Three top tips for the expat 'stayer'
My last blog post shared some top tips for people who are moving somewhere new. This week, I’m focusing on those of us who stay in one location for a long period of time while close friends repeatedly move on. Check out my top three tips for long-term ‘stayers,’ which focus on addressing the challenges of regularly losing friends. It’s a difficult time. When you live away from your home country, you tend to rely on friends so much more, especially as you don’t have your family close by.
Tip 1: Acknowledge that it really sucks when friends move away
Take time to acknowledge the sadness and grief which is inevitably part of a goodbye to people who’ve played an important part in your life. It’s so important not to push this down or try to avoid it, as grief has a nasty habit of popping up in future if it hasn’t been properly resolved. Take the steps you need to process your grief: have a good cry, spend some time with people who love you, reflect back on the great memories you have with your friends who left. Some people find journalling about their feelings to be very powerful. Whatever you find works best as a coping strategy to address sadness, make sure you make time to put that into practice.
Tip 2: Try to be proactive in meeting new people
The one certainty of expat life is constant change as people come and go. No matter how many quality friendships you have, your social situation can change dramatically in a matter of months, or sometimes even weeks. By taking a proactive approach and making the most of opportunities to build your network, you are constantly nurturing new and developing friendships. This means that when existing friends move on, you still have a strong network of social connections to support you. It’s not easy to be proactive on a regular basis, but it definitely pays off!
Tip 3: Evaluate if avoiding people who plan a short-term stay is the best strategy
“I don’t even bother making an effort with people unless I know they’re here long term”
I’ve heard this comment so often from long-term staying expats! On a rational level, it makes sense. Developing friendships with those who are likely to move on sooner rather than later increases the frequency of goodbyes. This means losing people who play an important role in our lives and needing to address the feelings of loss and grief which may arise as a result. However, my experience is that adopting this strategy can mean missing out on some amazing friendships, even if they are short term. Something else to consider is that expat circumstances can change almost overnight. I know of people who planned to stay in their host country indefinitely after living there for many years, but ended up relocating within weeks because one of them received an amazing job offer elsewhere. Meanwhile, there are other people who initially plan to stay for a year or two, yet end up staying year after year.
Looking for some extra support?
You might like to take a look at the coaching I offer. It’s ideal to support all aspects of expat life. As always, you are always welcome to get in touch to discuss your support needs, whether you are a long-term ‘stayer’ or are frequently relocating yourself.