All expats suffer from this - Disjointed syndrome

20 Oct 2020

We like to think that as expatriates, we are all global citizens and embrace the opportunity to experience new cultures and ways of living, but no matter how well-travelled we are, every time we relocate to a new country, we will ultimately suffer from some form of disjointed syndrome.

‘The sense of loss that expatriates experience after moving abroad is the same grieving process people suffer when they experience tragedy’expatriateconnection.com

Ultimately when we move abroad, we suffer from symptoms of this phenomenon. For some it might happen almost immediately, or it might take several months to manifest. It could just be an uneasy feeling or a feeling that something just doesn’t feel right. 

Ask yourself these questions.

  • Do I feel lonely? – this is probably our biggest pitfall. Loneliness can lead to self-isolation and depression.
  • Hermit tendencies – are you staying in your house and not getting out much or just going to work and back? Does the thought of going out make you nervous? When placed in uncomfortable or unfamiliar surroundings we tend to hermit up.
  • Loss of cultural identity – Does everything feel unfamiliar? Are the local customs and culture very different? 
  • Feel like you don’t belong – Do you feel like you don’t belong anywhere? Culture shock can be intimidating and scary. Even at work, you might feel alienated because of new customs or cultures, and this is on top of being “the new guy” and finding your feet.
  • Comparison - Are you comparing everything in this new country to back home? Are you constantly thinking about home and how much better it is there compared to where you are? It is human nature to compare.

These are very real feelings and we often experience them. It is part of the fitting in or finding your feet part of relocating. Almost immediately upon relocating, we try to find familiar surroundings or familiar cultures or daily routines.

Here are some tips to help integrate yourself into your new culture and recover from disjointed syndrome.

  • Get out and explore and familiarise yourself with the area and the local customs and culture. The more you experience and explore, the more the unfamiliar will become familiar. Find your happy places.
  • Possibly join expat groups in your area. This could give you that feeling of familiarity or grounding that we need in any culture. Having people of the same culture gives us that sense of belonging.
  • Create familiar and comfortable surroundings. Making your home as familiar as possible will ease the transition and ease the homesickness.
  • Go out, eat local and socialise. Experience the local cuisine. It is a great way to experience the culture and meet new people.
  • Develop new routines. Routines are what gives us a sense of consistency and security. Plan your week e.g. Sat morning is market day or Wed is eating out night. Go for regular morning/evening walks, have gym days, or explore days or beach days, and even schedule regular routines like grocery shopping or house cleaning and gardening.
  • Volunteer. Volunteering can give you a sense of purpose and accomplishment and help you connect with people.
  • Set goals. Goals are important to give us direction, whether it is buying a property in your new country or saving for that trip home to visit family. Career goals are just as important. Are you planning on staying in the job you have or trying for a promotion or perhaps changing jobs or countries? Where do you plan to be in 5 years?
  • Don’t neglect friends and family at home. Connections keep us grounded and having a support system is essential to help us get through the loneliness and isolation. - internations.org

Please note, the above is for education purposes only and does not constitute advice. You should always contact your deVere Acuma adviser for a personal consultation.
* No liability can be accepted for any actions taken or refrained from being taken, as a result of reading the above.