The Emotional Rollercoaster of Living Abroad

I’ve always been very open and honest about the struggles that I’ve faced as a newcomer. Moving to a new country is HARD. Many of us leave everyone and everything we know behind and start a new life from scratch. That’s an *immense* upheaval and it’s *normal* to feel every emotion under the sun.

But here’s the kicker… We don’t talk about it.

The homesickness – Guilt – Overwhelm – Isolation – Loneliness – Remorse/Loss – Anxiety – Resentment – Frustration – Helplessness – Regret – Low Self-Esteem… Need I go on?

Alongside the positive, adventure-filled days, there will also be days when these emotions take hold of us…

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So what do we do with this emotional rollercoaster? We keep it all hidden away. We plaster on a smile, show only the good days online and tell everyone back home that everything is fine.

I think it’s time to own up to these emotions because by going through them and out the other side, we are constantly learning more about ourselves and becoming more resilient for the next time they come around.

Living abroad is a tough but beautiful adventure. Let’s use the chaos to become a better and stronger version of ourselves.

So how can you do that? Read on for some reflections and mindset shifts that will hopefully help…

1.  Moving to a new country is HARD.

So you’ve been struggling a lot recently. That doesn’t mean that you’ve made a huge mistake. It doesn’t mean that you’re not strong enough. It’s actually completely NORMAL. You’re building a whole new life here!! It’s going to take time. And you’re a total bad*ss for getting this far. Got it? Good.

2. Remember your ‘WHY’

There was a reason that you decided to pack your bags. Whether you spent years dreaming about making the move or you jumped at a spontaneous opportunity, you were EXCITED for this next step in your life. Remind yourself of that. You’re living a life now that you only used to *dream* about. Acknowledge the lows and celebrate those highs. Embrace it all!

3.  The grass isn’t greener.

The country you’ve left behind is always going to be on a pedestal.

Yes, the FOMO is real – and I don’t believe it will ever go away, that feeling of missing a part of yourself. But I also actively choose to believe that I am LUCKY to be able to call 2 beautiful places home. 2 wonderful places in this world that I can go back to and enjoy and be welcomed into. 2 places with a long list of both pros and cons for each…

Oh, and another important reminder: Your trips back ‘home’ are highlight reels filled with all your loved ones and whirlwind schedules. This is not what your life would be like if you moved back! Don’t fall into the trap of comparison. Nobody ever wins that battle.

4.  Manage your friendship expectations.

We cannot perfectly replicate the life that we had before we moved.
It took me a long time to take the pressure off myself to meet my new “best friends” – Friendships take time, effort and commitment; especially when there are cultural differences.

Remember: Deep friendships in our native country often take YEARS to develop. You can’t expect yourself to replicate these same relationships in a fraction of that time frame!

So be patient. Don’t settle for friendships just because you feel the pressure to find friends. Casually put yourself out there and enjoy connecting with new people. FOMO and missing important milestones are tough but all the more reason to start creating new memories with new people. At the end of the day, your ‘home’ friends aren’t going anywhere. Schedule regular catch-up calls with them whilst also seeking out like-minded people closer to you. Check out local FB groups or MeetUpjoin sports or clubs you enjoy, and remember: Canadians love a good schedule so plan those hang-outs in advance!

5.  Stop setting yourself crazy deadlines

  • “I should have X amount of good friends by now”
  • “My career should be successful by now”
  • “I should be happy here by now”

What timeline is this based on? There isn’t a ‘by now’ deadline for anything!

Remember: Moving to a new place is a HUGE change and everybody’s timelines are different. It takes a lot more time to adjust than we give ourselves credit for. 

Happiness is NOT a constant state. If you’re aiming to be 100% happy 100% of the time, this is an impossible task and you will never feel successful. Ride your experience at the pace that feels right and regularly check in to ensure you’re not expecting too much too soon.

6.  Your loved ones want you to be happy.

The guilt of leaving people behind and missing important milestones can be really painful. You feel like you’re wasting precious time that could be spent with your loved ones or guilty that your kids are so far away from their grandparents.

For this, my reminder to you is that the people who love you want you to be happy. This is a pretty big item in the ‘cons’ column and there is no avoiding it… But it can be balanced out by all the reasons why you made the move and your loved ones will see and understand that. Get a trip back home booked into the calendar so you have a countdown to look forward to, send little Canadian gifts in the mail to include them in your journey, and book those regularly FaceTimes.

7.  Nothing is permanent.

My biggest downfall is that I always try to guess what will happen in the future and get unnecessarily worked up about it. Panic and doubt start to set in because I see my new life as a ‘forever’ decision. It probably is(!) but who knows what the future holds.

Remember: You haven’t signed a contract to live in your new home until your dying day. It might be complicated but you’re never truly ‘stuck’ anywhere.

Once you remove that feeling of permanency that surrounds your new life, I’m certain you’ll feel that cloud being lifted. Spend less time worrying about being stuck and more time exploring what makes you happy in the now.

8.  All emotions are valid and don’t need to be ‘fixed’

Doubting that you’ve made the right decision, not feeling happy, feeling unsettled in your life, wracked with guilt, homesick, isolated, lonely, regretful, taking out your frustrations on your new home or partner….

Remember: You’re not alone! The vast majority of newcomers feel the exact same struggles as you.

As soon as we accept the emotions that come hand-in-hand with moving to a new country, the quicker we can start to adjust. So many people reach out to me and say how much better they feel knowing that they aren’t the only ones feeling a certain way. It’s all part of the journey – the good, the bad, and the ugly.

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