One of the biggest challenges of an expat lifestyle is feeling disconnected – from the life you leave behind, from people and events in your current place of residence, from family and old friends back home, and even from those who surround you. If you are an expat right now, how strong is the feeling of being disconnected in you on a scale of 1 to 10? Are you somewhere between 4 and 10?
If you are, read on and let me know if these eight mistakes resonate with you!
Mistake 1. You have very high expectations that people back home will continue to want and initiate consistent interaction with you. We all miss our friends/family when we move, but face it – we left. They stayed behind and they moved on with their lives. They’ve substituted the vacuum you left in their lives with something/someone else and they are doing just fine. It’s harder for you, of course, because you are the new kid on the block. Sure they’ll be there for you when you need them, but for heaven’s sake – don’t expect them to get in touch with you as often as they did in the past – and don’t sulk if they don’t. Remember that it’s now up to you to initiate and maintain contact. You are the one who has left.
Mistake 2. Somehow, somewhere you’ve decided that making new friends isn’t your strength. Fair enough – some of us are more outgoing than others, but make sure you realize that perspective is everything. It colors the lens you use to look at the world. So if your current perspective is “I suck at making new friends”, you will suck at it. Change your perspective and you’ll be surprised to see how things change around you.
Mistake 3. You decided that you only want strong, intimate connections and you are not interested in anything else. It’s your choice, of course, and there is nothing wrong with wanting to create lasting friendships. But are you sure you are giving everyone a chance? How do you know that someone who doesn’t seem “the material” now isn’t going to turn into a dear friend? Stranger things have happened in the world. Make sure you are open to every possibility that comes your way.
Mistake 4. You think your to-do list is too long and you just have no time to get out and get to know people. It’s a classic one – how many times have we used our to-do lists as an excuse not to do something that seems challenging, uncomfortable, or scary to us?
Mistake 5. You take trips home every 3-4 weeks for a vacation, just a visit, or… just because. Another classic – and another very strong reason for not feeling connected either at home or at your new place of residence. Commit to one of those places and grow your connections there.
Mistake 6. You feel uncomfortable chatting up to people because your language skills are not perfect. This may be a good place to train yourself to let go of expecting yourself to be perfect – in languages and anywhere else. Besides, how else would you improve your speaking ability if not by speaking to people?
Mistake 7. You engage in unfavorable comparisons of your current place of residence with home (or with the one you left). We all heard that the “grass is always greener on the other side”, but guess what? Yours would be green too if you only watered it enough. So forget about how your new home doesn’t stack up to your previous home and stop the comparisons. Instead find the beauty where you are.
Mistake 8. You use social media like there is no tomorrow. Lots of people adore Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc, etc, etc (I don’t even come close to knowing all the social networking sites out there), but life still mostly happens on the outside and the connections you make on the outside are the ones that are going to nurture you. Your 1000+ friends on Facebook will forgive you if you engage in the outside world. So what are you waiting for?
Which mistakes resonate with you? And what additions may you have?
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