Expat life is full of challenges, both good and bad. Depending on where you re-plant yourself, you may find yourself way outside your comfort zone. Everything from getting your nails done to shopping for toilet paper is an adventure in patience and willpower. It’s not so bad that you’re ready to return home, but you need to avoid Expat Burnout so that you can continue your life abroad.
1. Figure Out Your Trigger
Take a deep breath. We’ve all felt homesick and lonely sometime during our lives abroad. It can come on suddenly or build up over time and trials. Although it can be overwhelming, it doesn’t signal it’s time to leave. It can just mean it’s time to reassess and hit the reset button.
It generally starts the same way – with a trigger. You miss a big family event back home or pass a milestone in your life – alone. You might get tired of the food, get frustrated with the language, or become tired of constantly being stared at.
Whatever your triggers are, one day all the trivial inconveniences you have endured for weeks, months, or years on end just getting through daily life make you want to hide in your apartment and never come back out. Whatever your major triggers are, you need to figure them out and look for ways to overcome them, short of going back home if possible.
2. Take a Day/ Weekend Trip
I can’t tell you how far a change of scenery goes to renew my sense of adventure. It’s what kickstarted your expat journey, isn’t it? It’s kinda ironic that we can get “stuck” in a rut in a foreign country just as fast as we can back at home. Exploring a new city will re-energize your batteries and give you a chance to reflect on why you left home in the first place. You can check out a new city or visit friends you haven’t seen in a while for an instant energy boost.
3. Workout Expat Burnout
Yeah, I know. Exercise isn’t the answer to everything, but it does help minimize mood swings. It has helped me immensely since moving back to South Korea. Although I enjoy going to the gym, I feel incredibly fortunate to be surrounded by many hiking and walking trails. I wouldn’t exactly call it “fresh” air with all the pollution lol, but spending a day in nature reminds me I’m not missing anything back home.
4. Hit the Pause Button
Don’t be so hard on yourself. Eventually, we all feel overwhelmed under the best of circumstances. And these, my friend, are no ordinary circumstances.
Anybody can have a bad day or days – expat burnout is real (So is culture shock by the way). Make time to speak to friends or family more often. Can you cook at home or ask for a care package with your favorite snacks? Are there some hobbies you haven’t explored, friendships you haven’t pursued, or perhaps you like to journal? Do you have a VPN, Paramount+, or an Amazon Prime account you can zone out with for a while?
5. Reduce Negativity
Negative people are a huge trigger for me. Unsurprisingly, every destination has good and bad points. Consequently, the most significant part of travel is finding yourself in both. Unfortunately, there is always someone in every expat circle that doesn’t like anything.
Haters don’t like the food, the language, or the culture. As a result, they refuse to try anything outside their comfort zone, and they will infect you with that negativity if you allow them to. Just let them go! Surround yourself with like-minded souls who are positive and willing to challenge their prejudices.
6. Reach Out to Other Expats
No matter how bad of a time you are having, you are never alone. Not all travelers are extroverts. As a matter of fact, I hear it’s the exact opposite. So it can be not easy to confide in people you barely know.
I’m not saying you should give them your whole life story, but take a chance and reach out to fellow expats. Or, at a minimum, make yourself approachable. Chances are, you’ll meet someone who feels the same way you do. Social media is full of expat communities where you can find people in your community.
7. Are You Just Homesick?
Trust me. There is no failure in going home if you decide to do that. Even a short expat experience will have lasting effects on the rest of your life. But don’t give up because it gets complicated. That’s part of living abroad.
Make sure you stay long enough to know what you’re feeling isn’t just homesickness. Every journey is unique, and you have to be the best advocate for your health and safety before expat burnout ignites.
Need a positive perspective on life in Korea to help keep you going? Click Here to read 7 Reasons Why I Love Being a Foreigner in Korea by one of KoreabyMe’s most optimistic team members.