Being an expat can be lonely

Being an expat can be lonely

Before you go, join Facebook groups in the nearest city where you’re going. Search for your favorite activities. Visit up the top 10 things to do. Be pro-active. Make a plan to enjoy it.

Whenever I’ve lived abroad, it has been lonely but worth it. A good length of time to live in a country is a year to make friends and a year to enjoy them, I say. Find groups to join. Often, there are international groups, meetups, conversation exchanges, book groups, and women’s organizations. These will connect you with people, and you may find your tribe. These days, you can usually find a Facebook group in your region, for example, Expats, Digital Nomads… Use your imagination and search. 


is a member organization that hosts monthly social events and other gatherings and activities. Meetups has groups all over the world.

The International Women’s Association of Krakow

holds monthly coffees and newcomer’s lunches and a variety of groups for members including photography, yoga, running, book and travel groups. 

Cities often have an English language bookstore. Krakow’s is

Interestingly, many places have Facebook pages rather than websites.

Many bookstores hold book group meetings and language exchange groups. Search for your city, English language exchange, book groups. 

Language exchange can be a wonderful way to make connections as well. Many people from other countries would like to practice their English with a native speaker. 

Books, music, movies in English: Check if your home library lends books in your native language. My library in the US offers 7 books a month through the apps Hoopla and Overdrive. You can download media onto a phone, iPad, Kindle or laptop.

If you’re desperate for a book to read in English, some libraries have a section of books in English. If the local library does not, look for a nearby district library that has a foreign language collection.

In my experience, the British are welcoming, but they rarely invite you into their lives. For a high school student in a comprehensive high school (to Americans, that’s a public school), academics in Manchester, England, were far above American standards. To a certain extent I tried, but I didn’t have the skills or the grit to do particularly well. Luckily, I was headed for college in the US and my grades were sufficient. My mother, on the other hand, thrived. She joined a women’s group and made life-long friends.

Life in Italy was lonely. In Perugia, the people were “difidente.” They distrusted strangers and were not friendly. Couples had family obligations on both sides of the family and little time for outsiders. I developed an “aggressively friendly” policy and said “Buongiorno” to everyone as I passed on the street. Luckily, many of my neighbors opened up and became friendly over the course of a year. 

In Poland, people frown on the streets. Remember, some Polish people still alive today survived German Occupation during World War II and Communism. As a therapist, I pick up on the trauma that is integral to the culture. People were suspicious in the past because people reported on each other. You had to be cautious about who you trusted. The consequences of trusting the wrong person could be death for you, your family, even your village. Communism fell in 1989. Thirty years later, children smile at you as you pass by in a park. But as a child gets older, he stops smiling at strangers. On the other hand, family bonds are strong. If you’re lucky enough to be connected with a Polish family, you won’t feel as alienated.

Most important, focus on what you like about where you are. Explore your neighborhood. Rent a bike! Try the deserts. Your spirit of adventure led you here. Within reason of course, allow it free rein! 

I’d love to hear how you stay connected and deal with loneliness in a foreign country. Email me at (servers in Switzerland in compliance with GDPR)

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