4 Most Common Expat Problems
Moving to a different country may be very exciting. Especially when you are used to it to be away from family and your home country. Moving abroad for a new job, a career switch or whatsoever can be very hard for some of us. Not only will it cost time, patience and determination to make the best of your stay but also other problems can arise. In this article you'll read about the 4 most common expat problems and its possible solution.
Expat problem #1: language
When you arrive in a foreign country and you don't yet speak the language, you can feel very isolated and left out. Despite your high level of education, you can feel quite insecure if you don't know what is being said to you. Or you're on the city bus and you hear two people talking to each other but you have no idea what it's about. Don't underestimate 'not understanding someone's language' because not following a language in the country you live in can have a very negative effect on your mental well-being. You've always felt part of a society and suddenly a language barrier can just mean that you 'don't fit in here'. Pretty hard to accept that, right? Basic actions like making an appointment with the doctor can become a stumbling block if you don't take care of that.
Although English is spoken or at least understood by most people, this does not mean that this applies to everyone. In a country like Germany, for example, we have experienced that young people speak or understand English rather 'poorly'. This is mainly due to the fact that almost all (foreign) films are dubbed in German. Thus, the average German learns the mother tongue very well, but a second language such as English remains underdeveloped. However much you try to make yourself understood in English because you have no knowledge of German, don't be surprised if your German conversation partner doesn't understand you. In Frankfurt we are even lucky because this city is one of the international ones compared to the rest of the country.
Solution: take a basic course, preferably before you move abroad. It can really contribute to a soft landing.
Expat problem #2: fitting in
Several studies have shown that there are differences
in the values of people from different cultures around the world. These differences fortunately very often go well, but sometimes the differences between cultures are so great that this can be a problem to fit in. It then becomes an added challenge to let go of your familiar values and blend into your new culture. To accurately assess what motivates people in a multicultural work environment or city, we must learn to understand the differences in each other's values and the resulting patterns of behaviour. There is only 1 way to do that and that is to integrate into the new culture. While it may feel safe and pleasant to hang out with other expats because you think they are going through the same thing, I recommend that you additionally hang out with people from the country itself. They are often a bridge to the new culture, language and laws and regulations. In doing so, you get to know new people and you don't have to completely reinvent the wheel.
Solution: actively participate in neighborhood activities, build friendships with native speakers and exchange certain habituations for something from the adopted culture.
Expat problem #3: finding a house
Navigating a housing market in an unfamiliar city or country can be difficult. You can enlist the help of colleagues or a relocation agent who specializes in finding the right home for expats. We used such an agent and that was very handy. We drove through the city with her and did a so-called house hunting. We visited 8 different houses in one day. The advantage of this is that she knows exactly what you are looking for because she bases herself on your wishes. The disadvantage of visiting so many houses in one day is that you can get overwhelmed by so much choice. You literally can't see the house through the houses anymore. I can therefore wholeheartedly recommend that you spread the house viewing over several days if you have the opportunity to do so. We had to plan a trip to Germany for the house viewing, which requires extra logistical planning. So we thought it would be a good idea to see as many houses as possible because we were limited. It becomes even more challenging if you have children, because you don't do them any favors by getting in and out of the car all day and showing them several houses. A babysitter for your offspring is therefore a better option so that you and your partner can find the right house in peace with the relocation agent.
Even though you may want to buy a home, it's usually better to rent until you've come up with a solid plan.
Solution: find an affordable relocation agent with whom you have a good feeling and who you get the impression that he or she knows what you are looking for in a house or neighborhood.
Expat problem #4: feeling lonely
Expats tend to be transient. And if you don't stay in one place long enough to form lasting friendships, it can often feel lonely. I know everything about it, because I have lived between those 4 walls. The first weeks in an unfamiliar location are usually the most challenging. But it can also be one of life's most exciting moments. Depending on how adventurous you are;-) When you live abroad, it is essential to establish relationships. Search for events and activities that you like and try to bond with people who share a common interest with you. If you have children, then usually you will meet other parents right away on playgrounds. If you are single, then I even highly challenge you to not be afraid to try new things, you might discover a new passion or hobby in the process. Adjusting to life as an expat can be difficult, therefore it might be beneficial to search online for expat resources and learn about the culture before you move.
Solution: give yourself some time to adjust and assimilate into a new culture. If you embrace your discomfort and face your problems head-on, you'll get the hang of things in no time.