8 mistakes expats make that can leave them feeling disconnected

by Margarita

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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19 responses to “8 mistakes expats make that can leave them feeling disconnected

  1. I’m guilty of a lot of these!

  2. Pingback: Feeling disconnected « Housewife Down Under

  3. Guilty as charged. Great post.

  4. Great and very timely post!! Thank you!!!

  5. Nice post. Timely also. A lot better than the smack in the head I’ve been beginning to think I needed.

  6. Great post ! Reblogging. Thank you !

  7. Thanks for this. So obvious in many ways but you need to see these things in black and white so that a) you don’t make excuses for not trying and b) to know you are not alone!

  8. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant. And so very true. Am off to link to it immediately – everyone should read this one!

  9. Good post, but very easy to say and depends greatly on where in the world you are an Expat. Living in Saudi, the reality is that the grass IS greener back home!! Coming back to another 10-12 weeks away from the UK sucks and there is NOTHING that one can do about that, other than make the most of what little we DO have out here!

    • GlobalCoachCenter

      Thanks, Paul, for your comment. If you are making the most of what you have — that’s already SOMETHING you are doing. 🙂

  10. Paul, I know too well what you mean. My husband was in Saudi for a long period once. After despair and many many books (I could hardly mail them fast enough…) he started to exercise (had never ever even owned trainers before…). It was a big change in his life, and one that has endured and carried on as a habit and a hobby. Sometimes it’s the last thing you would do at home – and a good one at that!

  11. Thanks for a kick up the backside – especially in winter!

  12. A very good list, starting with #1. My friends ‘back home’ and I miss each other, stay in touch sporadically and see each other evert other year when I go back for a visit. But your words helped underline the subconscious subtle feeling that we’re the ones who left them behind. Thanks for the mind shift on this one.

  13. This is an excellent article. I am living in Brazil and I am guilty of making all 8 mistakes. I hope to learn from my next re-location experience… it’s too late for me here now.. I just want to leave which should be soon. Great article!

  14. Interesting post forwarded to to me (the house husband) and my wife (the diplomat) by my father-in-law. We’ve been on the road a couple of years (Hong Kong for the last 12 months) and have made perhaps half-a-dozen new friends in total. I think we’ve finally accepted that we’ll never again experience the instant, ‘friend-of-friend’ networking we took for granted in our Manchester social life. We’re also quick to remind ourselves that circumstances change back home – e.g. friends settle and have families – and this stops us getting caught up in ‘what ifs’.

    Looking forward to reading more of your posts.

  15. I am late on reading this one, as I have very intermittent Internet connections, but yes, an excellent summary of what we go through. I am, luckily, a voluntary expat and have been for about 20 years, now in Argentina after Africa, and needing to put down roots. I am in a gorgeous place, but the only person near to me who speaks English is my collie puppy. Well, at least she pretends to understand. I know I have a lot of work left to do to become a part of my small mountain village, yet it IS what I wanted, so it is up to me. I’ll keep this post to remind me to stay at it. (“Fake it until you make it?”). Thanks for putting into words what most of us experience.

  16. My guiding principles for expats everywhere are:

    Be prepared for a culture shock and show respect for the country you have chosen to move to.

    Do what you can to integrate and engage you hosts. Learning the lingo, at least conversationally, will really help (here I have failed miserably).

    Understand where you are: learn a little history and if there are English language newspapers, read them.

    Keep the brain cells active: if you don’t have a job, develop some interests to fill your days.

    Leave the whitewashed ghettos and go explore your new country.

    Don’t rush into instant, life-sapping friendships with other expats; think emotional resilience and choose carefully.

    Stay sober, at least part of the time.

    And finally, a prerequisite for every expatriate…

    …the wisdom of Solomon and the patience of a saint.

  17. Pingback: 58. What Do Expats Do All day? « The Diplomat’s Fiancé

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