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Common Challenges You May Face as an Expat

If you’ve ever spoken to those who have made the leap and moved abroad, a common theme is the problems and barriers they have been faced with. By understanding the root cause, these obstacles may be a little easier to overcome. So, what are they?

Culture Shock

Moving abroad is hard. The emotions alone are exhausting. There’s the excitement, the anxiety, the sadness at leaving friends, family and familiar surroundings and the fear of the unknown.

And culture shock is real. It affects everyone differently and depends on the country you have moved to. Everything can be overwhelming at first – the unfamiliar environment, the weather, the food, the way locals dress, their mannerisms, etc. This is especially true if you have not visited the country before, as many brave expats have done.

It can be particularly overwhelming if your destination is to a less developed country. Customs and traditions can seem foreign and hard to accept…at first. Informing yourself on your host country is one of the most important things you can do, because once you understand the reasoning behind something, it can become less foreign and will help you settle quicker.

It is also important to know the weather, the types of food the population eat and if it is like that of your country of origin. Think about how to adapt to the new food culture and discuss accommodation and transportation issues. Communicate openly to friends/family often and remember that culture shock is real, but it will pass.

The Language Barrier

Probably one of the most common problems and will always be a challenge. Be proactive, learn it as early as you can, even a few phrases to get you through. Connect with other expats, join forums, sign up for classes and be consistent.

Relationship Strain

Prior to moving abroad, life is busy. There’s the planning and the packing. This alone will put some strain on relationships. You then arrive in your new country and there’s the settling in, the culture shock, the missing family and friends and new job roles to become accustomed to. If you have children, they may feel more distraught than adults trying to fit in at a new school and making friends.

Everyone will be affected by the move differently and the adjustment period will also be different. Patience with yourself, and those around you is key. Communication is key and will help when times get challenging. Check in with children often, listen and validate their concerns from early on.

Financial Worries

On top of everything else, you may also feel overwhelmed by having to navigate through a foreign housing market or the unexpected cost of living. You may also face other challenges in your personal finances such as paying taxes, benefits, retirement pensions, etc. Research ahead and know what you need to do before arriving to the country. Expat foreign exchange rates and services can have a huge impact.

What can the IIA do to assist?

The IIA has numerous members who can help with these issues. So whether you are in the industry and supporting expat journeys or you are looking to support the move yourself, reach out to an IIA member for guidance and support. They are the best in the industry and endorsed by the industry itself.

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