Of course being an expat can have huge advantages. You learn to find your way in completely new terrains and cultures and you start relying more on your inner resources. You develop new skills and start gaining new independence. You begin to understand and respect diversity from other cultures and backgrounds and learn to operate more and more out of your comfort zone. You develop empathy for those who go through similar challenges of being an expatriate.
Unless you have been an expat in a new culture, you cannot easily imagine the kind of emotional, social and mental challenges it brings. Being an expat looks easy but it is not. That's why one of the unspoken truths about expats is that they begin to develop empathy for each other. They know something which the native people in their host country will never be able to imagine, unless they have been in a similar situation.
Loneliness is one of the challenges many expats face. From my own experience of having witnessed several expat stints in different countries, here is what I can share as an antidote to expat loneliness.
Don‘t run away from reality. Everything takes a certain time before it can transition into something new. Don't look for immediate shortcuts. Take your time to gain a better perspective. Accept the challenges of stepping into a new culture and country. Trust yourself that gradually it will start to become better. This trust itself will help you immediately.
This is obvious in a way but since it is a helpful point, it should be said again. Beside your work or study, join local clubs, platforms or activities for sports, socializing and meetings. This is where you will not only meet other expats who will be able to relate to your struggles but also locals who can help you get to know your new home.
Too often, you may get the feeling that although you are meeting new people, these friendships are still very superficial. It means that a certain kind of loneliness still exists which needs more than small talk or casual banter at parties or events to be wiped out. In order to relate to people in a more meaningful authentic way, begin by showing more of your real self. These are the people who you will get to know at a level which is more than just casual acquaintance or superficial banter. However, in order to get to know so-called real people, you will have to take the risk of showing your real self.
As an expat finding your way into a new country and culture is a long journey, full of challenges and learnings. But there are also many heartwarming amazing moments along the way. Fasten your seat belts and get ready for the take-off. Sit back, relax and trust that this flight, despite its challenges, will take you where you are meant to go.
Ashish Anand is the founder of Unleash Your Power. He works as an executive coach, author and workshop leader who specializes in discovering and living one's life purpose. Ashish is based in Munich, Germany.
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