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Expat friendships: Keeping connected and meeting new people

Moving abroad is a challenge in itself, but possibly one of the most difficult parts of expat life is dealing with homesickness and loneliness.

To help expats tackle these unfortunate aspects that come with living abroad, here are a few ways you can keep in touch with your loved ones, form new connections, and keep homesickness at bay.

Stay social

Keeping connected via social media can be as easy as sharing a picture on Facebook or adding to your Insta story. Even the quickest of uploads can be a great way to let your family and friends know what you’re up to and vice versa. While social media comes with its flaws, it can also help keep you connected with your loved ones.

In some countries however, there are strict rules and regulations in place for social platforms such as these. In China for example, popular social sites and apps are completely blocked including Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Youtube and Pinterest to name a few. The UAE has also been known to block VoIP services (Voice over Internet Protocol) such as Skype and Whatsapp.

If you are moving to a country where certain social apps and sites are banned, you could look for alternative social platforms that are available in your location. For instance, ‘Weibo’ is basically China’s version of Twitter. The only issue with this is, your family and friends are very unlikely to have the same location-based app as you, and they may not even be able to download it, depending on where they live in the world.

If all else fails, never underestimate the comforting power of a handwritten letter or postcard!

Let your new home be your only ‘home’

It may be easier said than done, but to feel like you’re truly ‘home’, you’ll need to get out of the habit of referring to your old home as ‘back home’. While it’s difficult to get yourself out of this mindset and using this language doing so is bound to help you settle in better.

By clearly distinguishing your new home from the one you left behind, you’re less likely to feel homesick and more likely to enjoy the fresh start you’re making. Besides, this is your home now, and with it comes its own unique beauty, way of life and community just waiting to be explored and enjoyed.

Get out there and meet people

Whether it’s social groups, clubs or events, accept every invitation and opportunity you can get — especially from locals, but also from fellow expats. While not everyone you meet will become a life-long friend, you’re sure to meet a mix of people that can curb the loneliness and introduce you to plenty of undiscovered aspects of life in your new home.

While befriending locals can help to make you feel a part of the community, having expat friends who understand the journey you’re on can also help. You could also join online groups in your area or online expat communities to help you connect with other like-minded people.

Catch yourself before you fall

Getting wrapped up in the madness of moving is all too easy. Once you’ve made the move, you may think you’ve tackled all the essentials like visas, job hunting, school finding etc… but there are some aspects of relocating abroad that you may not have considered until you’ve made the move. This is why having a ‘Plan B’ for certain eventualities can help you to regain a sense of control.

For example, if you’ve recently moved to a country that often suffers from natural disasters it can be a good idea to stock up on some essentials like first aid kits, canned food, and extra clothing. Medical emergencies can also be a worry, especially if you haven’t already sorted out health insurance. Ensuring you’re covered from the get-go can give you the peace of mind that if something were to happen, you’d be covered.

Learn the local lingo

Not only does learning the local language help you communicate better with the locals, it helps you blend in far quicker and can make you feel like part of the community. This doesn’t mean that you have to be fluent immediately upon arrival, just learning the basics to start with can help you to get across what you need to and the more you speak the language, the better you’ll become.

Even if you haven’t quite grasped accent, the locals are sure to appreciate the effort, and effort can go a long way when forming connections and making friendships.

If you’re moving with children, you’ll also need to make sure they’re feeling at home too. Starting a new school can be difficult for any child, but starting one in a different country can be even more so. Even though your children will probably be taught the local language as part of their school curriculum, you could try speaking to each other in the local language, even if it’s just at home. That way, both you and your children will pick up the language quicker, and it is sure to help them form friendships of their own.

So whether it’s learning the language to help form long-term friendships, or keeping connected to your loved ones through social media, there are plenty of ways to form new bonds and maintain old ones, all while keeping homesickness at bay and enjoying your new home.

Whether you’re set to relocate internationally or are settling in to a new life abroad, our content library includes some interesting articles, guidance and advice:

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