Besides Netflix: what to do when an assignee feels alone abroad

Expatriate loneliness can be a real problem not only for people feeling alone abroad but also for the company that has the duty of taking care of an employee during an assignment.

Of course, when loneliness starts to become a mental health issue, it is important to look for specialized help. But there are a few things it may help get that sense of belonging. Below we lay out a few tips HR can share with those relocating without family.

Things to do when you feel alone abroad

1. Create a comfortable home

Having an organized place is often underestimated. Our home is where we spend most of our time, and it needs a personalized feel. Take some time to get your things in order or work hard to make your personal space feel more like you.

2. Become a tourist

You can live your entire life in a city and not know everything about it. Try to relive the wanderlust you had when you first arrived at the assignment. Look for popular places among tourists and don’t be afraid to visit the same place twice. On the other hand, find out from the local’s places and restaurants where a tourist would not likely go. There might be a new find for you.

3. Go for a walk

Any new health habits can make us feel better, so why not combine exercise with a view of your new town? Ditch the headphones and try to pay attention to what is around you while you get a daily dose of endorphins.

4. Talk to a friend

The whole point of feeling alone abroad is feeling like we don’t have anyone to help us – but many people miss you in another country. Reaching a friend from “back home” can help you feel like yourself again. Prepare before you leave by first meeting with all of your friends, so you feel confident when you reach out to them again.

5. Watch Netflix

Sometimes it is nice to rely on fiction to take our minds out of things. If going outside and making new friends is difficult right now, try to look for relatable stories on your TV.

Why do people feel alone when abroad?

Situational elements, such as relocating to a new area, can contribute to loneliness. But it might be a sign of a psychiatric illness like depression. Depression frequently causes social withdrawal, which can lead to isolation.

Poor self-esteem and something as simple as introversion can also contribute to loneliness. For instance, people who lack self-confidence frequently assume that they are undeserving of other people’s attention. It is important to pay attention, as loneliness may lead to more serious symptoms.

The importance of mental health counselling

Loneliness can be the signal of more serious mental health issues. The company plays a big role in managing expectations and even providing EAP support if necessary. The work on mental health starts before the assignment and should be continuous and frequent until it ends.

HR has a crucial role to play

To contribute to successful assignments, HR always has a crucial role. HR should always work to connect the assignee to the host location office.  Have a plan to keep them in touch, not just with HR, but by making them part of strategic meetings, even if you have to adjust for time zone differences. Staying connected to the host location is one of the predictors of success for an international assignment and can certainly help to reduce that sense of loneliness. And if you think, in one of your connections with an assignee, that there are signs of mental strain, suggest the company’s EAP programs.

Relocation expert

Michael Deane

Michael Deane

Helping companies relocate employees & recruits seamlessly, whether it is domestically, cross-border or globally.

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