Expat adaptation and embarking on a new life abroad as an expat is an exciting yet challenging journey.
As an expat psychologist and helping over 400 expat women and their challenges in expat life, I have a wealth of expertise. But, for those starting their journey I can distill that into two essential pieces of advice as you head into expat adaptation.
I’m delving deep into the nuances of expat life, exploring how to navigate two main challenges of becoming an expat and the homesickness, need to cherish connections, and prioritize mental well-being that all come as part of those challenges.
So, what are my top two tips for starting this new life and thriving in it?
1. Never Forget Home
Embrace Your Roots
One of the prevailing myths about homesickness is the notion that complete immersion in the new country you’ve moved to will erase your feelings or longing for your old home.
My experience as an expat and as an expat psychologist, has taught me the importance of maintaining a connection with your roots.
It’s not about forgetting the old in favor of the new; when it comes to expat adaptation it’s about creating a harmonious balance of the two.
It could be that it’s having a small corner in your new home as a sanctuary filled with reminders of where you’ve come from or your hometown. Through photographs, objects or candles scented with reminders of home, this space becomes a tangible link to where you come from, providing a refuge during moments of homesickness.
The goal is not to resist the new environment but to integrate the old into the fabric of the new, fostering a sense of continuity.
Cherish Long-distance Friendships
Thinking, I should talk less with my friends back home because I need to make new friends?
No, don’t do that. Do the opposite.
While expat integration include forging new friendships in a foreign land is essential, the significance of maintaining connections with friends from home cannot be overstated.
These relationships carry a unique depth, rooted in shared experiences, childhood memories, and a profound understanding of your journey.
Despite the physical distance, maintaining contact and being intentional about staying in touch is important.
In the midst of building a new life, these long-distance friendships serve as a lifeline during moments of homesickness.
They offer a haven of familiarity and understanding, reminding you as an expat that your past is an integral part of your present and future.
The art of staying connected transcends sporadic calls and annual visits. It requires conscious effort and intentionality.
Whether it’s a weekly video call, a monthly check-in, or remembering birthdays, these gestures contribute to the nurturing of long-distance friendships.
In the ebb and flow of life, maintaining these connections becomes a source of strength and resilience.
2. Don’t Isolate: Seek Support and Share Your Journey
Break the Silence
Isolation is a silent companion that can creep into the lives of expats, especially when faced with the challenges of adjusting to a new environment and expat adaptation.
Breaking the silence is a crucial step towards maintaining mental well-being on your road to expat integration. It’s essential to acknowledge that vulnerability is not a sign of weakness but a testament to strength.
I encourage expats to share their experiences, whether with a professional, a trusted friend, or someone who has navigated a similar path.
By sharing your feelings and thoughts, you can lighten the emotional burden and pave the way for soother expat adaptation.
It’s Okay to Seek Help
Dispelling the stigma around seeking help is paramount. As high achievers in a new environment, expats may feel the pressure to handle everything independently.
I understand the reflex because I do it too. I think I can deal with this by myself. I am a strong, capable high achiever, intelligent, ambitious woman and if I can’t, I’m a loser. I’m a failure. I’m not enough. So I will continue trying to deal with it by myself until I can make it.
But that doesn’t happen usually, so your identity is not only that. You can be intelligent, ambitious, capable, high achiever etc. and need help. One doesn’t exclude exclude the other.
Acknowledging that seeking assistance is a sign of strength, not weakness.
If you don’t share you will sooner rather than later be dealing with mental health complications, anxiety, burnout, depression, loneliness etc, in the most extreme scenarios.
These are real concerns that can be addressed more effectively when shared with others.
There’s absolutely no shame in it, and we talk about that with mental health so many times.
You never know people’s stories and it’s it’s very rarely going to be just you going through something.
Be Open to Connection
Strength lies not only in independence but also in the ability to connect with others.
Being open to sharing one’s journey, seeking mentorship, and acknowledging the need for help create a support system that contributes to a smoother transition and expat adaptation, and a healthier state of mind.
It’s a recognition that your identity is multifaceted, encompassing both strength and vulnerability.
As an expat psychologist, ensuring accessibility for those navigating the complexities of life in a new land is important. In the tapestry of expat life, the threads of continuity and connection are woven alongside the threads of independence and growth.
Embarking on the expat journey is a multifaceted experience that requires a delicate balance between embracing the new and cherishing the old. By creating anchors that connect the past with the present, and by actively seeking support and connection, expats can navigate the challenges with resilience and grace.
If your embarking on your life abroad and trying to navigate the challenges that come with it, I’m here to support 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
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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 400 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.