Common Expat Challenges Nobody Tells You About

Being an expat is often about fighting misconceptions that your friends and relatives may have about the country you choose to live in. While this can be infuriating to correct, the reality of living abroad involves adapting to new customs, languages, and daily routines, which can be both challenging and enriching. 

However, fighting misconceptions is only one of the challenges you can expect to face. Here are some you would never have imagined! 

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Missing an old favourite you can’t find abroad

One of the most immediate challenges as an expat is missing some of your old favourites from back home. Whether it’s your favourite food, face cream, or a specific brand of tea, these small comforts become glaringly absent. We all build habits, and we don’t always realise that some of the tastes, textures, or sounds that we enjoy or are used to may not exist abroad. For instance, you might find that your beloved Hobnobs are nowhere to be found, or that your preferred skincare product isn’t sold in local shops.

While this can be frustrating, it’s also an opportunity to discover new favourites. Local delicacies and products can sometimes surpass what you were used to, adding a new dimension to your daily life. Nevertheless, the longing for something you can’t have anymore can persist, creating a bittersweet sense of nostalgia for the little things you left behind.

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Struggling to catch up on movies or series

Another common issue is the struggle to keep up with movies or series from home. Not all films or series may make it to your expat location, and release dates can vary significantly between countries. This can be particularly frustrating when everyone back home is talking about the latest episode of a popular show that you can’t access. From how to catch up with Dr Who to where to watch Harry Potter, there are thankfully a few options. 

To overcome this, many expats turn to legal streaming sites. These platforms often have a diverse catalogue of content from various countries. Additionally, using a VPN can provide greater access to the usual film and series catalogue you know. A VPN allows you to change your virtual location, enabling you to access streaming services as if you were in your home country, thus keeping you in the loop with the latest entertainment.

Keeping in touch with your loved ones

Staying connected with loved ones is both easier and more challenging as an expat. The pandemic has encouraged more people to get used to video calls, making it easier to stay in touch with relatives who didn’t use these technologies before. However, time differences can complicate this.

For example, there’s a nine-hour difference between Tokyo and London, and a six-hour difference between London and Guatemala City in Central America. These differences can make it difficult to arrange for real-time catch-ups. You might have a small window where you’re both awake, but if it’s the middle of the day for one person, they might be stuck at work and unable to take a video call. Coordinating these calls requires flexibility and patience, but the effort is worthwhile to maintain strong connections with loved ones.

Meeting other people’s expectations

Living as an expat often means that your family and friends who have stayed at home are constantly asking you to come back for the holidays, such as Christmas or summer. This can be challenging because if you want to please everyone, it means that you can’t have a holiday for yourself but are constantly expected to travel back home. This expectation can be stressful, especially when you have made a life for yourself abroad and consider your new location as home.

Moreover, people often ask when you are coming back home because they think your expat life is like a long vacation. They don’t see that you have built a life for yourself abroad and don’t want to give up on that life. This constant questioning can make you feel pressured to justify your decision to live abroad and explain that your life isn’t just a temporary adventure but a permanent choice.

Wherever you live, there are pros and cons, and being an expat is the same. The challenges of missing familiar comforts, struggling to keep up with entertainment, staying connected with loved ones, meeting others’ expectations, and dealing with guilt are real and significant. 

However, the positives of being an expat—such as experiencing new cultures, discovering new favourites, broadening your horizons, and forming new relationships—often outweigh the negatives. Embracing the expat life means accepting its challenges and appreciating the unique opportunities it offers. Whether it’s the excitement of new adventures or the personal growth that comes from adapting to a new environment, being an expat is a journey that enriches your life in countless ways.

this is a collaborative post

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