Loneliness is a real taboo subject when talking to pretty much anyone about living abroad. Because it sounds like fun.
And it totally is. It sounds super exciting and adventurous because that’s all true. But sometimes it’s hard. Especially if loneliness begins to set in.
No matter what you do, there will be points in your life where you feel lonely. This is especially true if you plan on moving somewhere new because you’ll have to pick up your roots and stick them down somewhere else.
When you re-pot a plant, it takes time for it to fully root itself into its new home. All you need to do is water it, put it in a sunny room at the right temperature and basically nurture it.
And the same goes for you when you move abroad.
Now I’m not saying that drinking water and getting your daily dose of vitamin D in a sunny window is necessarily going to help you combat loneliness – those are things that are good for general health so you should be doing them anyway. (If not, start today…)
No, to cope with loneliness you need to work out how to regrow your roots and let them settle into their new home. But how all-knowing, wise, Ellen? Well…
Give this feeling of loneliness time...
This probably isn’t what you are wanting to hear, but giving it time is one of the key things you need to do.
I’ve been in America for just about 3 weeks at the time of writing this. That’s not long. Yet I am still pressuring myself every day thinking I should be doing more – sending more job applications, finding more groups to join, activities to do and of course, making more friends.
But I’m still working on getting my US driving license, getting registered for various insurances and only just got my social security number. So there’s lots to organise.
It takes time to feel settled because it takes time to get all the inital paperwork done, especially when moving to a foreign country for the first time.
With all of this going on, it can feel massively overwhelming and make you feel pretty isolated as you’re not yet fully integrated into this new area. And it’s all because you haven’t yet had the time to let your roots settle in. Don’t stress if you struggle to make friends right away as you’ll get there eventually. Nothing worth it happens overnight – you’ve gotta put in the hard work first. The strongest roots are the ones you need to conquer loneliness.
Pets, pets, pets!!
Anyone that knows me, knows I have had an absolute nightmare of a quest to get a new pet recently. I’ve tried to adopt a cat 4 times over the past 2 weeks and I’ve constantly been denied a furry friend due to poor organisation, stupid rules, and timing. But the waiting has paid off and David and I have now reunited with Mewtwo a furry fuzzball and recently adopted the cutest little Kitty, Shao-Mai. (AHHH I LOVE THEM SO MUCH).
I’m utterly overjoyed at having these furry children running around. But why?? Well, I’m a sucker for devotion and undivided attention.
While it takes time to make human friends, animals aren’t too picky. And yes, the love animals show us are mainly because we provide regular meals, but that connection with another living being will be a good substitute until you’ve managed to make some closer friends. And hopefully, combat the creeping feeling of loneliness by giving you something else to keep alive aside from yourself.
Plus it’s nice to have something else walking around the house you can talk to that won’t endlessly reply with sarcasm like a spouse will…
Join groups to avoid loneliness
This one is hard. As an introverted introvert, meeting new people is akin to one of the 7 circles of Hell for me. But I need to remember that at some point EVERY SINGLE ONE of my friends were in this hellish “new person” category. So I need to get over my awkward self and say hi. The only way I am ever going to get over loneliness is by creating new links in my new home.
Wherever you are, there will be some form of group or social activity you can join. So seek them out!
Joining local groups or clubs in your area not only gets you off the sofa and into the wider world, they can also create a gateway to making new friends and help you to set down new roots that will guard against loneliness.
In the wise words of the lottery, you’ve gotta be in it to win it.
So join a gym and go to classes, bond over reading at a book club or take solace in the fact that the people at the wine club don’t actually know anything about wine, aside from whether it’s red or white.
Even if the clubs or groups available to you may not be your cup of tea, give it a shot. Who knows, you just might find the Ron Weasley to your Harry Potter. Or the Harry Potter to your Ron Weasley (depends if you’d rather be The Chosen One or have ginger hair…)
Talk to your colleagues or become a volunteer
Guess who you spend more time with than your friends or family? Your colleagues. Honestly, it is kinda tragic. If you don’t like them. If you get along, they can become a second family which is a wonderful gift when loneliness is getting to you and your real family is a plane ride or two away…
So if you can, find a job with a positive work culture or reach out to someone in the office you haven’t spoken to before. You share an employer, so share a coffee and see if you have anything else in common!
But if you can’t work for whatever reason, look up some local charities and see if they have any volunteering opportunities. Even if it’s just a morning every week or a few hours every now and then, volunteering is a fantastic opportunity to get out and meet like-minded people, while getting involved with the local community!
Keep your old connections alive
Yes, being halfway around the world from them isn’t ideal and definitely causes the loneliness to some degree. However, just keeping up with them allows you to feel connected to those you used to share every day with.
Scheduling a call every few weeks is all you need to remind yourself that you DO have some amazing friends. And while you may be physically apart, keeping up with them is an amazing reminder that you’ve got someone thinking about you who is always up for discussing the shocking, and frankly utterly ridiculous twist on Riverdale this week. (Seriously, if you want to switch your brain off and witness some of the strangest storylines in the history of television, watch the Halloween episode of Riverdale).
And hey, if it all gets too much one day you can plan a trip to see them and give yourself something to look forward to!
Sorry guys, I’m going to finish off with being cheesy, and dare I say it… a little American; never underestimate the power of positive thinking!
If you find a group but don’t click immediately or just struggle to find opportunities to meet people don’t let it get you down, try again.
It’s sooooo easy to slip into a deep abyss of loneliness which keeps pouring negative thought after negative thought on top of you. So stop. Stop telling yourself you won’t make friends because you’ll become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Instead, begin pouring positive thought after positive thought into the abyss. Pretend you’re in a teen movie where you get a make-over which changes your life and pick yourself up if you get knocked down. Tell yourself you will get over this loneliness and take every opportunity to do it.
But positive thinking and a nice outfit won’t do anything unless you take action.
You can’t sit at home saying “I’m going to make friends”, then just watch Netflix hoping the pizza delivery person might be the friend you are looking for. No, they’re just looking for a nice tip.
You’ve gotta go out into the world. You may fail to click the first few times but that’s alright. It’s only gotta happen once. You’ll see that person across the room at a random social event. Your eyes will meet under the glaring white lights as they load up on the chocolate at the buffet, rather than the savory snacks. And in that moment, you’ll know you’ve found the one.
Loneliness is real. And it can be really hard to climb out of. But keep going. If you keep doing all you can and give yourself plenty of opportunities to get over it, you will.
Just remember that you’re probably feeling lonely due to a change in your life which has uprooted you a little. So give yourself time to let those roots take hold and flourish. And remember, much like a plant, you’ve also gotta give yourself time and the right conditions for your roots to grow and to keep them strong.
I’d love to hear from you! How do you cope with loneliness? And have any of these tips helped? Drop your thoughts and wisdom in the comments below 🙂