As exhilarating as travel can be, it can also toy with your emotions a bit, especially if you’ve relocated for a job to a new country like so many expats do. You likely gave the move some careful consideration before deciding to take the plunge, but even so, you’re bound to bump up against some unexpected emotions in the process. Before you get thrown off by them and throw in the towel on your experience, read through our handy guide. Trust us, we’ve been there!
Early Stages of Expat Life
When you first move, it’s likely your main emotion is excitement and anticipation! New city, scenery, people, foods, language, sights, the works! You may be the envy of your friends and family back home. You were given an opportunity to work abroad and you ran with it. That’s to be commended as it’s very brave and not everyone is capable of taking on such a big change.
During those early weeks of expat life, you can’t take enough pictures and your social media is lit. You may be seeing your new locale through rose-colored glasses: the sun shines a little brighter, the pastries taste sweeter and the coffee is stronger. Everything is better over here! The novelty of your new location is special and each day there is something unique that you discover or appreciate, like when shopping in Australia I learned of Sundowner apples (I swear I could literally “taste” the sun in them) that could only be found there and they quickly became my new favorite. Savor these special moments and just enjoy it all. You may want to keep a journal and record your experiences.
At about three months to six months, you may be feeling some grief or sadness. Maybe you’re just feeling out of sorts and missing your friends and family back home. You may see photos of gatherings and experience FOMO. This can be particularly challenging on your birthday or holidays when you don’t have your usual crew around you. A good strategy is to accept that these important days won’t match what you’re used to and that’s to be expected and is perfectly normal. Be proactive about planning for these special days, even if you spend them alone. Find a couple things that make you happy, like a special meal or movie. Your time abroad can be both experiences at the same time – a positive one overall while you simultaneously feel some sadness.
Day to Day Strategies
In time, you’ll find a routine, which is key to mental health and helping maintain emotional stability. Some people are very sensitive to changes in weather, so if you’re in a cloudy or dark climate for the first time, you may feel a dip in your morale. A good vitamin D supplement or sun lamp can be helpful. If you’re introverted, pace yourself so you don’t get too overstimulated by all the newness of your location. This can cause emotional breakdowns and you don’t always realize that it’s simply because you haven’t had enough down time. Take a couple days a month where you stay in all day, watch bad reality tv, veg out and give your psyche a rest. See how much better you feel! If you’re an extrovert, your approach should be the opposite as your mood will start to flag with too much alone time. Seek out new friends through work, clubs or sports so you get the social time you crave.
We’d also be remiss if we didn’t point out that language barriers can be very frustrating and lead to isolation. If you find you’re not taking to the new language as quickly or smoothly as you’d hoped, it’s worth it to invest in yourself and the language learning process. Contact us to see what options are available to you to become more fluent.
When in doubt, you can usually shake off some unpleasant moods with the old stand-by’s recommended by professionals: exercise, meditation/prayer, gratitude journals, eating healthy and limiting sugar. These techniques go a long way to stabilizing your emotions, no matter what part of the globe you’re on!
Moving abroad brings on a lot of emotions. Just know that it’s part of the process and you’re definitely not alone. Fluctuating emotions are all very normal when undertaking such a large change. Go easy on yourself! You can weather the ups and downs.
Fluency Corp can help your employees and their families assimilate to their country, city and neighborhood through private English lessons (or other languages) in home, in office or online. We transform communication with employees and their families so the success of international relocations are greatly increased. For a free consultation, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or (800) 401-3159. Read success stories at fluencycorp.com/testimonials/.