Top challenges when living abroad & how life coaching & EFT can help
Sometimes people imagine moving abroad and expat life as some romantic fairy tale filled with exotic vacations, delicious street foods, and unique apartments or old traditional streets. Sure, it CAN be that way! There are days when I walked around Beijing thinking: holy moly, this is amazing! I live in China! I'm sure to any of my friends abroad, my life looked like one giant adventure filled with things some people would never experience in their lives. And expat life is incredible. I wouldn't have chosen it any other way. However, for those of us who know, we understand very well that expat life isn't all roses. In fact, it comes with its own set of challenges.
"And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom."
— Anaïs Nin
Maybe you're thinking of moving to another country or planning to go abroad for some time to work or study for an extended time. In any case, it's good to prepare yourself as much as possible so you don't get caught off guard. It will help you plan much better. In any case, leaving your country and settling in a new one can present us with some challenges. These changes can sometimes be difficult to cope with and cause added extra struggles to expat life. To be clear, expat life isn't harder, it's just different than when you're in your own country with the support of your friends and family.
Nonetheless, knowing some common problems in advance can help you better prepare and understand the pros and cons of moving abroad. Let's take a look at some common difficulties expats face when living abroad in a foreign country.
“It seems that the more places I see and experience, the bigger I realize the world to be. The more I become aware of, the more I realize how relatively little I know of it, how many places I have still to go, how much more there is to learn” - Anthony Bourdain
For most of us, one of the comforts of being in a familiar environment 'at home' where you were raised and educated within a familiar culture along with the traditions of our country gives us a sense of stability, certainty, knowingness. We know how to get around, we can go ask someone if we get lost or stuck, and we're familiar with all the cultural norms. Not to mention, we probably have friends and family that are easy to reach who can help you out when you need it. You might not always agree with certain cultural norms but you at least understand the mannerisms, habits, behaviors of the people and of course you understand the language. These practices and traditions have been ingrained in your personality. Now, you're moving away and putting yourself in a whole new environment that has completely different cultures than what you used to be.
Plus, simple things that you did without thinking about it become infinity harder in another country when you can't speak the language and you don't have friends and family around to help you. How do you get a SIM card? How do you set up your internet? What if you break your computer screen and need to get it fixed? What job sites work best for your industry? There are smaller things as well, like: is that yogurt, milk, or buttermilk in that carton? Is that shower gel or conditioner?
This can create difficulties in terms of adapting to the locals of that area. Your interests may not match, you might stand out physically due to size, race, clothing, or maybe you stick out since you don't know or understand behavioral traditions in the new country. You might feel very foreign and this can feel very uncomfortable, especially if it's hard to blend in. Feeling so different can cause challenges adjusting to a whole new lifestyle with a different language, society, cultural norms than you're used to.
Writing and sometimes speaking in a foreign language is acceptable, but having to speak in that language for an extended period of time on a daily basis can be difficult, especially if you are not well versed in that language. It can be exhausting and let's be honest, it can be downright frustrating when you really need something simple, not to be able to express yourself for basic things when you first move abroad.
In many cases, unless you're moving to a country that speaks your language or one of the most spoken languages, this can create obstacles to friendship with the locals and can also exhaust you due to the constant attention and pressure you have to put on yourself when you speak about small things or complex topics. You may experience culture shock due to how everyone communicates differently. Many times, locals are more than happy to be patient and flexible with how you're expressing yourself, and they'll do their best to understand you. Unfortunately, this is not the case everywhere. I have had both situations. In China, I have definitely humiliated myself trying to say the words, 汽车站 in the right tone when I first moved there, and failing miserably. Qi che zhan means train station, but because I said the tones wrong, he had no idea what I was saying until I acted out, 'chugga chugga chugga chooo chooo.' Yes, really. He looked at my backpack and suddenly, the context fell into place and he knew I was heading to the train station. Ug. He called over the other taxi drivers to watch my amusing spectacle. Yep.
These days, it's so much easier because you can study virtually with online language classes such as Expat Language School. They offer affordable, convenient online courses and tutoring to prepare you for your big move or help you once you've already moved. Not knowing the language causes so many challenges so learning at least a basic level of fluency is so important.
There are many sides to expat life. There is thrill of newness and excitement, exotic locations, new experiences. You can have feelings of bliss, freedom, and feeling alive. This is what most people imagine when they think of moving abroad. However, there are also downsides that come with moving abroad to another place - loneliness. In some countries, it can be easy to make friends. In some countries, meeting locals and other expats is really easy and you will have tons of new activities and a new social calendar. In other places, you might feel very alone, especially in a totally new culture where you look or dress very differently than the local people, have very different beliefs, or maybe your work schedule is so full that you really don't have much time to get out and meet new people.
“Real loneliness is not necessarily limited to when you are alone.”
― Charles Bukowski
And still, one of the main reasons for loneliness is having difficulty communicating and not being able to adapt. You may find it difficult to make friends and talk to new people, especially if you're shy or don't feel comfortable in another language, expressing yourself. Some people find it difficult to cope with this and resort to staying home alone instead of putting themselves out there to meet new people.
Once you're alone in a new country or even if you move to a new place with your partner (who might be working all the time), it's suddenly much harder to meet peope, especially without your usual friend groups or activity partners you usually enjoy. This can cause isolation, loneliness and sometimes even depression. It's no secret for most expats or people who live abroad that the last two years have been even harder with the global pandemic and the lockdowns as so many people have been unable to take part in the social activities with others that they once enjoyed. Plus, bot kmowing when you're able to see family again can really take an emotional toll as well.
Visa & Financial difficulties
Moving to a new country can be a very costly decision and also come with extra stressful challenges when it comes to visas or work permits. Finding a new home, being able to afford bills, managing diet and resources can be an expensive undertaking. In some countries, you have to pay several months of rent plus one or two months of deposit before you can even move in. Plus, let's not forget furnishing a flat or house can also be very expensive as well. You might not have a lot of extra money to go out places, especially in cities where restaurants, bars, and other activities are very costly.
Also, taxes and handling can be a nuisance if you're not familiar with that country's customs. You will need to take financial advice and plan your expenses properly. This can create unfortunate oversights when it comes to whether or not you need to file, how to do it, etc.
Furthermore, figuring out bureaucracy in a different country when it comes to visas can be a nightmare even when you have someone to help you. It can cause a lot of worries, extra stress, uncertainty, and unexpected challenges that can be difficult to deal with. It's not always easy to stay positive when these things come up and sometimes extra guidance from supportive people can be espevcially helpful during this time. One time, I had 13 hours before midnight to take a flight back to Hong Kong in order to get my Chinese visa and that cost me several months salary to fly suddenly, stay there in Hongkong several days, and it drained my savings unexpectedly.
It's hard to advise on how to plan for these things since sometimes the best thing you can do is just prepare but things come up, read forums, expat or digital nomad websites to try to understand the latest rules or restrictions.
Finding an appropriate home
Moving abroad can mean that you have to say goodbye to a comfortable home you love or you're comfortable space. Moving to a new country and getting your own home instantly is almost impossible so it's important to prepare yourself in the case that you might need to stay in an AirbnB or a hotelm for an extended period of time. For others, you may have to live in an apartment or suburban areas outside the main points of interest until you are able to manage a home (whether apartmtent or house) on your own. Depending on where you live, you may even face security concerns if you're living outside the city or even in an area downtown.
People often share apartments to avoid costs. This can be quite an adjustment for people who are not used to living with roommates sharing a kitchen or bathroom, especially when they're used to having their own place. In many parts of the world, having a roommate until you live with a partner is pretty normal while in other places, after you're at a certain age, it's seen as odd to live in a shared flat. Nevertheless, the apartment or house hunting can be stressful, especally if you've already started a new job and you're expected to show up 100% every day and you have to house-hunt in the evenings.
Why personal growth is something that you CAN control
You have the chance to process everything in the best way possible considering each challenge as a chance to grow and to know yourself from a unique different perspective. Embarking on a personal growth journey is the best thing you can do to explore all options you have while learning to listen to your struggles and to your inner voice with no masks. Why? It's sometimes the only thing you can control.
Living abroad is one of the best ways to really learn about yourself, empower yourself, and the world. The more you experience the ups and downs of life abroad, the more you'll also learn your own strengths and weaknesses. Being able to understand your own thoughts and beliefs better in terms of others in your environment helps solidify them or allows you to question beliefs you might have merely taken for granted as universal.
Life abroad will test you at times, but studies such as one performed by Harvard Business Review state that:
In the study we just described, we found evidence that people’s self-discerning reflections—musings on whether parts of their identity truly define who they are or merely reflect their cultural upbringing—are a critical ingredient in the relationship between living abroad and self-concept clarity."
"Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving."
— Terry Pratchett
How life coaching and EFT tapping can help:
Moving abroad can be an exciting new journey, but it also has its fair share of challenges. Considering a few things before making this decision can help you devise a more appropriate approach so that your time abroad can be more fulfilling, comfortable, and productive.
Life coaching and EFT tapping can help you process any emotional and practically stressful conditions. You just need a real desire and commitment to change so that you can move forward to get out of your comfort zone. Moving abroad is a huge step and many people feel overwhelmed at the beginning, especially when it comes to social isolation, cultural differences, or adjusting to a working environment in another country with totally different workplace norms.
With this in mind, life coaching online adopts a dialogue-oriented style while with the EFT tapping you will be emotionally free and able to live a happier mindful life. Life coaching helps people living abroad with personal or professional challenges, including emotional, cultural, mental, etc. Life coaching helps to define goals to shed light on the resources needed to embrace the best version of yourself. This also better understanding limiting beliefs that sabotage our potential and also how to meet our own emotional needs when we don't have the external support we rely on at 'home' with familiar people.
“Life might be difficult for a while, but I would tough it out because living in a foreign country is one of those things that everyone should try at least once. My understanding was that it completed a person, sanding down the rough provincial edges and transforming you into a citizen of the world." — David Sedaris
Ready to see how life coaching & EFT tapping can help you? Schedule a discovery call now!
I am a supportive motivator as a coach, and I've always loved being around people from all over the world. I'm a transformational life coach and happy to help you reach your goals for a richer, more fulfilling life. Likewise, I help people understand gain self awareness so they can figure out what's keeping them stuck, which limiting beliefs hold them back, or what emotional meets are not getting met so they can understand how to create better boundaries and standards in their relationships. In particular, I can help you when you're at that point of saying 'Enough!' - I want something better!
I'm an accredited transformational life coach from Animas Centre for Coaching UK and a member of the International Coaching Federation. I'm also a Level 2 practitioner in EFT Tapping (Emotional Freedom Technique) and a member of AEFTP (Association of Emotional Freedom Technique Professionals). If you're interested in booking a free 15 minute discovery call for transformational life coaching, EFT Tapping, or SRT coaching, book here.
Header photo: SOULSANA
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