Coming to a foreign country all alone can be both exciting and scary at the same time, and you can even feel lonely living abroad. At the beginning, you do not know anyone in the country; you are not familiar with the culture; you have to organize everything on your own; you may not even speak the local language… There are times that you may feel overwhelmed and frustrated. And it is normal to feel that way. I totally understand that, and you are not alone.
In 2010, I quit my job in Hong Kong and moved to Germany for my master’s degree. Studying in Germany was an incredible experience. I made many new friends and learned a lot. However, I have to admit, there were times when things weren’t going so smoothly. For example, I did not speak German at that time and I had a hard time learning the language. Without speaking German, it was extremely difficult to find a job.
Lonely Living Abroad
Steps to Combat Loneliness
I realized that I wasn’t feel lonely when things were going well. But when I faced some frustration, I felt really lonely and just wanted to go back home. Even though I had friends in Germany, my closest family and friends were all back in Hong Kong, which was a very hard feeling.
I did not know how many things I thought about just giving up and flying back to Hong Kong. Fortunately, I did not give up and stayed in Germany; and even ended up finding an English speaking job in Germany and settling down here. Since learning German, I met the love of my life here, and we now have a small family with a toddler. As you can image, I don’t feel lonely anymore.
If you are you feeling lonely while living abroad, here are some tips for you:
Meet other international people
It is important to get support from people around you. Many expats may be going through the same experience as you, and are looking for ways to connect with others. There are many ways to connect with expats and locals alike. The bottom line is you can meet others who are also looking for support, so it’s a great way to connect with others and avoid the loneliness while living abroad.
Learn the local language
If you are in a country where you don’t speak the language, try to learn the language! It is hard to feel really integrated in a society without knowing the language. You will find that your life will be much better when you speak the language, whether it’s for finding a job, making friends, dealing with paperwork and so on. You will not feel as lonely, because now you’ll be able to have conversations with expats and locals.
Ask for help
If you need help, ask for it! If you never ask, nobody can ever help you. If you ask, you will be surprised how helpful some people are. When I first moved to Germany, I was too shy to ask for help.Somehow, I felt bad, as if I had to ask for a favor from other people. So, I was always very stressed about how to solve different issues.
On the other hand, I had a Chinese friend who was my complete opposite. She asked for help all the time. And I was always surprised how much help she got with sorting out her visa, opening a bank account and moving to a new flat.
So, if you face any issues, ask around at work or at your university. You’ll be surprised at how many people are willing to help you.
Make the most out of it!
This is the last, and also, most important point. Remember, living in a foreign country is a once-in-a-lifetime incredible experience. No matter if you are going to stay in the foreign country for a short or long term, you should try to make the most of it.
Learning a new language, a new culture and making new friends will all change your life. These may not only change your career path in the future, but also change you as a person. And if you do go back to your home country, you may not feel like the same person anymore with a broader horizon and a more international mindset.
So, if you are feeling lonely abroad, do not forget that you should treasure your time abroad and make the most out of this experience for your future!