Posts in Well Being
The Top 4 Stressors in Expat Life, and What to Do

I stepped off a plane into the summer heat of Casablanca, Morocco with my two boys (3 and 5 years old). It was August of 1997. My boss and his welcome committee all ended up on vacation the week we arrived. 

“That’s ok, we can do this!”

We were excited for the adventure before us and easily sloughed off getting lost in a taxi with no cell phone. We didn’t get outwardly frustrated trying to find food in a store where we couldn’t read the labels. Even trying to find our own housing with no native English speaker to help was ok . . . for about a month. 

We started off with the honeymoon (link to culture shock graphic) excitement and joy that you may remember. But over time, the stress of cross-cultural living settled in, and we began to carry around the weight of it. Now, after all these years, we not only can look back and identify the stress we faced, but we can more easily see it in the new people that arrive each year. 

So what are the common stressors we see? 

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How to Help Your Family Survive the Shock of Re-Entry

Although every expatriate who returns to their “home culture” after living abroad will experience some type of “reverse culture shock,” each person has a unique experience.

​​We watched our son during the next few months as he wrestled with feelings of anger, frustration, and disorientation. He became very critical and judgmental of our home culture, comparing everything to North Africa and Europe.

​​He began to withdraw and escape—only keeping in contact with his friends abroad—in the place he called “home.” When invited out by new friends, our son declined. He strongly resisted adapting to our home culture and became quite isolated and lonely.

​​This place certainly didn’t feel like "home" to him.

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How to Identify the Losses of Expat Life

International living is replete with losses. Not only do we feel the loss of friends, family, belongings, and situations back home, but also the loss of competency, familiarity, and functionality in our new location. On top of all that, those we find it easiest to relate to are very transient and we are always saying goodbye.

So what’s the problem? Ungrieved losses have a way of festering below the surface. The can make us flat, or sometimes come out in irritation, anger and frustration.  At an even more basic level, we are often unaware that our losses merit any attention at all.

In this article, we'll share the 9 types of losses, so you can identify them in your own life and begin to heal. 

But first we start with my own story....

My mom died. Three months later, my stepfather died. He died in a fire that destroyed my childhood home.

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Finding Friends in the Desert of Life

verywhere I look, people are together—together with their families, together with their friends, together with their neighbors. Mothers and daughters shop together at the market. Parents with their children play together on the beach. Friends hang out together in cafés, and neighbors sit together in front of their door talking, laughing, and sipping mint tea.

I sit alone.

My family lives on the other side of the world. I have some expat friends who work with me, but they are busy with their own families and their own lives. I keep trying to build relationships with my national friends, but it’s so hard to build trust and deep connection in a foreign language.

I feel alone.

For those of us who feel isolated and alone, how can we find friends to connect with—especially when living in a foreign land with multiple layers of language and cultural barriers?

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What is hope and how do we find it?

I vividly remember days (yes, multiple) not wanting to get out of bed. Seeing no way I could ever learn the language, if I could ever make a difference in others’ lives. I could no longer look past the trash on my street, everything became gloomy. I was ready to go home.  I had little hope.

Hope. We all know the term and can tell you if we have it or if we don’t. But what is it?!  Is it something that just happens to us, or is it something we have some control over?

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GOOD Grief - How to Get Started on the Journey

It’s like a switch deep inside me. I can turn it on, but it’s more common for me to turn it off.  

Two whole years had passed by since we had last seen my dad. I had just arrived in Florida, along with my two young children, when my dad called to say that he was driving through the area. I was thrilled. He then went on to mention that he could only stop by long enough to have lunch. Only lunch? Only an hour or two of the day? I felt the loss and sadness begin to well up, so I threw my switch to the “off” position.

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Lonely? What to Do to Combat the Emptiness

I have just recently started to feel like I’m catching a glimpse of the “other side” of my loneliness . . . after six long months here in my native-born country. My heart has been aching with loneliness . . .

These are the same feelings I experience every time I land overseas. These feelings seem to follow me wherever I go.

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How to Overcome Crisis and Chaos

Crisis! It appears out of nowhere and tosses us into a dark valley of confusion, stress, and chaos.  Whether it’s receiving shocking news from back home, experiencing a terrorist attack in a nearby city, or owing a huge sum in unexpected taxes, we experience similar reactions. 

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