The year 2016 is just getting started, but the month of January is nearly a thing of the past — sadly, so are many New Year’s resolutions. But just because you still hit the “snooze” button every morning, this doesn’t mean that there are no more opportunities to make the most of the next eleven months.
While some people put “move abroad” on their list of New Year’s resolutions, those already living abroad often face different obstacles. Last year, during our Expat Insider 2015 survey, 14,000 expatriates have been about their most common problems — the facets of expat life they struggle with.
Perhaps it’s time to get started with the things that actually affect our lives the most and find out how to embrace expat life to the fullest.
All the Lonely People — Or: #1 Revive old friendships, embrace new ones
More than half the expats surveyed admitted that they miss their personal network of family and friends. Geographical distance requires quite a bit of time and money to bridge. It’s probably no coincidence that the survey respondents who seem to feel loneliest live in the relative isolation of New Zealand.
Make that your resolution #1 — spend more time with family and friends, be it during regular visits or just virtually. If you used to have a favorite shared activity, revive that ritual: pencil in a weekly date for, say, watching a popular TV show together and discussing it afterwards. It’s not the activity that matters: it’s the time you take to talk to loved ones. The regular contact also ensures that the annual reunion back home doesn’t collapse under the metaphorical weight of cramming twelve months’ worth of interaction into twelve days.
Technology offers a myriad of possibilities to help you forget that you may be several thousands miles apart, but it also holds the danger of isolation. It’s essential to find just the right balance between keeping in touch with your (emotionally, rather than geographically) nearest and dearest and putting yourself out there to meet new people. And never forget: There are plenty of others who feel just like you! Meeting them and talking to them about the experiences you share will make dealing with some of the issues that expats face so much easier. After all, as the German proverb goes, a problem shared is a problem halved!
Nobody will be able to replace your family or your oldest childhood friends, but you might find someone else to add to your loved ones. Living abroad is a unique opportunity to form close and lasting relationships – despite and quite possibly because of the challenges we all face. Being away from our personal support network might leave us more vulnerable to some extent, but it is just this vulnerability that can also make us more open to the world and to the people we meet.