Stress Less: Managing Those Expat Frustrations

Your dream move and location will frustrate you, guaranteed! Even after all the planning, preparation, connecting with others and checking all the boxes on your list, life in your new location will come with some headache. Some may be familiar while others will be quite different. Regardless of your level of experience living abroad, be prepared for frustration when you arrive in any new country, as both new and long-term expats are not immune from some discomfort.

While you adjust and transition, you may expect challenges like the language barrier, culture shock, homesickness, or managing a new currency. Still, we often forget about the basics, such as food, water and shelter, which can also be sources of frustration. It might be the inconsistency of the internet or electricity. It could be low water pressure or struggling to maintain your previous eating habits. Living/working abroad is different from vacationing and definitely has its own set of challenges and frustrations.

When you start to get frustrated, here are some ways to reflect, rethink and reimagine your experience.

Black Man Reflecting while sitting on bed
Image: Stock

Take Each Day as it Comes

Sometimes, your challenges are daily, with new ones each day, and this might seem endless in your first few weeks. Yes, the transition to any new location can come with overwhelming nuances, particularly in a new country. Be it a new language, culture, food, a source of income, a new job, or transitioning your entrepreneurship venture, it’s a lot of change all at once. That is why I am here to tell you to take it one step, one moment and one day at a time!

You will not be able to accomplish your transition, adjustment and sense of belonging in a few hours, days, or even weeks. The old adage, “Rome was not built in a day,” also applies to your new life-changing experience abroad. Be okay with not fitting in immediately, although it may be uncomfortable. It’s okay to not know, and the uncertainty of not knowing will gradually fade as weeks turn to months or even years.

One way to manage your frustration is to take the time to meet and mingle with your new neighbors and locals and learn about your surroundings. Stop by local shops or grab a beverage at a local café, and become curious by asking a lot of questions. These same gestures, daily, will make adjusting more manageable and give insight into how to adapt quickly. The experience of living and working abroad is a daily process, and each day will become more manageable.

Manage Your Expectations

Even with much research or visits to your new location, once you have decided to settle in, lessen your expectations. Making this adjustment will decrease your sense of disappointment about the unexpected, like long lines for groceries or paying bills in-person. You did not move there to be a tourist, thus, you will need to follow and manage some experiences like a local. Take each experience as an opportunity to discover and learn, especially in your first three months. Use it as a chance to gain some perspective and test your flexibility in life.

Breathe

Often, it is the little things that frustrate us the most. In those moments, it is the best time to breathe, pause and release. For example, let go of people staring at you; you are not local – you know it and they know it – so let it be! The less you internalize things like this, the more you can flow in your space. When it starts to get a bit much, pause to let out a sigh and don’t let these things get you so frustrated that you fail to enjoy your experience living in a different place.

Black Woman laying on bed with earphones relaxing
Photo: Stock

Cultural Pulse Check

When you find yourself frustrated, take a moment, and ask yourself why you are frustrated. Are you experiencing culture shock? Is it a cultural difference? Does it have to do with your context of language or traditions? If your answer is ‘yes’ to any of these, then take some time to start learning more about the daily routine and tradition of your location. Is it your sense of privilege or wanting a new location to feel more like your previous home that has you frustrated? If so, then you might have stumbled upon an area in which you can grow.

There will be aspects of another culture that may be utterly frustrating and there might be things you disagree with, but always remember that you are the guest on immigration. You are a welcomed visitor to their homeland; it is not your home. Therefore, always be respectful of their way of thinking even when it conflicts with yours. It is part of why you moved to another country. Remember, things will be different; it’s a matter of how you adapt.

Managing Injustice

Even as you respect the culture and traditions, and manage your privilege, you should share if you are being mistreated. Understanding local context, you should find the proper avenues to express and vocalize inequality at your workplace or professional setting. Such incidents often derive from the language barrier, and you might feel left out or mistreated in other ways. Identify and connect with a trusted person who can guide you through the process, and realize that person might be your leadership or human resources. A trusted colleague or local friend can help provide context for local nuances that will help you to navigate the system well, thereby allowing your voice to be heard about the injustice versus the foreigner who cannot adjust. Keep in mind, speaking up may require some cultural astuteness.

 

Above all, remain open to all you could experience. Remember to ask questions; after all, it is how we learn, thus increasing our ability to adapt and thrive in a new environment. Turn your frustrations into workable knowledge for making each day better. Also, remember that moving to another country is a choice and an experience, and you chose! If it is not working, you might want to consider reversing your choice. As you may have realized, your travel was exploration and enrichment, but living abroad is humbling, life-changing, and requires patience. Your frustration will ebb and flow, but the lessons you will learn and the growth you will experience will last you a lifetime, allowing you to view the world from a broader and more rounded perspective.



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