Not Quite the Time of Your Life? Five Things You Need to Know If You Hate Your Time Abroad
For a lot of people moving abroad is a huge success. They fall in love with a new culture, grow in confidence, and gain useful skills. But that’s not the only expat story. There are those who are less enamored with their new lives, always wondering if they should just give up and go back. There’s no quick fix, but here are some things to bear in mind when you regret ever stepping foot on the plane.
It Could Just Be Culture Shock
Before you write off your entire time abroad, it’s worth checking that things are really as bad as they feel – you might just be suffering from culture shock.
Many expats and websites have written about culture shock. It describes the feeling of disorientation and being out of place when you first move abroad. While everything about your new home may be exciting at first, you may find yourself longing for home comforts after a while. Culture shock can make bureaucracy issues or unfriendly locals seem like insurmountable problems, but it will pass eventually — just be patient.
Cut yourself some slack. It takes time to get used to a new place, so give yourself a moment to retreat into the familiar. Watch some TV from back home or head to an international supermarket to get some of your favorite treats. Most expats suffer from culture shock, but once they conquer it they see their area in a new and better light as they settle down and appreciate their new way of life.
Be Honest about How Bad It Is
Despite appearances, other people may also be finding it tough to fit in. It might seem like everyone else is enjoying the country you are slowly coming to hate, but there will be someone else in the same boat.
It is unlikely, however, they will come forward willingly, so it might not be so easy to spot others in the same position. There is something of a taboo around acknowledging that you are not enjoying your time abroad, as if not liking the place you’re living means admitting you’re closed-minded or that you can’t cope in a different culture. In my experience, those who are struggling use ambiguous answers when asked how they are finding their new city: “it’s very beautiful” they might say, or the slightly more telling, “it’s very different to home”. If you start being honest first, you are much more likely to get a genuine reply.
It is easier to deal with problems when you know you’re not the only one going through it. For one thing, it’s comforting to hear someone has the same problems. You are also much more likely to find solutions to your issues and improve your situation overall. Your new friends have probably been through it all before and they may be able to tell you how they dealt with the problems you’re still struggling with.
Get Off Social Media
Watching other people having a good time on social media will make your own troubles feel ten times bigger. Whether your friends also moved abroad and are having the time of their lives, or they stayed at home in the familiar environment you crave, seeing it all through an overly-filtered news feed will only make you unhappy.
What’s more, social media doesn’t tell the whole story. Those pictures of people tucking into local delicacies or exploring unique markets are just a snapshot of their experience. Don’t trust everything you see and don’t resent your friends for being happy — for all you know, they’re just as miserable as you.
Try a Different Approach
Google is most definitely your friend. Like any true millennial, I turned to the internet for answers when I was struggling abroad. Whether you want to find a tandem partner or a group of international friends, the virtual world may be the answer you’ve been searching for. Websites like InterNations can help you meet like-minded people and take part in activities and hobbies that are of interest to you, which might just make all the difference!
Change Your Situation
There is a point when you know that things are not working out. It’s time to admit that this is more than the tricky “settling in phase”. Maybe you haven’t gelled with the country, or you hate your job, or your flat is terrible. Whatever you do try to do to alleviate the problem, it just doesn’t feel right.
Ultimately, the only thing you can really control is what you are doing, so maybe now it’s time to move. Find a new job, find a new flat, find a new city. You might just need a fresh start. It is scary, but it’s not worth sticking with something that doesn’t make you happy.
All of this doesn’t mean you have to go home! Just because you didn’t like it this time, doesn’t mean you won’t find somewhere else that’s a better fit. There’s a whole world out there you’re missing while you’re being miserable, so take the leap and next time you’ll have better luck!
Social Integration: The Responsibility of Expats and Employers
Settling in, feeling at home, and making friends are key to having the time of your life abroad. Employers underestimate the need for social integration of global employees and relocating spouses, and that it’s their responsibility to make it work.