1. Avoiding local culture.
Many expats have a hard time adjusting to the new culture – it’s totally normal. The problem is that many of these people will continue to keep themselves within a small bubble of influence and will fail to mesh with the local culture.
Rather than enjoying all the fresh novelties that the local country has, failing to associate with locals often can make you feel isolated, and many expats often express regret (after returning home) about not having spent more time getting to know the local culture.
2. Failing to join new clubs, local groups, etc.
It can be really tempting to try and “grab” onto your old life when you leave it behind. But the expats that fare the best, and get the most of out their assignment, tend to be those that quickly adapt and make new social circles.
They join clubs, organizations, local groups, meetups, and in general do whatever it takes to create a new life, with new activities, a new routine, and new friends.
3. Treating an assignment as a vacation… rather than a new life (and lifestyle).
For some, going on an expat assignment can seem like a romantic dream of travel. But in reality, you’re there to work. The reality is often a lot less romantic.
The reality is that you’re going to have to make new friends.
The reality is that you’re going to have to create a new daily routine of activities that make you happy.
The reality is that you’re going to have a new job with new co-workers.
And the reality is that you’re going to have to do a lot of work t make this new place finally feel like “home again.”
When you treat an expat assignment like a vacation, it can encourage mindless spending or wasting of time – but when you treat an assignment as a new life, it becomes clear that you need to use it as wisely as possible.
There is also a lot of less-than-glorious housework that needs to be done in regard to jobs, visas, housing, and learning the local laws and customs of the host country.
4. Having Unrealistic Expectations
It can be tempting to think that going on an expat assignment will mean exciting new friends, exciting new travels, and many exciting new business opportunities. Many times, that’s true! But going into an assignment with unrealistic expectations (That it will change your life in some way) is an easy way to get disappointed.
For example, you might be envisioning your first expat assignment as an easy adventure where life will be fun and carefree, and work will once again become exciting.
But once you arrive in your host country, you realize you don’t speak their language. The customs and culture are different – you don’t quite understand them, or maybe don’t agree with them. Finding an apartment is frustrating because you don’t speak the language, and your first day is filled with stress and tears.
Realistically, the first few days or weeks might not be easy. But over time, you’ll grow into your new life and lifestyle. It’s important not to have expectations about how the assignment will go – and instead, take it day by day and make sure to set down some roots and create a daily routine and lifestyle that helps you settle in.
5. Not planning for the return (or ignoring it altogether)
The return is the hardest part of living abroad. Many of you are probably nervous or worried about becoming an expat – but the “coming home” process, repatriation, is often much harder.
You’ve been living in a new place, with a new culture, sometimes with a new language – giving you plenty of new knowledge about life and the world.
Meanwhile, many of your friends or colleagues back home haven’t had such an eye opening experience. As a result, many people return home to find themselves a bit depressed and unsure of how to re-adapt to home life.
Whereas life was once exciting, fresh, and adventure, it can sometimes seem stale and boring once we return home. In reality, it’s just a matter of how well you plan for the return trip home, and what you do once you do return.