Why is moving to a new country hard? I’ve lived in ten different countries and I get asked this a lot. Even if you’re moving to a beach paradise, life abroad can still be tough.
I’ve lived abroad most of my life. For me the benefits far outweigh the challenges. One of the biggest challenges was the mistaken belief that life abroad is not hard. This false assumption is reinforced by others who don’t get it either. How can you complain when you’ve got a cocktail in your hand and sand in your toes? Whether you’re in a hardship location or a beach paradise, life can still get rather complicated.
Life abroad can get really tough. However it’s exactly these challenges which can make it so worthwhile in the long term. You’re not weird – life abroad, wherever you are, whatever your personal situation is, can be a struggle.
For anyone wondering why is moving to a new country hard, here are ten reasons to reassure you.
Why is moving to a new country hard?
- False expectations. The prospect of moving to a new country can be exciting. It can be hard to channel that excitement into an energy founded on realism. We research our new destination expecting delicious food and friendly locals, forgetting the things we’ve had to give up (friends, a job, family…) and the hiccups that come along the way (missed flights, poor accommodation, illness)
- Can’t complain. Perhaps you’re living in a developing country, where most would be delighted to experience your good fortune. Perhaps you’ve been told to thank your lucky stars. Yet, as you fill out your gratitude journal, you can’t help but feel… whisper it… anything but grateful. Yes, you’re privileged, but you’re still human. Moving abroad doesn’t mean you have to feel happy all the time.
- Loneliness. When you left home you waved goodbye to friends with the promise you’d call every week. Yes, you’re catching up over Zoom, yet right now you’re craving real people. You need a hug, not a pixelated screen. The fear of missing out (FOMO) while your friends get together back home is real. Yes, you’re in an exciting new place, but all you can think about is your friends getting together for drinks, wedding parties, dinners out, weekends away… while you order take out for one.
- Career regression. Sure, the pandemic has shaken up the world of remote work, but not all employers are open to relocations, or understand the amount of time needed to find a home, deal with expat admin and settle in. You feel side lined from headquarters, just a distant memory of the HR team promoting your colleagues back home. Factor in language and cultural differences, and finding a job locally can be even tougher. Perhaps you’re not even allowed to work based on the colour of visa stamp. You’re stuck in a dystopian novel dreaming of forgone days in the office.
- It’s exhausting. Long haul flights, house hunting, furnishing a house in record speed, hunting down visa documents with six stamped photocopies translated into five languages signed by an official whose office is closed all day is no mean feat.
- Culture shock. The charm of people acting very different to you wears thin after a while. Yes, you know you should embrace the local lifestyle, you know you’re the guest in their country, but can you just admit you’re tired and you want home-cooked comfort food in front of TV in your own language? Suddenly you’re a child again and the world around you is a mystery. Whether it’s figuring out how to cross the road or what to wear without getting burnt / laughed at / arrested, life abroad can feel horribly topsy turvy.
- It’s expensive. Yes, yes, yes you moved abroad to save money, for a better life, to give your kids a better opportunity… but who knew that moving abroad could get so pricey? Forking out for flights, travel, rent, visas, furniture all while you wait for your first pay cheques to clear can be a very stressful experience. Yes, in the long run, the move might be worth it, but add in unexpected medical bills, undecipherable foreign banking rules and stuff damaged / lost in transit and you’re beginning to wonder. Where did all the $ go?!
- Relationship stress. Kids, Ikea shopping, and life abroad – these are the true tests for any relationship. Life in a new country puts strain on the individual and this can translate itself into the couple. Whether you’re in a long distance relationship struggling to connect over time zones and far away lifestyles, or adjusting to the pressures of the transition to a new life abroad, expater life can make or break relationships.
- Language barriers. Who knew how draining a trip to the grocery store could be in a foreign language? You’ve spent the last half hour on Google translate yet you’re still no closer to deciphering the contents of your supermarket trolley. After weeks of language school alas you still can’t read the local newspaper, understand the radio, or order the food you want in a restaurant. And when you do get to the point that you speak the language well, you still feel a certain disconnect. Speaking a foreign language can be fun, it’s a great confidence builder, but it’s also exhausting.
- New kid syndrome. Fitting in can be tough. Homesickness, adjusting to the new norms, getting to know new people and places – moving abroad can feel uncomfortable at best, traumatising at worst. Expat Child Syndrome (ECS) is a term used by psychologists to describe the emotional stress some children experience upon moving to a new country. It’s not to be taken lightly, and mostly affects children in their early teens, who move somewhere drastically different on a frequent basis. It’s not always fun being the new kid on the block.
If you need help adjusting to your new life abroad, book a free exploratory coaching call. We work together on your personal values and goals, then design a clear, tailormade action plan so you can thrive in your life overseas.
Again, The Expater and its materials are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease or mental health complaint. All material on The Expater is provided for general information purposes only. Always seek the advice of your doctor or a qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition.