Expatriation is a complex and multifaceted event. It often gives rise to contradictory and sometimes destabilising emotions for those who are confronted with it. These strong emotions can represent a real psychological challenge for the expatriate.
Expatriation amidst enthusiasm and doubts
Moving abroad requires a physical, emotional and psychological effort that confronts the expatriate with numerous challenges as soon as the departure is confirmed. The stress of expatriation begins as soon as the move is prepared. This is the first moment when contradictory emotions, feelings and fantasies emerge:
- the desire to discover alternates with the fear of doing so;
- the desire to succeed “alone” gives rise, at the same time, to strong doubts;
- the idea of personal and professional enrichment clashes with the affection of those “left behind”;
- Fantasies about magical places, often searched for on the Internet, are mixed with the possibility of uncertain and difficult experiences.
This alternation of thoughts and emotions is far from ending upon the departure. These psychological difficulties of the expatriate continue for a long period of time which does not always lead to an adaptation to the new reality.
As soon as the expat arrives in the “new world”, the novelties, the logistical problems of settling in, the places to be discovered and the landmarks to be found occupy a large part of their time, giving rise to an exhilarating and exciting experience.
Only during this calm phase, when a “normal” pattern seems to be resuming, can the initial state of excitement and euphoria for the “new life” give way to feelings of nostalgia, melancholy and sadness, which can become the main emotions felt by an expatriate.
Difficulties encountered by an expatriate
Language, cultural and management difficulties, the absence of loved ones and familiar places can generate strong negative feelings about expatriation. At this point, a feeling of inner emptiness often prevails, the natural consequence of which would be strong thoughts of loneliness which could generate more and more doubts about the choice made.
All of this would affect the expatriate’s psychological well-being, resulting in:
- high stress and nervousness;
- irritability and agitation;
- relational difficulties;
- difficulties in concentrating;
- sleeping disorders.
Those can lead to anxiety, psychosomatic symptoms and depressive episodes.
Solutions to expatriation stress
Expatriation, especially when undertaken for professional or academic reasons, requires high performance and is often linked to strong social demands or pressures. In this case, the difficulties encountered can trigger feelings of frustration and the idea of personal failure.
These risks can have an impact on the expatriate’s psychology. However, there are professionals who are there to help calm the expatriate down and get them back on track mentally. Foyer Global Health includes psychotherapy and psychiatric treatment for expatriates in all our plans.
To learn more about expatriate anxiety and depression, you can read this article which discusses the symptoms and associated solutions.