All You Need to Know About Social Anxiety in Expat Life

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Moving to a new country can be an exciting yet overwhelming experience. It is not uncommon for expats to struggle with feelings of loneliness, guilt and even burnout. Yet, one of the most common struggles in expat life, especially among women, is social anxiety.

This can have a significant impact in the life of expats. We need to remember that international life involves many changes and adjustments – from learning the new cultural norms and language nuances or slang terms.

Even simple things like ordering food in restaurants, meeting others for coffee, or even getting a haircut may seem like Mount Everest for expats living abroad.

Is it normal to feel Anxiety in Expat Life?

Before you keep reading, please remember that whatever difficult and challenging emotions you are feeling regarding your expat life, are completely normal.  Many expats have some degree of anxiety, you are not alone.

Expats demand a lot of themselves and are especially vulnerable to mental health struggles, because they have to deal with culture shock, perfectionism, homesickness, lack of support system. It is a lot to cope with, and expats forget this because they are supposed to appreciate the life they chose and be grateful, disregarding or not weighing the impact of these challenges in their daily life.

How to Cope with Social Anxiety in Expat Life

1.- Focus on building a strong social support system in your new home. This is essential to reduce these feelings of anxiety. Building solid relationships with people you meet abroad will help make the transition easier.

2.- Learn about the culture and norms of your host country. It can help avoid some of the common causes of social anxiety, like feeling afraid of embarrassment or trespassing boundaries without being aware of it.

3.- Start small. You don’t have to face a crowd or a room filled with strangers.  You can start going for a coffee by yourself, or explore parts of your new city you are not familiar with. Remember, moving forward, even if it feels slow and small, is still moving forward and away from stagnation

4.- Talk about it. Share your feelings and challenges with someone you can trust, you don’t have to go through this by yourself. One typical expat trait is “I have to figure out everything by myself”, and that can be very lonely and anxiety triggering.  Talking about it with your friends, family or a trusted person, can make all the difference and can be a start to an anxiety free expat experience

5.- Give room to all your emotions.  Fighting and avoiding emotions like fear, anger or sadness can be a momentary source of relief, but these emotions, when not addressed, come back in more intense and damaging forms, like social anxiety.

6.- Ask for professional help. Many types of support are available to expats who feel socially anxious, from online counseling to in-person support groups. A trained professional can make all the difference for you to understand the signs and symptoms of social anxiety and developing strategies to cope, you can make the most of your expat life experience.

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