What stress can an expat have?
Moving to a new country causes stress and anxiety even when you are excited about and looking forward to the relocation. But in the case you don’t want to move to a foreign country, or you feel you have to move abroad to keep your partner in work and satisfied, then the stress can become out of control.
Stresses can happen everywhere and at anytime
Even when you’re already living in a new country the stress of expat life can take its toll. Life and all its ups and downs go on no matter where you live. Maybe your kids aren’t coping too well in school or perhaps you have aging parents who are miles away to worry about or you’re finding it very difficult to find work of your own or make new friends.
Life overseas is not a holiday
Forget all those jealous remarks of people that you’re living in so-called ‘paradise’ (ie any place other than your ‘home’ country!) and that it is therefore impossible to have any ‘real’ problems. They are wrong. Expats have exactly the same problems as everyone else, big and small. The fact that we live overseas it does not mean that our life is one endless holiday.
Just coping with basic aspects of daily life in another country can be hard: Am I allowed to park here? What are the rules of driving at this junction in this country? What is the police officer saying to me? Did I put milk or liquid yogurt in my coffee since I can’t read the label? Sure, we soon get used to all these kinds of issues but it’s not at the same familiar level as coping with stuff at home. There is constant, low-level pressure, all the time.
Difficulties are not depending on a location
Accidents and illness can happen everywhere. These would already be very stressful in the home country. Dealing with a foreign healthcare system is hard work, no matter how well-prepared you are – and that’s on top of the worry you’re already experiencing.
Depression isn’t depending on location. It can happen to everyone regardless of where they live. It doesn’t make a difference if you live somewhere sunny and warm, with your own pool and home servants. If the chemicals in your brain get out of balance, you become depressed: it’s got nothing to do with lifestyle.
Expat child stress
Not every kid deals well with moving around, either. Sure, this depends on your kid and your own circumstances. If you’ve moved permanently then it is most likely not so much of an issue than to those who have to change countries every couple of years or so. This kind of life appears to be easier when the kid is very young, but once they’ve started school most kids prefer to stay at the same location. Even if they seem to deal with it well, keep a close eye for issues that may come up. You know your child best. Even though they may appear resilient and totally able to cope, problems may be developing under the surface that becomes more clear as they grow. Especially when the teenage years hit!
We know that we’re giving them a great opportunity to see the world and experience other cultures. They have the opportunity to try activities, food and see places many kids only dream of. But all a child really needs is security and stability. As long as they’re very young, you provide that for them. However, as they grow older they will look to their peers for this. One day their friends become more important than you. And then they, or their friends, move away. Sometimes you need to put their needs above your dreams.
A friend of mine changed countries every year or two as a child. She says it was all right when she was very young but became intolerable when she reached about 10 years of age. She hated always being the ‘new girl’ at school. She went from being a straight-A student to not doing any work at all. She didn’t care to make new friends as she knew she would have to leave again soon. Now being an adult, she is very settled, but it took her a long time to reach contentment. She almost never travels anywhere now and has become a real ‘home-bird’.
Relocating overseas is not always ‘heaven on earth’!