Anyone who has had the opportunity to be an expatriate in their life, possibly identifies with some (or all) of the following challenges that life in another country implies. Each international experience is unique and personal and it is possible to learn from what other expats found difficult and challenging.
1. Miss Loved Ones
This can be a particularly difficult challenge for those who have very close ties to their family and friends. You may think, “we all have close ties to our family and friends,” but the point is, not everyone is willing to sacrifice time with them for an experience abroad. Whatever the case may be, this is an extremely difficult aspect of being an expat, as it involves missing friend’s birthdays, growing grandchildren, taking care of grandparents, end of the year parties, etc.
Luckily we live in the Internet age, where having a video conference via Skype or being part of the WhatsApp group of friends, can make us feel a little closer. Of course, it is not the same as being there in person, but something is something! And if you have a fat paycheque, you can always fly to visit your loved ones occasionally.
2. Adaptation To The New Environment
There are many factors that can hinder, even prevent, adaptation to your new destination: you do not like the area or the floor where you live, the language is a great obstacle, and colleagues do not help you to solve it, you see yourself lost at work, you do not empathize with matches, you feel alone, etc.
Many expats experience culture shocks when they travel to new countries to work. You have to learn about the local terrain, the people, the culture and how to comport yourself. Some cultures are more liberal than others and what offends them might be different from what you are used to. Therefore, it is usually advisable to be calm and take time to learn the ways of the people.
3. Make New Friends
This is a natural transition from point 1, that is, you miss your family and friends, so what do you do? The answer is to establish an emotional support system as soon as possible. Some expats, by their own personality and extroversion, will have an advantage in the process of creating new friends. For others, meeting new people (and in another country) can be a real martyrdom. The challenge increases if expatriates follow one after another after a few years. There are endless alternatives to make friends, from your work colleagues to the neighborhood club, language classes, in a volunteer organization, or running in the park. If you are an expat, or you are going to be, be clear that new friends are made away from home!
4. Dealing With The Government Bureaucracy
No matter which country the expat is in, this challenge seems to repeat itself anywhere. It’s just that in most cases, expats are so used to moving through the bureaucratic formalities of their own country that when they move to another, it all makes no sense. The frustration is understandable. However, we must understand that the rules in a foreign country are not designed to make foreigners comfortable, but locals are. The rest is patience, and why not a little meditation.
This frustration often starts with the immigration laws. Many expats get frustrated easily by them, especially if the immigration officials are corrupt. They always find new ways of extorting expats every now and then. They harass them every time, bringing up frivolous laws in order to get some money from them.
5. Do Any Type Of Business In A Foreign Country
This point is quite similar to point 3, although it does not only involve a government agency. It ranges from launching a new venture to managing a workforce that doesn’t share the same work ethic or having to communicate with people at headquarters who don’t have the remotest idea about cultural differences.
In some countries, starting a new business can be an odyssey, where they seem willing to do whatever they can to make you fail. For example, in some countries, it can take up to a couple of months to register a business. The process would also usually be rigorous and take a too much time to complete. However, in advanced countries, you can get this done online in a couple of days.
The important thing is to have realistic expectations.