Overcoming disillusionment in your expat country: Here is our advice!

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Published 2020-05-13 12:00

Moving to a new country for work, studies or simply out of curiosity is often a thrilling adventure. It is the discovery of a whole new world, with exposure to new cultures and sceneries. Often, the first few exploration weeks are dream-like. But unfortunately, the thrill may subside as quickly as it surged – leading to that very specific statement: this is not what you expected! 

The disappointment of your host country can be perceived in various ways :

The urge to fit in

Despite your bonne foi to learn about the culture and traditions of your host country, it might be tricky to keep your own culture unaltered while adjusting to a new one, especially if both cultures are opposites. Hence, to fit in with locals during chats, you might feel the need to give the lie to your values.

Social integration

The myth of social integration is real in some countries, and should therefore not be neglected while moving to another country. Enquiring about your new country of residence is mandatory. In many cases, expats do not ponder over issues such as race and language before moving into some countries, where an accent or a different skin colour, can lead to awkward situations. They are then quickly caught up with reality once they settle in.

Lifestyle comparisons

We always tend to compare one thing to another, and this change in life, as an expatriate is no exception. Comparing your native social and professional lifestyle can make you feel way more homesick. 

These few listed delusions should in no way be a barrier to your fulfilment. 

Hence, to assist you in overcoming your frustrations and adapting to your expatriate status, here are a few integration tips. 

Get in touch with other expats

Connecting with other expats, irrespective if they come from your native country or others one, will help you to integrate. Speaking up about your doubts will make you realise that this is not a singular situation. This friendly network will act as a safe space, where you will be able to open up and learn about the experiences of your fellows. Feel free to join expat societies in your new country, as they often organise events which can help you improve your social circle.

Step out of your comfort zone

Local experiences are a must! Each country is uniquely beautiful, which should motivate you to try out new experiences. Stepping out of your comfort zone means to discover your new country as a local, to learn about its culture and to respectfully understand its people. Building a sense of belonging to the country is the key to integration.

Build up your self-confidence 

Life abroad can easily be a bumpy road. It will take a lot of willpower in overcoming difficult times. It is thus important to build up your self-confidence. You will have to spend some free time building up your self-confidence. It is about learning about acceptance, which means that it is okay to be exhausted from this expat life. 

Thus, to achieve inner peace, here are some book recommendations: 

  1. The Emotionally Resilient Expat by Linda A. Janssen, 
  2. Third Culture Kids by David C. Pollock, Michael V. Pollock and Ruth E. Van Reken 
  3. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

Find a hobby 

Expat life can be so overwhelming and stressful that it can cause you to isolate yourself. It is important for you to find a hobby to look forward to. Dance lessons, art classes, swimming, etc., you name it. This personal time should be your escape from your daily routine. It can also help you bond with locals.

Despite your numerous efforts, expat life in your host country might not work. Shall you feel being emotionally drained for trying too hard, unwelcome due to social integration issues, or shall you feel unsafe physically and emotionally, it might be time for you to go back home. Most importantly, if your inner voice whispers that it’s time to leave, trust your instinct. 

It takes guts to leave your home country, with your family and your routine, to start from scratch in a foreign country. 

Expatriate life was never meant to be easy. Moving to a different country is a new beginning. There are ups and downs, but it is also a life-changing experience.