Most Common Reasons Why Expats Fail to Make a Go of a New Life Abroad
Escaping from the dull drudgery of our everyday lives is a dream increasingly shared by individuals from across the world. It seems we all believe to some degree that the grass probably could be greener elsewhere! New horizons beckon and suggest adventure and excitement, and so for many people the dream of moving abroad slowly but surely becomes a reality.
The chance to change our lives is a thrilling challenge, and the act of making a go of it abroad can lead to all sorts of new opportunities; however, for some people becoming an expatriate and an international citizen is not all it’s cracked up to be.
You definitely need a certain something to embrace the expatriate lifestyle in all its glory, but why do some people love living abroad whilst others return home with their tail between their legs? Is it a case of integration issues or culture shock? Is expat flu a reality rather than a myth, or are the problems that force expatriates to repatriate purely money orientated?
In this report we’re going to take a look at the most common reasons why expats fail to make a go of a new life abroad – so that you can protect against the same issues and mistakes.
Money Does Make the World Go Round
With banks having collapsed and economies having shrunk, fiscal stress is affecting us all to a lesser or greater extent. As a result many people long to escape abroad and find a more affordable way of life where they can just work a little to live a lot, rather than having to live every day of their lives to work just to meet the bills. However, moving abroad is usually a relatively expensive undertaking, especially if you decide to ship elements of your old life with you!
Getting a home set up abroad, buying a car, shipping furniture and finding a good school to put your children through international education costs money. Or for those who prefer to not even pack up before they ship out, the physical relocation alone from one nation to another costs a plane flight, a train ride or a car journey. And this is just the start of money matters.
Financial failure is the number one reason why expatriates return home – fact. Those who fail to effectively plan for their relocation, who do not take into account their new cost of living in relation to their earning power abroad, or who over extend themselves with a home purchase and a fantastic lifestyle are all at risk of falling foul of this fact. Therefore, if you’re moving abroad you need to be on top of your finances before you even pick the nation you’re moving to. Failure to get your finances in good order could well see you struggle or fail to fulfil the expatriate dream lifestyle abroad.
Learn to Adapt Don’t Seek to Change
Those who move abroad and expect everything to be the same as it was back home fail spectacularly – and I’m sure you’ll agree that’s no bad thing! If the world was all the same what would be the point in travel and adventure! Most of us move abroad to experience challenges and opportunities, for excitement and edification – but the reality of moving to a new culture and settling in can be quite a long way away from the dream of how easy it will be.
Even the most open minded expatriates will be challenged sometimes when they come into contact with strange local behaviour, complex red tape or seemingly mindless bureaucracy. But the secret to success at this point is adapt yourself, your own mind and your own expectations, don’t ever think you will be able to change those around you!
Another very common reason for expatriates repatriating is because they find the challenges of adapting to everyday life in their new country are just too much, too daunting and too hard. Go with an open mind, remain patient and know that no, not everything does make sense in any nation in the world, but you can change your own mind and your own tolerances only, you can’t alter the psyche of a nation.
Language Can Be a Barrier to Effective Communication
Humans tend to need social interaction to thrive, we are generally a community-orientated animal that needs contact and stimulation through conversation and communication. Expatriates who move abroad alone or perhaps as part of a couple only, can struggle if they cannot effectively communicate in the local tongue. Whilst some may meet other expats or locals who speak English, some expatriates can find the language barrier to be an incredibly isolating experience.
Not everyone finds it easy or even possible to learn a foreign language well enough to communicate effectively – this can lead to isolation and this can lead to loneliness and a deep homesickness that will drive expatriates home.
Expatriate Flu is a Reality
Expat flu is a myth to those who have yet to make the move abroad, and yet after between three months and three years all expatriates will experience it. It is a physical manifestation of the stresses, concerns, negative feelings and worries that all expatriates have at one time or another.
When you will come down with it will depend on how hard you fight your negative feelings…but when you do come down with it you will feel ill, you will also doubt that you have made the right decision to move and live abroad and you will miss home! Most expatriates experience expat flu after about the first six months or so. The initial euphoria dies down when you realise that living abroad has much in common with living at home and you face up to a certain level of stress associated with settling in and settling down in a new environment.
When we’re ill we all feel vulnerable, and for expatriates the first time they really go down with a bug, virus, cold or flu it can really test their mettle and their commitment to remain living abroad. If you can get over this inevitable period when you feel physically ill and emotionally down, you will thrive and you will survive abroad. It is all about adjusting your expectations and accepting the reality of your new life abroad. It is unlikely to be perfect, but it can be a dream come true if you accept it for what it is.
Homesick or Lovesick
Some of us live for adventure and some of us just think we do! You’re probably not going to know which camp you fall into until you’ve given life abroad a real go. If you find that after a few months or a few years you really do miss too much about home to ignore it, there is nothing wrong with throwing in the towel and returning to where you feel happier and more comfortable. Perhaps, hearing a little bit from your friends and family can help you combat homesickness while you are miles away. These days, calling services are very cheap and offer various suitable options to call aboard. You can make international calls, share your stories and discuss your feelings your loved ones. This can help you feel better and enhance your self-assurance. Also, you can stay online through MSN/Yahoo or make Skype calls or just exchange emails and pictures of the various experiences you have had.
A period of homesickness is inevitable for almost everyone, see the above point about expatriate flu, but if you’re still feeling homesick when everything is actually going your way abroad, you have friends and have established a new life, there may well be nothing for it but to pack up and ship back home. And there’s no shame in that at all – if more people were more honest with themselves in life they would be much happier.
The other reason that some people cannot remain living abroad is because they miss friends, family or a particular loved one too much. Again, no shame in admitting your feelings and going with your heart. If you have tried to make a go of it abroad but you just miss the company and support network offered by certain people, you will probably only be happy when you’re back in their fold.
We’ve Got High Hopes
There’s nothing wrong with having high hopes and expectations – as long as they are tempered by reality! Living abroad is not an easy ride at every step of the way, just as remaining back home is not perfect all the time. You may ‘dream’ of your new life abroad, and positive visualisation is a powerful tool, but make sure you keep your feet on the ground in terms of your ultimate expectations.
When you move abroad you take yourself with you – you do not leave your personality, your worries, fears, passions and problems back home. There really is only so much you can run away from in other words, so remember that by moving abroad you may not solve your life’s issues, you may just relocate them. But if you want to move abroad for a real life opportunity, to learn, develop and experience new challenges, you should thrive. However, if you’re trying to escape from your old life and your old worries and mistakes, chances are you will just replicate them when you move abroad – the only thing that will have changed will be the scenery!
Having high hopes of your new life abroad is not bad, just make sure they are realistically achievable otherwise you may suffer deep disappointment that the streets are not paved with gold, that the sun does not shine every single day, and you may return home disillusioned and depressed.
Moving to live abroad, settling into a new life in a new nation, meeting new faces, making new friends and even learning another language are all positive yet realistic challenges that expatriates have to face head on. Sometimes the challenges of making a good life abroad are just too much and some people return home. As stated, there is nothing wrong with repatriating if you’re ready for it and it is the best thing for you, but don’t be forced into making a move back home by failing to make a new life abroad. Know what you’re really letting yourself in for, love the thought of the challenges and the opportunities before you make the commitment to move overseas in the first place.