When making the decision to take the plunge and move overseas, you’ll no doubt be faced with many concerns, worries and fear, which may at times mean you experience some confusion and indecision as to if moving overseas is a viable option for you.
One of the biggest fear’s wannabe expats can experience, especially those moving on their own, is the possibility of loneliness – missing family and friends and struggling to make new connections and friendships in a new culture are all very real potential problems.
Loneliness is quite simply a feeling experienced because of being disconnected from others. These feelings can easily be magnified with thoughts of for example, ‘no one cares about me’ or ‘no one misses me.’
We’re social beings and as such we are ‘wired’ to need to belong to a group or community. This dates back to an instinctual survival drive when we once lived as hunter-gatherers and being alone left us more vulnerable to predators and other risks.
It’s natural for expats to experience some level of loneliness when they first move overseas. Not only do you have to completely adapt and adjust to an entirely new culture, but you’re also no longer close to family and familiar friends. This can be further impacted by any language barrier.
Whilst on the surface, the solution to loneliness might seem obvious – i.e. go out and meet new people – this isn’t always as straightforward as it sounds as it can take time to make new meaningful connections.
Impacts of Loneliness
Being isolated and cut off from a community can manifest as feelings of sadness, boredom, worry, depression, demotivation, inward-focus, self-pity, fear, anxiety, and self-consciousness.
When we’re alone with our thoughts, these feelings can quickly become all-consuming. What might be surprising is that when we experience loneliness, it’s not always easy to reach out and the thoughts and feelings can lead to fears of rejection which become a reason not to seek out opportunities to connect.
Steps to Connections
Whilst loneliness may be a possibility you’d rather not experience, it’s well worth preparing for how you might cope if you find yourself in such a situation.
Here are some actions steps you can use to ensure you can stop loneliness in its tracks and transition more easily into your new life abroad.
The first step is to be aware of how you are feeling. Notice any feeling of loneliness as they come up for you. Notice any thoughts of ‘I can’t be bothered, I’ll just stay in’ when you’re feeling lonely.
Be aware that you have choices – will you choose to stay in and feel lonely or will you choose to reach out to connect – even if that is just messaging a friend back home.
Push through fears and doubts by engaging guttural courage. You can do this by challenging thoughts that would be taking you away of your ultimate goal. For example, if your goal is to meet new people, yet your action is to stay at home, ask yourself ‘will this choice take me closer to or further away from my goal of meeting new people?’. These kinds of behaviours are usually driven by fears of potential rejection or judgement. They may feel real, but they are imagined fears, so empower them no more! After all, how often do our imagined fears turn out to be as real and scary as we thought they’d be?
Proactively Seek Resources
Whilst we may feel isolated, with the power of the internet at our fingertips, we’re never very far away from sources of help. There are specific apps, websites, forums and social media groups, all geared for supporting new connections among expats in specific locations and countries around the world. Yes, there are others experiencing similar problems and all you need to do is proactively look for them via the many available means!
Utilise Virtual Platforms
The power of technology to the rescue again! If messages and phone calls aren’t enough, a virtual face to face with a loved one is the next best thing. This may seem an obvious solution but the main thing here is to again be proactive instead of feeling low because no one has reached out to you.
Be sure to schedule regular virtual calls with your parents, siblings and best friends. If you have something to look forward to, you’re less likely to succumb to loneliness.
Learn the Language
Taking action to attempt to learn some of the local language can be a great step to connecting in a non-English speaking Country. It can be easy to think others will speak your language but even if most do, by not speaking the local language you are instantly separating yourself and increasing the chance of fully absorbing and embracing your new culture and lifestyle.
Where possible attend a course in person rather than online, as the potential for finding like-minded friends in these situations is an opportunity not to be missed!
If you have noticed a theme in each of these steps, well done! The theme is, of course, taking responsibility and being proactive rather than allowing circumstances to dictate how things will be for you. So, if you can do one thing to combat loneliness, let it be to choose to be in the driving seat and seek connection at every opportunity.