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Three Top Tips for the Introverted Expat

It’s easy to assume that only extroverts can be successful expats. After all, striking up conversations with locals, attending events and joining activities, or even just paying at the grocery store require a bit of sociability. Embracing your introverted qualities, though, can be just as effective as having the most outgoing personality.

1. You Don’t Need to Do It All

Before even moving abroad, I was under the impression that scheduling every hour of my free time with activities and meeting new friends would be the best way to get settled in and establish my new life. Still jet-lagged, I filled my first full day abroad grabbing drinks with acquaintances and attending activities around town. Needless to say, I didn’t make any long-term friends this way, and I quickly felt burned out.

Although it is important to get out of your comfort zone, there is no shame in doing your own thing. As introverts, we often need more time to ourselves so that we can recharge. Maybe that means spending an evening lost in a book at a local café or taking a walk through the park and enjoying the sunshine. There’s no point in completely filling your week with meetings and events if you can’t sustain that type of lifestyle. Being flexible with your schedule and taking some time for yourself will give you that extra boost to get out and craft a life in your new home.

2. Confidence Is Key

One of the biggest things I struggled with during my first few weeks abroad was feeling out of place. Even though I speak the local language and have been to this country, and especially this city, multiple times before, there was that aspect of otherness which made it tempting to just stay inside my own little bubble.

A few weeks in, though, it occurred to me how important it is to be confident. It takes time, naturally, to become accustomed to local life — whether it be getting to know the public transportation routes or finding your favorite restaurant. But once you get a handle on the basics of living in your new city, the next best step is to be confident. Whether or not you realize it, you’ve likely already learned much of what you need to know in your first few weeks abroad. The way you think is the way you live, so don’t underestimate your ability to learn and grow in a new country. Even just thinking more positively and walking with your head held high can go a long way in helping you settle in and get out of your comfort zone.

3. Lend a Helping Hand

It’s easy to feel lonely and isolated after first moving abroad, especially as an introvert. But chances are, there are others who feel the same way.

Introverts tend to crave authenticity in how they live their life. Small talk and tedious introductions are not often at the top of an introvert’s wish list. And while introducing yourself to new friends and acquaintances is a given, the best way to dive right into real friendships and make lasting connections is to spend your time with those who need it most.

Whether you help out at a local soup kitchen or spend a Saturday morning with the elderly, there is certainly much authenticity in helping others who feel lonely or isolated just like you. In addition to making meaningful connections, volunteering your time is also a great way to give back to those less fortunate. It can help you realize how small your expat struggles likely are compared to others who may not have enough food or money to live off of.

Perhaps the ultimate piece of advice for the introverted expat is to simply be yourself. Spend your time wisely, both for yourself and for others, doing things you enjoy and doing them with confidence. If you can play to your strengths as an introvert, your expat experience will flourish more than you could have ever imagined.

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