As any seasoned expat will tell you, there comes a time when life abroad begins to lose its charm. The empanadas start to look greasier, the early-morning avocado vendor seems louder than usual, and everything that once felt like an exotic idiosyncrasy begins to feel drab and run-of-the-mill.
If you've felt anything along these lines (or anticipate them), fear not -- you're not alone. In fact, "expat burnout" and "expat depression" are well-documented phenomena that make total and complete sense. In our quest to launch ourselves into unknown places, some cultural quirks begin to lose their flare. Here at Arcido, we're incredibly familiar with these symptoms -- but we also know how to combat them. Here is everything you can do to embrace home in a new country (even on crappy days).
Learn the Language
Many people making the leap to live in a foreign country think there is a direct correlation between your time spent on location, and how much your language skills develop. In truth, learning the local language only comes by being decidedly proactive. Sure -- Uber rides and restaurants are excellent places to give your chops a test run, but authentic language learning is often the difference between a fruitful experience and one that stalls.
Make a point to take classes and pick up the nuances of the native language. The ability to have genuine interactions with locals will open tons of doors and bring new opportunities to every day.
Become an Expert Chef
What about when the local cuisine loses its novelty? One of the best ways to adapt and embrace life in a new country is to sharpen your cooking chops. Hop on YouTube, buy a knife set, start following food vloggers on social media -- do what you need to do to be able to fend for yourself in the kitchen. Learn to cook your favorite food from your home country, and then move on to all the cuisines you love most. There's always a sense of community found around the dinner table, so being able to host a barbecue or a dinner party can be a game changer for establishing connections.
Turn Your Home into a Home
One of the toughest things associated with living abroad is the back-and-forth battle between temporariness and permanence. Relationships are often fleeting, leases are short, and everything can often feel very up in the air. If you're struggling to embrace a new country as your home, take the time to invest in your living space. Even if you only plan on being around for a few months, throw some art on the wall, buy a plant or two, and make home feel more than just a block of square footage where you rest your head.
Don't be Complacent
Once you've stuck around for a while, it's easy to get complacent. Engagement in fun touristy activities can look like a plateauing graph -- things start strong in your first few weeks as you do everything in your guidebook, but quickly taper off in the following months. One important rule of thumb is this: remember that you're living in a different country. Like, a whole other place. Get out there and keep exploring.
Make Friends (Locals and Expats)
In my opinion, the key to a fun life abroad is the balance between expat friends and local friends. If you have only expat friends, you won't feel like you're really appreciating the culture. Similarly, if you have zero expat friends, you may feel lost. Make the most of social media to join sports leagues, find language exchanges, concerts, festivals, meetups, and more. Don't be afraid to be bold-faced about your foreignness -- walking up and introducing yourself shows a degree of vulnerability that most people appreciate.
Lean on Your Support System Back Home
Speaking and writing about your life abroad to loved ones does wonders. Living the experiences is one thing, but telling people about them is sometimes just as rewarding. Call your friends from college, call your Auntie Deena, and tell them what it felt like to walk through Istanbul's Grand Bazaar and to stand in the Shibuya Crossing. Sharing these experiences with others (and hearing their reactions) will help legitimize your life abroad and give you the confidence to embrace home on the road.
Written by Dillon DuBois