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Expat living is not easy. Don’t let anyone tell you it is.
And you know the draw. Excitement. New cultures. Career opportunities. Great packages. It seems like a never-ending business-trip-cum-vacation. Until it’s not.
There are the language issues. Then simple tasks become really not so simple. Perhaps you have children’s schooling to organise and get used to – international schools don’t follow home curricula and the differences can be daunting. There’s the social network – or lack of. The employer takes on a whole new role and can sometimes be invasive and micromanaging.
Culture shock is also a very real thing, and whilst it might not affect you in week one, it’ll probably hit by the six month mark. Security may be an issue. Periods of loneliness, which at times can be quite marked, are almost inevitable, and with them come the rumination of self-reflection, self-doubt and the big life questions – who am I? what am I doing here?
On balance, expat life is definitely worthwhile, for most people, most of the time. But it’s not for everyone, and even for those that love it, it’s not always a breeze.
When things go wrong
When things do go wrong, lacking the network you are used to ‘at home’, it can be very isolating. And talking to someone can be a crucial part of settling in.
As an expat, you can’t always rely on local services, because they may not be offered in your language. Your health insurance may not cover them. They may just be out-and-out unavailable.
You may need some formal counselling around relationship or parenting issues. Perhaps you just need to vent. You may be experiencing stress, anxiety or depression. You may simply need to get a fresh perspective on your life. Whatever you need, the first step to take is to recognise the need. Then you need to talk to someone.