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5 Expat Friendship Myths You Tell Yourself

“I long, as does every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself.”

– Maya Angelou

Belonging is a fundamental human need. Studies show that it is likely hardwired into our DNA. It is so important to our wellbeing. And yet we fear making new connections, we hold back from reaching out and joining new groups. 

Sometimes expat friendships form in the blink of an eye in a room full of people but often we feel isolated and lonely in our new home, unsure how to connect and start building our much needed network.

Could it be that you’re holding back because you’re telling yourself a lie? After listening to this podcast about adult friendships I pondered the myths I’ve told myself about expat friendships; the excuses I’ve used to avoid potential hurt from rejection (never actually happened).

Then I sat myself down and debunked every single one of them.

5 Expat Friendship Myths

  1. Everyone else has (expat) life figured out.
  2. No one likes me. I will be rejected. 
  3. I have to maintain all my friendships from every location.
  4. I have to join all the things to make friends, be involved in everything. 
  5. Why bother? We’re leaving again soon. 

5 Expat Friendship Myths - Debunked

1. Everyone else has (expat) life figured out.

Nope. No. Nada. Niet. Ne. Nein.

Some people have more experience, some are better at appearing to be on top of it all but the truth is we’re all just trying to figure it out.

Suggestion: Ask for help from those that seem more experienced. Most expats and global nomads are more than happy to help out others. 

2. No one likes me. I will be rejected. 

Bullshit. Here’s the science: people actually like us MORE than we think they do. It’s called the “liking gap” and describes the difference between how much we think we’re liked and how much we actually are. 

Other things to keep in mind: people might be shy or busy, they might not be approaching you because you seem aloof (true story – being hesitant and shy can look like haughty) or too competent (yes, really) and that’s scaring them off from speaking to you.

Suggestion: Take the first step and ask someone to meet for coffee or ask for suggestions where to go for coffee (lower risk) and then ask if they’d like to join you. 

3. I have to maintain all my friendships from every location.

Just writing that makes me tired. You do not have to maintain all the contacts all over the world unless is fills you with joy to do so. 

Know this: Many friends are in our lives for a season and then they move on. That’s normal and ok – AND – it takes two to stay in contact. The burden is not all on you. 

Suggestion: Choose who to stay in touch with. Just a text message is enough sometimes. If you want to reach out but you’re out of ideas, take this quiz and get a tailored list of ways to stay & get in touch.

4. I have to join all the things to make friends, be involved in everything

Did you do this in your home country? Probably not. By all means try things out, explore your options and then choose where to spend your time and energy. Who is moving in the same direction as you in their life (abroad)? You must find the balance between getting out the door (hardest step!) and running yourself ragged, chasing belonging. 

SuggestionCan’t find anyone that is like minded or with the same interests? look beyond the groups immediately visible to you – check out other expat groups (schools, diplomats, religious affiliations, military spouses, international women’s clubs) in your location and (might seem obvious but gets overlooked) local groups & clubs. 

Still haven’t found a starting point? Start your own group. Facebook and hashtags are a great way to get started and explore your options. You can connect with people online before taking it offline and into your off-screen life – this is ultimately what counts as face to face contact releases neurotransmitters that foster trust, reduce stress, kill pain and induce pleasure! 

5. Why bother? We’re leaving again soon. 

Investing in adult friendships is one of the most important things you can do for your health (mental, physical, social, spiritual). We crave belonging more than food (!!). It is a fundamental human need that must be met otherwise we cannot thrive. It’s probably  the secret to longevity

It is definitely the key to a happy, fulfilled assignment – however long it may be.

Suggestion: You moved abroad. You’ve shown that you are brave. You have the courage and grit to reach out and make friends. It’s worth it.

Bonus: you’re modelling healthy, strong, self-care for your children and they will benefit from your sense of belonging and wellbeing, too.

Get me by your side.

All sound daunting? Let me help.

I will walk with you virtually as you settle in. Together we can brainstorm ways to reach out and what to say. 

For six weeks you get the support and advice you need, when you need it. We talk & text regularly.

I’ll be your big sister, your expat doula, your mentor, supporter and your loudest cheerleader as you venture out into your new home and make new friends.

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