The Pros and Cons of Joining an Expat Group

Published by: TELUS Health,

When moving to another country—whether it’s for a short- or a long-term contract—a period of adjustment is to be expected. There will be more changes and challenges in store if your family is joining you. In addition to new cultural traditions, you’ll also experience differences in how you manage your finances, personal aspirations, and the wellbeing of family members.

Adjusting to a new setting

Settling into a new culture, and possibly learning a new language, can be exciting but not everyone in your family will adapt at the same pace. For some, a fear of the unknown and the unfamiliarity of their new surroundings may create feelings of anxiety. Those who are more adventurous, however, may enjoy broadening their horizons and could adapt more quickly to new experiences.

What is an expat community?

An expatriate (shortened to expat) is someone who is residing in a nation that isn’t their native country. In many locations around the world where there is a high concentration of expats, a like-minded community is established. With their first-hand knowledge and experience, expats are a wonderful source of information when it comes to recommendations for phone/internet providers, doctors, banks, schools, restaurants, leisure activities, and various aspects of daily life.

Things to consider when joining an expat community

Many expat communities become a social network for those who find themselves displaced, where they can get involved with gatherings and entertainment. However, those who limit their socialising to the expat community will miss the chance of meeting a diverse range of people, as well as enjoying an immersive cultural experience.

Language barriers: This might be the most difficult challenge for some expats. The simplest tasks, such as shopping and ordering a coffee, can be time-consuming and frustrating. It’s natural to feel anxious, but if you spend the majority of your time in an expat bubble, you miss the opportunity to learn the local language and meet new friends.

Loss of identity: Long absences can create an identity crisis. The more places you find yourself living in, and the longer you’re away from home, the more you may feel like you’re not attached to any nationality. Expat communities can help create a sense of belonging.

Personal growth: If moving to a new country on your own, the realisation that you no longer have the safety net of family and friends can be scary. But it takes courage to get through this, and the many hurdles that you have to overcome are character-building and will further fuel independence. However, striving for independence doesn’t mean you shouldn’t retain some links with your expat community. An expat group allows you to connect with others to share your experiences.

Lifelong relationships: There’s a special bond that’s formed with another as a result of shared experiences. People that you meet abroad become an extension of your family, and a lifeline in case of emergencies. These quick-forming friendships will endure time and distance.

In order to avoid the feeling that you’re totally alone in a new environment, which can lead to stress, anxiety, and depression, use the resources that are available to you (including the support of an expat group), connect with your organisation’s assistance programme, and take the time you need to settle in.