who appreciate us for who we are.
Pursue Your Passions: Taking part in activities and hobbies we love is an excellent way to meet people who share our interests. Whether it’s joining a club or participating in cultural activities, finding communities centered around our passions can create a solid foundation for building connections. Even if your hobbies are solitary ones, for example reading. You could join a book club, read the book alone and then meet up with your group to comment.
Openness: Expanding our social circles requires us to be open to meeting new people, even if they don’t fit our initial expectations. People may surprise us, and friendships can develop unexpectedly. Giving others a second chance and investing time in getting to know them can lead to fulfilling connections.
Language Imperfections: Being fluent in a the language is not a prerequisite for forming meaningful connections. Making mistakes while speaking the local language is natural and shouldn’t deter us from trying to communicate. People who genuinely want to connect will make an effort to understand us, regardless of language barriers.
Navigating loneliness low points
Expat life has its highs and lows, and loneliness can sometimes reach its peak.
How can we navigate these peaks?
- Sharing with friends at home and family
- Talking to those around where you live
- Learn what you want
It’s essential to acknowledge and address these feelings by seeking support from trusted friends, family, or an expat psychologist.
Sharing our struggles with others can alleviate the burden and help us find strategies to overcome loneliness.
As a psychologist with years of experience working with expats I understand the unique challenges you are facing.
I know living as an expat can be a challenging and overwhelming experience, but you don’t have to struggle with loneliness or other emotional difficulties alone.
Reaching out for help is the first step towards healing. Book a consultation with me today, and we can work together to develop strategies and coping mechanisms to help you navigate the expat experience.
Find out more about my methods and approach here.
Do you want to know more about on how to overcome Limiting Beliefs of life abroad? Check my Workshop here
Searching for useful and effective strategies? Download my 9 Tools to overcome Expat Anxiety Freebie
Want your 30-Minute Free Consultation? Book Here! and let’s start the road to the expat life YOU want to live!
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By your side,
If you are an expat woman who wants to live a joyful, successful and fulfilled international life, Gabriela is the Licensed Psychologist and Mentor you need.
She helps you reclaim your self-confidence back and design your expat life in your own terms. Gabriela has more than 20 years of professional experience, speaks 3 languages (sometimes in one sentence, like you!) and has supported more than 350 expats overcome anxiety and burnout, build meaningful relationships and enjoy their international lives, wherever they are, wherever they are heading.
Gabriela offers counseling to expat women in Spanish, English and German.