What to do when feeling grumpy abroad
Have you felt grumpy in your new surrounding as an Expat? While in everyone’s life there are good and bad days, some triggers are more intense due to the new foreign surrounding.
Same Same but different
All the little intercultural differences which lead to misunderstanding, frustration or overload can make you feel lonely from time to time. These triggers can be normal things like shopping in the supermarket, paying the bill in the restaurant or arranging stuff on the phone. You might find yourself easier irritable when things like serious doctor appointments, relationship problems or job stress occur. Tasks that went smooth and automatic before can now become nerve-racking hassles.
In this blog post, I will give away my personal tips to deal with your grumpy mood so that these smaller obstacles do not interfere with your well being abroad. At the end of the day, you want to make the most out of your time abroad, embracing the differences instead of being irritated. Feeling miserable though is simply human and it helps when you know how to address it.
The essential key upfront: Communicate with like-minded people
I am trying hard to mingle with the locals and not only to establish friendships with other Expats. However, I find that other Expats are sometimes the key to feel understood and to find relief in the common experience.
Only other Expats can relate to what you are going through right now. I live in the US and most people I met have never left the country before. Most people I talk to don’t know how it feels like to move to another country and face a different language and culture.
The Expat community, however, knows exactly what you are going through and depending on the time spent abroad they have already digested some differences and can give you valuable hints on how to manage certain situations. They can better distinguish what kind of behaviour roots in the different culture and what elements are just based on a rude character.
While exchanging your experiences you can accelerate your learning curve and ease settling down.
How to get in contact: The personal coffee chat
I love to meet other Expats for a cup of coffee and a long chat. Platforms like InterNations can be a good starting point to find like-minded people. As guys often confuse this platform with a dating service I made it to my routine only to contact other women. In that way, I was lucky enough to meet many interesting and supporting women and it was always a mutual joy to put our experiences in perspective.
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In need of an instant outlet for your frustration?
Sometimes you just don’t want to wait and you feel the urge to get rid of all the frustration right away. Maybe you have a question about how to deal with a certain Expat Life related topic and no friend is nearby to help out. In that case, I can definitely recommend joining a Facebook group of like-minded people. When I moved to the US I found the international facebook group called “Grumpy Expat”. 8,000 members are discussing daily irritations about their life abroad. A lot of them funny and you often find yourself nodding along in common understanding. You will also find serious topics, relationship problems, career problems and I always saw that the Expat community is reacting comforting and supporting in these cases which is really great.
The founder Alison Trainer said about the group mission: “Let’s face it, being an Expat can be really hard. Loneliness, homesickness, language barriers and frustration with the many cultural differences that impact your routine, your social life, your career, your family and your happiness. …We will tackle expat frustrations with humour, energy, mutual support, and creative solutions.”
I will be honest: As I am a person with a high tolerance level I tend to be more excited than annoyed by the daily challenges. However, recently there was one moment when I felt really grumpy about something and I knew none of my friends at home could resonate with that. At the same time, it was too personal to talk to a friend over a cup of coffee about it. It might sound strange but sometimes it is easier to open up to strangers on the net than to talk to a particular friend in person. One post and 50 answers later from the Expat community I felt understood and supported and was able to move on. At that moment I realized the huge potential of groups like these. Although you have never met the people before in person, you will soon find out that you often share the same anxieties, doubts and feelings.
How not to become homesick
Feeling homesick can always happen. No matter how long you are living somewhere, it is nice to surround yourself with something that feels like home from time to time. During my time in Taiwan, I used to go shopping for European food every now and then. It’s a small emotional trip back home which gives you new energy and desire to explore the new culture around you.
In order to get a quick understanding of where I can satisfy my occasional need for European comfort in Chicago, I joined the Facebook group “Germans in Chicago”. Again, not a good strategy for meeting new American friends but an open and supportive community ready to help with any specific question a German might have when living in Chicago. Groups like these do exist for almost every city and country of origin and it’s a perfect starting point to find your way around.
What is your solution?
I hope you find my tips helpful. For me, it is important to connect with other like-minded people from time to time, to put my irritations into perspective and to learn how to satisfy my occasional thirst for familiar things.
Can you recommend other support groups to join? Do you use other social media channels or platforms?
Can you recommend other networks next to InterNations?
Let me know in the comments below.
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