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Expat challenges

sfide in espatrio

sfide in espatrio

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The inspiration for writing about expat challenges came to me from a recent chat with a friend. She has never left her hometown but was interested in learning more about how it feels to move to the other side of the world.  

I took a step back to review the challenges I have faced, and continue to face, and which I think are common to many of us who chose to live in another country. 

  • Manage the relationship with our family of origin

Long distance relationships are never easy and making them work requires special care and attention. When it comes to relationships with family, there are other dynamics that come into play and can potentially damage this balance.

Expectations, resentments, unresolved issues in some cases intensify the distance, making it not only physical, but also emotional.

This contributes to create a fertile ground for feelings of guilt, which can propagate undisturbed, creating a strong sense of hopelessness and anxiety.

  • Loneliness and isolation

Leaving the familiar for the unknown means starting over and embracing all the new and exciting things around us; it implies change and growth, adventure and discovery.

It also means finding one’s place, creating a network that can support us in this adventure, looking for someone who can share our joys and sorrows and enrich our days.

This takes time and energy, precious resources that, particularly at times of change, need to be managed sparingly. 

  • Language and cultural differences

Although my English was not bad, feeling “different”, having an accent and not being able to be completely understood (even from a cultural and social point of view) increased my sense of isolation.

Now I realise that I had lost confidence in myself and, as a consequence, I started to question my ability to communicate adequately.

I had always valued and appreciated differences but now “being different” became an insurmountable obstacle. I wanted to disappear into the crowd, be like everyone else, belong. 

  • Anxiety

What will I do if my parents get sick?

I feel useless.

I can’t do it.

How can I deal with this new job?

I can’t do it.

Where will I ever find friends?

I feel so lonely.

Should I stay or should I go?

Nobody understands me …

This was the whirlwind of thoughts crowding my mind at any given time. I challenge anyone not to be overwhelmed by panic 🙂 

Anxiety, fear and stress are side effects of expatriation and learning to manage them is a constant, arduous and painful job. It takes courage and determination and it can be highly rewarding. 

These challenges are part of our choice to live in abroad. 

In my opinion, to be able to face them we must start by being kind to ourself, recognise our weaknesses and accept those aspects that we cannot change.

In my case I know I am, and always will be, different. My accent is here to stay and so is my need to always carry a cardigan, even in the heat of summer… because you never know 😉

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