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7 ways expats struggle more than most

The life of an expat may seem like a glamorous one. Many expats move abroad for better job opportunities, or for the lifestyle, or even for the fantastic weather and to enjoy a big adventure. From the outside, life seems full of possibilities and excitement…but being an expat is fraught with an array of unique problems that those remaining in their birth country may never understand.

Here are seven ways expats struggle more than others.

1. Communication barriers

Most expats speak English, but that doesn’t help when you are relocated to a country where they don’t. Even if you speak English at home and at work and you are doing your best to learn the host country’s language, it takes time to settle in, and in the meantime you are left struggling with issues that would normally be a walk in the park. Simple things like letters from the doctor’s office or the council; your television not working but not understanding the message that pops up on the screen; calling a company on the phone and not understanding the automated recording or what number to press – these tiny little inconveniences can lead to a sense of frustration, anxiety and in some cases anger or feelings of hopelessness and inadequacy.

2. Culture

One of the many reasons that expats look for work abroad is to submerge themselves in a new culture, but the flipside of that is that some cultures are hard to integrate into and difficult to align with your own customs and expectations…no matter how hard you try. Coupled with the communication barriers, it can sometimes feel very isolating and frustrating, you may feel cut off from your community and confused – or even worse, regretful of your move.

3. Losing your identity

Most expats move abroad for work – but if you move as a family, what about the other partner? What are they expected to do? Even though in a lot of cases one partner has moved the family because their new wage justifies the life change, the second partner is left to carve out a new identity for themselves. Do they embrace this change and start a new career? Train in something new? Reinvent themselves? Or will they be left feeling inferior, lost and unsure of their new role? These feelings of uncertainty, and sometimes resentment, can have a negative effect on the entire family and put pressure on the marriage. Without the usual support network around you, this shift can be even harder to manage.

4. Relocating family

It’s hard enough to move abroad and start afresh by yourself or as a couple, but what if you’re also trying to settle your children into a new school and a new way of life? Although children are pretty adaptable, and the children of expats probably more so than most, the knock-on effect of an anxious child can put pressure on the parent and affect marriages and alter the family dynamic.

5. Feelings of isolation

It takes a long time to create a community around you and to make friends. As a child, making friends and connecting with people is a normal part of life – but as you get older if becomes more forced and harder to do. When you are busy at home with family, and at work, how do you go out there and force yourself to get involved in your community and seek alliances with others?

An expat life can be a lonely one at times. It’s difficult to be separated from good friends and family, and it’s hard to live without emotional or practical support at hand, which is why some expats lose confidence or suffer from anxiety issues which they may previously not encountered.

6. Uncertainty

With the current political and financial climate, no job is a guaranteed job for life. So what happens when you experience feelings of uncertainty but you are abroad and dependent on that one job that brought you there? What if you are unhappy but there are limited options outside of your current role? When most people don’t like their job they are free to seek another nearby – but for an expat, that move is likely to be a huge one, one that affects the lives of the entire family including the children’s education, the partner’s job and the family’s lifestyle. When you feel like you lack choice in your career, it can lead to feelings of hopelessness, anxiety, stress, depression and ill health.

7. Lack of confidence

What makes us feel confident? The decisions we make in life, the encouragement and support of friends and family, our sense of worth at home and at work, and our own definition of who we are in society as a whole. So what happens when we are stripped of all of that? How do we feel when we are in a foreign country where everything we know, and everything that we feel defines us, is no longer the same? It takes on average a year to settle into a new country, and in that time you can experience the highest of highs and lowest of lows.

Being an expat is not all negative, far from it, or millions around the globe wouldn’t be jumping from country to country chasing exciting new job opportunities – but it is challenging.

Your story, our platform: If you’ve got a story and would like to share it with other Femflectors, please let us know. Femflection is all about transferring learnings to help others, be they big or subtle. We want to connect with your feelings, your learnings, your reflections or your hopes for the future – in blog or interview format. Express yourself here. Get in touch with us via anja.uitdehaag@femflection.com

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Lindsay’s In Business: PART 33: A New Normal

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What happens when you realise your path is entrepreneurship rather than employment? Lindsay takes up the challenge and shares an account of her journey as it unfolds…

I guess after every high you get a bit of a low. And I’m trying to work out why I do feel a bit low right now.

Let me update you on the latest developments: Continue reading

It is Great to Know You don’t Know ….

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By: Anja Uitdehaag 

Admitting you don’t know something could be seen as a sign of weakness. What do you do?

First of all relax.

Don’t stress about it.

You don’t come into the job knowing all there is to know about everything.

No matter what is your day to day work, it’s absolutely normal not to know everything. You’ll keep your credibility by saying, “I don’t know, but I’ll check for the answer”, than trying to answers with information you aren’t sure.

MORE IMPORTANTLY:

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D I S C O V E R I N G ・ W H O ・ A N D ・ W H A T ・ W E ・ A R E

SigmundBy: Angie Falls

Having a fulltime job and 3 freelance assignments can be burdening. I start to doubt myself. Am I heading in the right direction? Is it correct the way I am engaged to get some fulfilling work done? Or am I just afraid to jump? Jump to the unknown. To determine whether I am on the right track I decided to pursue sessions with a psychologist.

Psychoanalysis is worth trying for personal growth on a personal and professional level.

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Lindsay’s In Business: PART 32: The Turnaround

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What happens when you realise your path is entrepreneurship rather than employment? Lindsay takes up the challenge and shares an account of her journey as it unfolds…

I can’t tell you how much has been happening – and it’s all so exciting!

OK to pick up from last time, I mentioned a new trial I have coming up. It starts with interviews next week and it’s with a student project team from the University of Applied Sciences in Austria. Ping! It just happened…

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How to set goals and reach them

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By: Koach.net

Every year, on the first of January, millions of people wake up convinced that life is going to get better. With heads full of resolutions, goals and targets, we tell ourselves that this year is going to be different. This time things will change because we’re going to try really hard. Then by February we’ve given up.

Why is that? Why is it that statistically 92% of people struggle to meet their goals?

The answer is simple – we are too vague.

‘I need to lose a few pounds.’

‘I have to find a better job.’

‘I need to stand up for myself more.’

These statements may have good intentions behind them, but all your mind is going to do is agree with you – ‘yep, you’d be happier if you were healthier, with a job you enjoyed and everyone treated you better.’ Well that goes without saying, wouldn’t we all be happier with that?

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Good Work isn’t enough! 

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By: Anja Uitdehaag 

Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.

~ Will Rogers ~

Much more than men, women held to the belief that doing good work – great work even – is enough to climb the corporate ladder. But the reality is, in today’s competitive work environment, being bright, hard working, and having a positive attitude aren’t enough. Capabilities like intuition, nurturing others and strong interpersonal skills are important but they won’t help you be sufficiently recognized for your work.

Success is not only about the caliber of your work.

Hard work and good work are the expected standards. You need to go above and beyond that if you want to stand out from the crowd. Visibility is just as important as ability. If nobody knows how great your work is, it’s not going to get you anywhere. If you aren’t proactive about reporting your accomplishments, you’ll never get recognized for your good work.

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