Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Feeling the strain?

It is a fact that sometimes expats can have need of counselling. The stresses of being an expat can be significant and some studies have shown that this is particularly so for those on work assignments overseas as opposed to family relocations.

In a sense that is unsurprising. If you have moved with your family to start a new life overseas then there is a group around you to share the (hopefully numerous) highs and of course, the odd low from time to time. If on the other hand you are on your own overseas or perhaps you are the partner of someone working long hours in the office while you’re at home alone surrounded by strangers, then it’s fairly easy to start ‘turning in’ on yourself and feeling a bit blue.

In fact, some statistics indicate that about 50% of expats of the overseas work assignment variety actually request re-assignment back home after less than 1 year of what should have been a 2 or three-year contract. Of those cases, about 95% of the time the reason given relates to isolation and loneliness either of the expat or their partner.

Under these circumstances, it may be nice to have someone to chat to just to get some sense of reality. There are usually local expat organisations that can help, although you may have to make the effort to go and find it or other forms of support.

Of course it is possible that the idea of sharing your concerns with your next-door neighbour or the chairman of the local expats’ association isn’t quite what you had in mind. Sometimes it may be beneficial to talk to someone unbiased and impartial.

If that happens, it may be possible to seek some form of counselling. It’s important to note that in this I do not mean psychiatric counselling! It is beyond my sphere of expertise to discuss when those occasional and perfectly normal attacks of ‘expat blues’ may be in danger of turning into clinical depression – a doctor should be able to advise you.

What I am talking about is the counsellor who has been through relocation and understands some of the pressures an expat can be under. The trouble is that for expats living in non-English speaking countries, finding such a person may not be easy. There are some webs sites that claim to offer expat counselling - try Googling for a few minutes and see what you find.

Please note that I am not necessarily recommending these services or advising you to use them – there are several such sites and offerings on the web and you should do your own search and preferably take references. The point is that if you are feeling a little low then there is no reason for you to keep this to yourself. There are people to talk to out there - whether it be your neighbour, new friends on expat forums or a good counsellor.

Don't keep things bottled up, we've all been there at one time or another.

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