Expat life can be a rollercoaster of emotions, but one common emotion most expats share is a feeling of loneliness. Loneliness is often an emotion that is only felt a few months after your relocation, because the transition period of moving overseas can be so hectic with finding accommodation, exploring your new city and settling into your new work life. Once you have overcome these challenges and things become a little calmer, you start to miss your family, your network and your old friends.
Is expat loneliness country-specific?
Expats in certain countries report being more lonely than others, but this can depend on many factors. Expats in Germany, whether in small towns or large cities report feeling lonely and this feeling is often magnified by the struggles to learn a new language and integrate into another culture. Expats in Denmark also report that the Danes are the hardest people in the world to befriend and it ranks 61st out of 65 countries when it comes to making people feel welcome.
Without this feeling of ‘welcome’, expats can start to feel very isolated. Isolation is one of the most common reasons for expats giving up living abroad and research shows that women are almost three times as likely as men to say that missing friends and family is the downside to living abroad.
Ways to overcome loneliness
Unfortunately social interaction on its own isn’t always a cure for loneliness. People start to realise, once they have made many new acquaintances that deep down they are still mostly unknown to many people around them and this can heighten the feeling of loneliness. Friendships take time to develop, especially in larger cities. However, there is no disputing that once an expat has created a stronger foundation with the people around them, they start to feel a lot better. In order to build this foundation, expats should:
- Embrace what is
It’s important you acknowledge your feelings and realise that friendship is hard work and will take time. Trust that things will start to gradually get better and that you have the means to build a new group of friends around you.
- Be honest
Lonely expats in Germany acknowledged that one of the things that really helped was speaking about their loneliness to their partners or even a therapist. Being honest about your feelings will help form connections with people who are experiencing the same thing.
- Make meeting people a priority
There is no getting away from it, breaking the cycle of loneliness and isolation does take effort. Sign up for activities where meeting others is inevitable whether this is a mother and toddler group, a yoga class or a social club. If you are fortunate to have an expat club in your city, make a point of visiting it.
- Redefine friendship
Your previous friendships might have grown up supported by many years of shared interests and common experiences. To start relating to people, you might have to change your view on what an ‘ideal’ friend is in order to allow more people into your life.
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