How to avoid loneliness after moving abroad

Photo Credit: Jonathan Kos-Read

Photo Credit: Jonathan Kos-Read 

Twenty years ago immigrating meant that communication with friends and family was little and far between.

A letter or expensive phone call now and then were the options. Nowadays the internet has brought a big change to this. Communication is cheap and direct. Distance is not an obstacle anymore.

You would think loneliness would be far less these days.  

This is the irony of modern life. We are superconnected electronically but as connected as we may seem electronically, we’re disconnected interpersonally. People who moved abroad often don’t have that sense of belonging, of association or company.

They don’t have people to turn to at hand.

Every expat or international resident comes to know what that feels like at some point or another. The connection you have with people back home takes a different form. And although you find yourself surrounded by people in your new living area, you haven’t really connected to them yet.

When you stay in that limbo too long you will experience a feeling of loneliness.

Better to prevent this than to recover from it because once you’ve gone in there it’s hard to get out. Who do you think is likely to make friends easier: a satisfied person who feels at home and connected and content or a lonely person in search for a connection? It’s easy to start thinking ‘is there something wrong with me?’

No there is nothing wrong with you.

When guiding clients through their settling-in process, I emphasize the importance of putting ‘people you can turn’ to at the top of your priority list. And I don’t mean people you can have a drink with in a bar -in Amsterdam they are everywhere I’d say- but people who are truly caring and available for you in good and bad times.  Who you can talk to about relationships, business, your health or your financial situation. Whatever matters to you.

Especially in the beginning it is important to find people that not only empathize with you but that can actually answer questions for you or help you gain clarity. They have to understand you and the topic. Only then you will leave the conversation with a plan.

A plan?

Isn’t this approach  a bit business-like and cold, you may wonder.. If you want to be of help or be helped, then make a plan. Really. Even if the plan doesn’t work, then you just revise it. When you have a plan you feel more in control and less dependent on the circumstances, which makes you more effective.

When you don’t make a plan, and you sit there with these questions, the questions turn into worries. After some time the worrying becomes toxic. You globalize, you get paralized, you withdraw and you disconnect. Whereas, when you turn to someone, you problem solve. 

To sum it up:

  • Decide who you want to stay in touch with back home. You will need to invest a lot of precious time to keep them up to date of your daily life situation and in the beginning this time might be scarce.
  • Look for people who are in a similar situation. For example, being a mom already connects you to thousands of other women in the same life situation on one aspect. Or being a business owner you probably spend most of your time working in or on your business. Chances are you connect easily with other entrepreneurs.
  • Connect to like-minded people. Besides what you do for a living or the hobbies you have, your norms and values are at the core of your personality. Spending time with like-minded people is nurturing. It’s so nice to feel understood.

If you haven’t found these people yet, they will appear in time. Instead, consider hiring a coach for now. Someone who listens, clarifies, empathizes, answers questions and goes the extra mile to come up with solutions and a plan!

 

 


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