Living as an expat brings a whole range of challenges, many of which we may not have anticipated before embarking on this journey.

These challenges show up in various forms and emotions and can feel particularly overwhelming or debilitating in our life abroad.

The challenges that show up can be common to expats and internationals across the board and to many of those that I work with.

But what are those challenges and how do we tackle them effectively when we’ve identified them? Are there common expat challenges? 

The Top 3 Challenges Every Expat Faces - expst psychologist

What are the common expat challenges?

I’ve worked with over 400 expats and whilst every person and every challenge is unique, there are common challenges they face in their life abroad:

1. Loneliness:

One of the biggest challenges we face as expats is the struggle with loneliness. It’s also usually accompanied by shyness, particularly when it comes to meeting new people, learning a new language and adapting to the culture.

Making friends as an adult in a foreign land can be daunting, heightening feelings of isolation and vulnerability.

2. Expat Burnout and Anxiety:

The pursuit of excellence and perfectionism often characterizes expats, who are typically high achievers. We demand a lot from ourselves, however, this relentless drive can lead to expat burnout and anxiety.

The pressure to succeed in an unfamiliar environment coupled with the demands of expat life can take a toll.

3. Feeling Incapable and Lost:

Simple tasks that were once second nature may suddenly become daunting challenges in a new country.

From navigating a doctors appointment or trip to the hairdressers, to everyday activities like ordering a meal in a restaurant.

As an expat it can leave you with feelings of incompetence and insecurity, further complicating your adjustment to life abroad.

The Top 3 Challenges Every Expat Faces - Gabriela Encina - Expat Psychologist Online

Tackling these challenges

At this point, how can we identify these main common expat challenges and how can we tackle them?

What can we actually do about them so we live and enjoy the full experience of living abroad?

Acknowledge and Validate Your Feelings:

The first step in overcoming expat challenges is to acknowledge and validate your emotions.

Allow yourself to feel whatever you’re experiencing, whether it’s loneliness, anxiety, or insecurity. Recognize that these feelings are valid responses to the upheaval of expat life.

Identify Triggers:

Understanding what triggers your anxiety or stress is crucial to managing your emotional well-being.

Whether it’s social situations, cultural differences, or fear of failure, pinpointing your triggers can help you develop coping strategies to navigate challenging situations more effectively.

Practice Mindfulness:

Combating anxiety often involves bringing your focus back to the present moment instead of focusing on the future.

Mindfulness techniques can help you stay grounded and alleviate worries about the future. 

By practicing mindfulness, you can create a greater sense of calm and resilience in the face of uncertainty.

Seek Support:

Recognize that it’s okay to ask for help when you need it.

Whether it’s reaching out to fellow expats who understand your experience or seeking professional guidance from a mental health professional like myself, don’t hesitate to seek support.

Surround yourself with people who validate your feelings and provide a supportive environment for growth and healing.

The Top 3 Challenges Every Expat Faces - Pinterest - Gabriela Encina

Reconnect with Your Values:

Amidst the chaos of expat life, take the time to reassess your values and priorities.

What matters most to you?

Reconnecting with your values can help you regain a sense of purpose and direction, giving a boost to self-esteem and confidence in your abilities.

Define Your Best Self:

Rather than succumbing to external pressures or expectations, define your own version of success and fulfillment in your life abroad.

Identify the traits and qualities that embody your best self, and strive to align your actions with your aspirations.

Navigating the common expat challenges requires self-awareness, resilience, and a willingness to seek support when needed.

By acknowledging your emotions, identifying triggers, practicing mindfulness, and reconnecting with your values, you can overcome the hurdles of expat life and thrive in your new life abroad.

Remember, you’re not alone in this journey, there are resources and communities available to support you every step of the way. Reaching out for help is the first step towards finding a way to make life abroad work for you.

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 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 400 expats overcome anxiety and burnout, build meaningful relationships and enjoy their international lives, wherever they are, wherever they are heading.

Gabriela supports expats in Spanish, English and German and also offers workshops and talks for companies.