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Facing up to the challenges of being an expat

By July 27, 2017October 3rd, 2023FinGlobal

Facing up to the challenges of being an expat

July 27, 2017


A recent survey by Aetna International, a managed American health care company, has revealed that there has been a sharp increase globally in claims for help with mental health issues when it comes to expats working overseas. The biggest increase was seen in Europe, which saw a 33% increase. In the Middle East and North Africa, the increase was 28% and for the Americas it was 26%. In south-east Asia, mental health claims rose by 19%.

Despite the increase in claims, Aetna’s medical director said that the trend was a positive sign as it shows that the awareness of mental health as an important issue is increasing.

Mental health tips for expats

The reality of being an expat

Expats who not only leave their homes, but their countries and embrace new work opportunities and cultures are vulnerable to mental health issues. Moves like this cause huge amounts of stress and only the most resilient person wouldn’t feel some type of mental tension or stress, which can lead to depression if not addressed.

One of the biggest issues for expats who are away working on an assignment, is being away from their friends and family. Research from AXA PPP International, a global health insurance company, shows that 40% of people find being away from friends and family was the biggest difficulty they had to face and 20% of expats said they struggled to make friends while on assignment. 32% of expat’s children said they found being away from their support network difficulty, no matter where they were relocated, or the nationality of the country they moved to.

Failure to prepare for well-being

Many expats who relocate plan everything down to the finest detail, taking care of their finances, accommodation and education for their children. What they often fail to address and prepare for is their well-being in their new country.

The importance of realistic expectations

Despite the many benefits expats experience from moving overseas in terms of career and financial advancement, many expats fail to realise that it can take six months to a year for them to settle into their new home. Personality also has an important role to play in this – some people find change easier to cope with than others. Expats who have more realistic expectations about the length of time it will take to settle are more prepared to accept the stress and challenges they’re facing – and see it as part of the journey rather than reality.

Other tips include:

  1. Stay healthy, eat well and do regular exercise. Take frequent walks around your neighbourhood, not only will it help you feel better, you’ll also start to feel more settled as you become familiar with everything around you.
  2. Find something you really enjoy about your new country – it could be the food, the weather, the scenery, the people. Once you have something to appreciate, you’re on the road to feeling better.
  3. Keep in touch with your friends and family via Skype. Chatting about your new life will help put it into perspective and you can laugh about and commiserate together about any challenges you’re facing.
  4. Plan things to look forward to. This could be a weekend away to another part of the country, a new restaurant or a picnic in the park. Having things to look forward to helps keep you more positive.
  5. Find other expats – many expats make the mistake of thinking the quickest way to ‘assimilate’ is by having only local friends. While getting to know the locals is important, having friends who can relate to what you are going through plays a big role in adjusting more easily. Not only will they empathise with you, they will often have suggestions, based on their own experiences, on how you can best tackle the issues you are facing.

If you are thinking of immigrating abroad and need any advice about your financial migration, contact us today and we’ll help you on the path to financial freedom in your new home.
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