Innocently, I had assumed that moving abroad would be easy! After all, I had going through my ‘moving abroad checklist‘ and ticked every box. Update my passport? Check. Get approved for a Permanent Residence Visa? Check. Pack my bags and hop on a one-way flight? Check, check, check! However, there was one tick box that appeared out of nowhere like a nasty splattering of mould in the corner: loneliness. I know that I am not alone in this battle. Unfortunately, many expats have to learn to overcome loneliness while living abroad. Research shows that loneliness kills more people than obesity so this is an issue that needs to be taken seriously.
When you uproot your life and leave behind family, friends, your job, and your community, you’re bound to face growing pains. Luckily, loneliness can be temporary, it is just an inevitable side effect of living abroad. If you are patient with yourself and these uncomfortable moments, eventually the feeling will pass. One day, maybe not so far from now, you will begin to feel right at ‘home’ in your new country. But first, you’ll need to overcome loneliness while living abroad.
Here are 6 ways to overcome loneliness while living abroad.
1. Realize that Loneliness is Normal During your First Six Months Abroad
Is moving abroad one of the best things you will do for yourself? Heck yes! However, it is not going to be easy. Most expats say that the first six months of living abroad will feel rocky. My first seven months were challenging and lonely, especially since my husband is with the military and was often away. After six to seven months though, I did begin to settle comfortably into my life in England.
Accept the fact that things are not easy for you right now. Acknowledging this will allow you to be more gentle with yourself during this transition period. This is a time when you may begin to feel lonely. You might miss your family and friends. This is perfectly normal and to be expected when you move abroad; after all, you haven’t put down new roots yet.
2. Meet People in Your New Community
In order to feel settled in your new home you will need to make some friends. This might seem scary at first, especially if you are a bit of an introvert like I am, but the more often you step out of your comfort zone the easier it gets. It’s time to try and merge into a new community so you will spend less time wishing you were some place else.
Here are a few ways to make new friends in your area:
Get a job – This is a sure fire way to meet people in your area, and it will keep you busy when you first arrive. Introduce yourself to your new coworkers and be genuinely interested in their lives. Get to know them. If you get on well with someone, ask them out for lunch or for coffee; it could be the start of a new friendship!
Join a community gym or fitness centre – Do you love yoga? Great, find a yoga studio where you can meet other yogis! Or a CrossFit gym, or a running club, pilates, or any other activity that suits your fancy.
Join Meetup – Meetup is a simple app you can use to meet people in your local area. You can find groups for anything you are interested in. There are groups for pottery making, photography, hiking, writing, brunching, gin-drinking; you name it, there’s a Meetup group.
3. Find Your Passion
Spending time alone is hard, but you can also use this time to build your craft. If you’re passionate about art, writing, photography, anything at all, this is your chance to dive headfirst into those passions.
If you know what you love doing, do it! If you don’t know what that thing is, this is a great time to find out. Think back to the things that you loved in childhood: you might find a buried passion, or a new project.
I found my passion for writing while living abroad, it was something that I had always loved growing up and throughout my teenage years.
Once you know what that passion is, go back to Step 2 and join a Meetup Group for your ‘craft’!
4. Call on Your Old Community for Support
Even though it might feel like you’re alone, you’re not. Thank the heavens for technology: your old friends and family are just a click away through apps like Facetime or Skype. Give them a call (but check the time difference – they might not be so friendly at 3:30 AM), and tell them how you are feeling. They will remind you that it is all going to be okay, and you’re doing great.
5. Be Alone, but Not Lonely.
Maybe this is all a sign that you have not spent enough time alone! I know it was for me. I spent my life surrounded by people, and when I was finally thrust into being alone, it was difficult. Learn to be alone, but not lonely.
Enjoy this time with yourself. Do all of the things you love doing. Watch the movie you want, read the book you want, just do whatever you want! It’s okay to be alone sometimes. And if you’re feeling lonely, just remember that this feeling won’t last forever.
6. Access Expat Communities
There are web-based communities made especially for expats. This is another way to meet people in your area and connect with others who experience the same challenges. I have found a few other Canadians living abroad by accessing these communities.
Check out these links:
It took me about seven months to overcome loneliness while living abroad. It wasn’t easy, but I pushed through it. By that time, I had made a few friends, I was enjoying my job, and I had found a fitness centre and my favorite running paths. Don’t forget how brave you are for stepping outside of your comfort zone and moving somewhere new. The period of loneliness doesn’t last forever, and once you come out of it, you will be stronger than ever.
Are you an expat living abroad? I would love to hear your story, comment down below if you have something to share.