18 Sep Why Some Expats Feel Lonely While Others Don’t
Why do some expats feel lonely, while others don’t? One expat thinks that those who need family and friends with them often don’t last long in their solitude, while those who are independent, happy with their own company and can make friends easily — are the ones who are destined to be expats.
Expats who survive on their own also have a revolving door of acquaintances and lovers whereas those who don’t make it are not used to making acquaintances and are more into deep friendships. Satisfied expats are also culture vultures, travelers and adventurers. They may be alone but that doesn’t mean they’re lonely.
While it’s an anecdotal observation, there’s some grain of truth there. Some equate it as follows: They are 20% emotionally who they are but 80% of the things that they can still work on. It’s a lifestyle choice to see themselves as a continuous work in progress.
Successful expats also have an open mind about diversity and respect toward other cultures and backgrounds — able to operate out of their comfort zone with empathy for those who go through similar challenges of being an expatriate.
Being an expat may look easy but it is not always the case. So here are some insights and tips that even global mobility professionals should know about when hiring expats:
Expats need to accept the present moment. For expats, accepting the present moment is critical but challenging. Leaving home for unfamiliar territory inevitably brings struggles—the discomfort of culture shock, missing family and friends, language barriers. It’s natural to feel overwhelmed or want to escape back to the familiar.
However, running from reality and fighting the present only prolongs the difficulties of immersing in a new culture. Adjustment takes time. Rather than resist, expats should embrace this crucial growth phase. Being at peace with the discomfort of change opens the door to personal evolution.
Acceptance provides perspective—the realization that these challenges are temporary and part of a greater journey. With an open mindset, expats can see their present reality for what it is—an opportunity, not an obstacle. Each moment, though difficult, brings valuable lessons about life abroad.
The present may not always be comfortable, but it is a precious chance to learn and expand one’s worldview. By embracing the unknown, expats take the critical first step toward building a new home and life. Discomfort leads to discovery. When expats accept where they are right now, the path ahead comes into clearer focus.
Connect through activities. Getting involved in local activities is vital for expats to adjust and feel at home abroad. While exciting, moving to a new country can be isolating without a community. Activities provide natural ways to meet people and cultivate connections.
Joining clubs, groups and events opens the door to bonding with fellow expats. Shared experiences of navigating a foreign culture create instant rapport. Together expats can swap tips, commiserate about challenges and celebrate small wins. These friendships bring comfort and reminders of home.
Activities also introduce expats to locals who offer insider perspectives. Locals can explain customs, recommend places or activities, and make expats feel welcome. Even mundane interactions like chatting in line or with store clerks foster a sense of belonging.
Over time, participating in the rhythm of daily life increases familiarity with the adopted culture. As social circles and local knowledge grow, the foreign starts to feel familiar. Expats gain confidence navigating logistics and conversing. A once intimidating new home now offers security and excitement through local friends and favorite activities.
Immersion comes from showing up authentically and often. By diving into events and pastimes, expats transform from outsider to insider. Shared experiences dissolve barriers between expats and locals, creating a supportive community.
They need to join local clubs, events, sports, and activities. There, expats can meet fellow expats who relate to their struggles, and locals who can help them feel at home. Feeling part of a community, even in a very small way like running an errand, are important for most people. The longer one stays the more familiar with the culture they become.
Vulnerability builds meaningful relationships. Forging meaningful relationships as an expat requires courage and openness. On the surface, casual social gatherings provide easy conversation. But restricting interactions to superficial small talk prevents vulnerability, the key to authentic bonds.
To move beyond shallow pleasantries, expats must reveal more of their real selves — their hopes, struggles, quirks. Letting one’s guard down allows others to relate on a deeper level. Shared experiences, values and goals crystallize connections.
Taking emotional risks leads to huge rewards — deep empathy, comfort and a sense of being known. Yet it also invites judgment, misunderstanding or rejection. This vulnerability yields intimacy but requires bravery.
Celebrating small wins together, like mastering public transit or learning a phrase in the local language, highlights common ground. Bonding over the ups and downs of expat life builds trust and understanding.
With openness comes insight — locals share cultural perspectives, while fellow expats validate challenges. These sincere interactions cut isolation. Each time expats dare to be vulnerable, they dismantle barriers and uncover shared humanity.
Meaningful relationships demand courage to move beyond surfaces. But unlocking one’s true self forges belonging. What’s exchanged in those moments of raw connection becomes the foundation of community.