Being expat

Why expat life is not always a smooth ride: another infographic about expats

Expat Life: Not Always A Smooth Ride!

Expat Life: Not Always A Smooth Ride! – An infographic by the team at Overs

This is another infographic about expats (see the sources at the end of the infographic). I chose to post it here on my blog, right after the post about the Sea Change Mentoring symposium I attended last Saturday, because many issues listed in this infographic have a major impact on expact children, and Sea Change Mentoring is one place to contact when facing issues like these.

Expat life is not as easy and smooth as many people think. Especially the different stages of expatriate adjustment should be taken seriously. These stages affect parents and children, and often not simultaneously. This is exactly why parents and children should reach out for help.

Another point seems very important to me: that expats or people who envisage this kind of life, should consider longer stays in a new location in order to give their children the opportunity to pass from a “gradual adjustment” to the “competence stage” and, in the best case, to the “mastery” (after 5-7 years). – In the expatriate adjustment lifecycle on this infographic I miss the stage of repatriation. Repatriation is an “important yet often overlooked component of a successful assignment experience“. During repatriation, expats face exactly the same stages as those listed in this infographic and the repatriation can be as challenging and traumatic as the first relocation. Especially for children who have spent a significant amount of their lives overseas (and many have probably never lived in their passport country!), repatriation is very difficult. Many repatriating families feel “culturally, socially and professionally out of sync with their new environment”.

This is why re-establishing a social life as soon as possible is very important in the first period of a relocation. It also helps against homesickness. – Everyone goes through the phase where the life before seems much better than the one in the new location (or “back home”). Therefore it is really important that, before entering this phase, i.e. while still in the “honeymoon phase”, expats should try to find like-minded people who can help them cope with the culture shock phase – or the reverse culture shock phase for those who repatriate.

The fact that “many brits abroad” seem to miss the sense of humour, really applies to everyone, Brit or not. Finding someone who laughs at the same jokes or at the same scenes in a movie gives us all a sense of belonging.

In this infographic, 70% “of expats say that social media contacts with friends and family helps to relieve homesickness”. I think social media are a great help nowadays. But it can also deter people from getting in touch with people in their real lives. Expats need even more to get in touch with people, with locals and like-minded people in their new location, to re-establish a new social life and create a safe haven where they can find help if needed.

If you’re facing issues like those mentioned in the infographic or know someone who might need some help, here are some sites to visit and contact (in alphabetical order):

This is NOT a sponsored post and I have NOT been asked to write it.

16 replies »

  1. Expressing and understanding humour, more often than not (unless you’re into slapstick), requires a knowledge of cultural reference points and a high level of competence in the language. Unless somebody has acquired these, they can’t possibly judge a person’s (or a nation’s) sense of humour. That’s what I think, anyway…


  2. I totally agree, ladyofthecakes. I, for example, sometimes miss points when Germans make jokes because I don’t have the cultural reference points eventhough I have a perfect competence of the language. I’m still learning but I know that I don’t share the same experiences with people who have lived in Germany. And even people who grew up in the same country, the same city, must not necessarily use the same cultural reference points.


    • Hi John, I’m glad you left this comment, because it got me to your blog. You’re right. Being an expat gets easier, but it never is really easy. After the first phase there are many others to come (like shown in this infographic) and sometimes we experience them twice (or even more often) when things change in our lives. When friends leave or our friendships change (for whatever reason). Being an expat is not a state, a condition, it’s life, a life in progress (like every other) with ups and downs. – I just read your post “you can choose your family, but you can’t choose your friends”: perfectly said!


      • Thanks for the visit. I agree that being an expat in the end is really just about living. After 15 years I don’t think of myself from day to day as an expat, but as a guy who lives here. Occasionally something happens to bring the awareness of my expat identity more to the fore, but as you suggest, it’s really about living day to day.


  3. Don’t worry, SJ Begonia, you might be still in the “honeymoon phase” and for some this phase lasts longer 😉 You also don’t really have to experience “culture shock”. I have my own theory about who suffers during that phase and, as far as I can tell by reading your blog, you are very well integrated already and the fact that you know Croatia already and are building a new life over there will help you a lot. I think it’s good to know what kind of phases we can get into whilst living abroad. And we also have to realize that those phases don’t last forever and their lenght depends on different factors: your character, your background, your expectations, your flexibility and your attitude towards this new life etc. etc. Some of the phases can also overlap. If you recognize that the “culture shock” hits you, try to focus on the positive sides of your life and talk about it with like-minded people around you. – I wish you all the best with your life in Croatia! I’m looking forward to knowing more about your life 😉 xx Ute


  4. I have gone beyond the “mastery” stage…. from Italy to UK over 24 years ago…. sometimes I think I am more English than and English…. Soon to conquer the “gradual adjustment” in Croatia also…. ahhahahah I am a citizen of the world…


    • Yes, I know what you mean. Sometimes those who are adapting and integrating in one country are more likely to be very fond of the country and its language, traditions etc. than locals. I observed this many times… I did live more than 23 years in Italy (not consecutively but in two big “blocks”) and did end up defending Italy among Italians (who did criticize their country, habits and of course, politics…). I’m getting into the phase where I feel more Dutch lately . You’ll be surely more than adjusting in Croatia and yes, you are a citizen of the world 😉


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