Feeling blue? 5 Things to get you through the tough days when living abroad
No one likes admitting it, but being an expat can be difficult sometimes. Even after you make new friends and get used to your new location, there will still be days where it’s hard to keep going. Being far away from your family and friends back home is tricky, as is that feeling of being a stranger in your new country.
The good news is that it’s quite natural and just about everyone who’s been travelling – let alone moved countries – will know the feeling. But there are a few things that can help you get through the tough days and remind you why being an expat is actually pretty amazing.
Food & Drink
One sure-fire way to an expat’s heart is through their stomach. If you want a reminder of the good parts of being an expat, get yourself stuck into a good meal. If you’ve moved countries that are next door to one another, what you eat and drink will be one of the biggest changes in your lifestyle. With any luck, the local cuisine will be both challenging and delicious; some things you recognise or know that you enjoy, and few items that are new to your taste buds. It would, after all, be a little counterproductive moving to an Asian country if you absolutely hated rice!
Thanks to global trade, most countries can offer a range of food for hungry expats. Even if you have specific dietary requirements, such as being a vegetarian, you can still get by. Italy, for example, generally seems to pity vegetarians – why deny yourself all this meat and fish? However, plenty of Italian dishes that don’t include meat are available.
France: Take your time
The French have a long-standing reputation of taking a long lunch break – anything from forty minutes, to two or three hours – and while we busy expats may sneer, it’s actually a good idea. No, not just because it’s less time spent at the office! As well as the simple fact that it’s French tradition, taking your time eating your lunch can help improve your mood.
- You’re less likely to get heartburn or indigestion when you sit and chew your food properly.
- It’s a great opportunity to catch up with friends, colleagues or family, whether that’s in person or giving them a call.
- You can take advantage of the summer months by going outside and enjoying the fresh air and change of surroundings.
One of the things that contribute to feeling low can be a lack of activity. It’s hard to feel positive if you do the same things week in and week out, so why not plan a day out for a change? Not only does this give you a chance to explore your new country but it’s also a mark on your calendar that shows you there’s something to look forward to. You can get to grips with culture and history by visiting several places:
- Museums can be found in most town and cities, and usually do free exhibitions or concessions for certain age groups or times of the year.
- Galleries are the place to go to get a taste of local and national art and some unique greetings cards to send home!
- Theatres or cinemas are great for a day with friends or if you just want to get out of the house for an afternoon.
Germany: Rail trip
When it comes to hardcore sightseeing, the Germans knew what to do: build a sublime railroad! German trains are every bit as fast, effective and punctual as they’re said to be, which makes them perfect for sightseeing expats. Weekend trips might mean spending more but using the trains is a good idea if you want to take advantage of bargain tickets.
There are times when it’s healthy to get out and do things. On the other hand, there are also times when the best thing you can do is put your feet up and have a night in. It doesn’t always have to be a solitary activity. You can invite friends round for dinner or a movie night or host one of your clubs at home for a change. In colder countries, or during winter months, it’s tempting to stay indoors during the long evenings but that doesn’t mean you need to be lonely.
Norway: Stay in
In the town of Tromso, during the Polar Night the sun doesn’t rise. However, research has shown that levels of wintertime depression are lower than expected. Given the cold weather and lack of sunshine during the winter, it’s easy to see why good company, warmth and comfort are important in the Norwegian lifestyle. The Scandinavian countries also use the word hygge which generally means good cheer, comfort and community: think cosy rugs, hot beverages and having friends round for a movie night.
Entertainment is a word that often gets used as a benchmark for identifying an ideal place to live: ‘This country has plenty of entertainment events’. It’s true; there are lots of opportunities to have fun and learn things in pretty much any country but entertainment starts with you. Occasionally, get yourself out of the house and into the unknown scary new community; it can’t be worse than staying at home feeling sad.
Start small by looking for local events near to your home, or just take an afternoon to go for a wonder:
- Clubs are a great way to interact with other people and make new friends. It can be following a hobby you’ve had for years, or something you’ve never tried in your life; the important thing is that it’s something that isn’t to do with feeling sad.
- Classes are the way to go if you want to challenge yourself to do something new; become a better cook, learn the local language, take up painting. If it’s creative and gets you thinking, it’ll give you a break from feeling blue.
- Shopping is a dangerous habit for retail lovers, but occasionally it can work wonders. Every now and then, give yourself a little indulgence and buy something nice that you really like (and preferably something that you can actually use!). Whether it’s a picture or a piece of chocolate, cut yourself some slack.
Fiji: Let’s party
There’s no doubt that the cultural diversity of Fiji means they know how to throw a party. There’s a range of festivals held throughout the year with dancing, music, food and quite a bit of fire! If you want some entertainment guaranteed to take you out of your head for a while, go to a local festival.
You’ve moved to a new country, with a new house, a new life and a new culture, but leave yourself a few comforts, whether it’s food, technology or even that old toy you had when you were a child. Everybody has a wobbly Wednesday or a Monday morning that seems hopeless. These are the times when it’s good to have a few of your favourite things around.
- Bath products – it’s a cliché but it’s true. Anything from bubble bath, a favourite shower gel, or a more luxurious shaving cream can make all the difference on a grim day.
- Chocolate – there’s very few things in the world that can’t be made better with chocolate. A square a day keeps the blues away!
- Internet – this is a godsend for expats all over the world. With an internet connection, you can video call friends and family, stay in touch with smart phones and email, and, of course, watch your favourite programmes online.
- Comfortable clothes – Take your slacker clothes with you to your new country. Nothing can help a low mood more than getting out of everyday clothes and into something casual and comfortable.
It doesn’t matter which country you’re living in; everyone needs a little comfort every now and then.
It’s not all doom and gloom! The life of an expat is one that plenty of people dream of doing, but it takes a lot of determination and passion to make the move. So, don’t beat yourself up when you have moments when you feel lonely, unsure, or scared about your new life. Keep calm and carry on, as the saying goes; you’re doing great!