Expat Lifestyles: THE UNTOLD STORY

Do you know the feeling of being new in a country as an expat and trying to find your sweet spot-the one where you are not only happy to live in the country but also happy to be enjoying it as much as you planned on? Perhaps your kids are off to school, your partner is off to work and you seem to have some time but don’t have anything to do or anyone to share it with (or maybe not because of all your other responsibilities).

Then comes the phase of being bored. Wondering why you made the move. Wondering what’s in it for you. Wondering how long this will go on. Wondering if other expats feel the same. Wondering what they actually do for fun and how they made a new place their home.

However, it doesn’t have to be that way. Although it’s very easy for us to get caught up in our domestic chores, work, children or spouse, it’s crucial for our mental and physical well-being to get out and actually meet other people outside of our direct family members.

When I moved to Spain, e.g., I was staying in all day. It was peak summer, but I was a bit overwhelmed to actually go out and explore on my own. I’d go for my workouts and do the groceries, but no way would you catch me trying to make a conversation with a local or just a random person anywhere.

I even had inhibitions on meeting people from random Facebook expat sites at first, because friendships are formed naturally and should not be forced, right? So, I waited and waited. But no one came up to me to talk or say: ‘hey, want to be friends?’ How would they, when I was locked up in my house the whole day?

My husband has his share of socializing since he is away for work a lot. I work from home, however, and was feeling very isolated. I realised that I needed a change as I was getting irritable and uninterested in everything. Three months after our move, I finally took my first step.

A girl from another EU country messaged me on LinkedIn to ask for advice on jobs in Barcelona since she had just moved here a week ago. While writing to her, I suddenly felt confident enough and asked if she wanted to grab coffee sometime. To my pleasant surprise, she did!

That was the beginning of our many, fun-filled encounters. I finally had a friend in this city and felt brave enough to explore it with her. I saw and did many things I hadn’t before, and perhaps wouldn’t have been able to, had I remained in my comfort (home) zone.

She added me on a local ‘girl gone international’ Facebook group (which I didn’t even know existed!) and that was the start of many other meetups and events I attended. I stepped out of my expat mindset and became more local.

A year later, I can comfortably say that I’ve found my sweet spot in this city and have friends to socialize with. Sometimes all you need is a way to unwind from your daily life and enjoy your surroundings. Yesterday e.g., my friends and I sat down in front of Barcelona’s cathedral square and listened to someone playing a guitar.

It was so refreshing that I felt blessed and immediately had a spring in my step afterwards. If you’re an expat, don’t hesitate to try new things or meet people. So, go shopping for make-up because it’s on sale. Go for a seminar on meditation together.

Be mindful of where you live, by taking a walk in the park. Ask someone to accompany you to the dentist because you are afraid. Whatever you choose to do in your new life abroad, make it worthwhile. The only way to get around the isolation of an expat life, is by becoming an integral part of your surroundings. When we integrate, we learn and when we learn, we grow.

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