Maintaining your Support System on Expat Assignments

September 2023
Expat friendships come with an opportunity to meet new people from all walks of life. But at the same time, you’re leaving behind your support system back home. This can make you more vulnerable to feelings of isolation and loneliness. Having a support system abroad will help you establish a sense of belonging and community, which is crucial when adapting to a new country, culture and way of life. 
Moving away from loved ones and familiar routines can be a shock to your system. Thankfully, technology today allows you stay connected, regardless the distance. Even in different time zones, you can keep in touch through videos, voice notes, texts and emails. 
Expat assignments can be just as busy, if not busier, than life back at home. Keeping in touch will require effort from all sides. Consider establishing a call schedule that is easy to stick to.
It’s easy to postpone planning trips home. Make the effort to plan your next visit or invite loved ones over to visit you. Having plans to look forward to can help combat feelings of expat loneliness in the early days of your assignment. 
Finding a sense of community won’t happen overnight. Like any relationship, establishing and nurturing your network will take time and effort. Some friendships will stick around and others will phase out. Putting yourself out there and investing time into your friendships will naturally start to build your own support network. 
Adjusting to a new culture and language can be daunting, especially when it comes to communication. But making a little effort goes a long way. Consider joining a local language course to gain a basic understanding of the spoken language in your region. 
Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone all the time can be challenging, but to nurture your friendships, you need to be open to saying yes to new experiences. If you receive an invitation to an event, maintain a positive attitude and make your best effort to attend. 
Many expats miss the chance to interact with locals during their time abroad due to language barriers. Connecting with locals not only helps you integrate into the community but also provides invaluable insights into the customs and traditions of your new country. These connections can open doors to new friendships, networking opportunities, and even potential job prospects.
It’s not unusual for expat friendships to be temporary. You might invest time in building a relationship with someone on a short-term assignment. Expats tend to move around a lot; this is why you should always stay open to making new friends. Expanding and diversitying your expat friendship groups will help you maintain them.
It can be overwhelming to think you have no one when you move abroad. But in reality, there are hundreds of others on expat assignments. Seeking out expat communities offers the chance to grow a network of like-minded individuals. Being around other expats who understand the unique challenges of living in a foreign country can help you navigate the ups and downs of expat life. If you’re struggling to connect with others, our guide on the 5 alternative ways of making friends abroad can help you get out there.
If you're having trouble maintaining a support network in your new home, taking steps to look after your mental and emotional well-being is essential. Our expat international health insurance offers an Expat Assistance Programme where you can access therapy and other support services.