Living and working abroad

Struggles of Expat life

We love to share real-life, experience-based articles and posts, because we think the best way to support people is through giving out authentic value. So we had the idea to ask our expat and spouse support coaches about the most common challenges and struggles of expat life. What are the issues people most frequently ask their help with. What makes the collection even more interesting and relevant is that in their answers our coaches talked about general topics as well as issues related to certain territories or groups. So without further ado, here are their answers:

  • Identity crisis: The gap between who a person is within their comfort zone versus outside their comfort zone.
  • I named my coaching model “The Quest” because my experience has been that my clients are on an adventure to accomplish a set goal – no matter if they are an expat on an international assignment, the accompanying spouse or a Third Culture Kid. On this exciting journey, my clients may discover hidden talents but may also have to face fears and limiting beliefs. I support them in nurturing these talents, while encouraging them to find new ways to overcome their fears and limiting beliefs.
  • Another form of the identity crisis I have personally faced is my own identity of growing up as an immigrant. Then there is the struggle of my Third Culture Kids, children who are growing up in a multicultural family.
  • As a family we have found  a happy medium among all these various facets and can comfortably answer the question “where do you feel at home?” Our answer is “here”. That is something I incorporate in my coaching as part of self-care — feeling at home without losing your personal identity.

Work-related struggles of expat life:

  • Building trust with international teams is a struggle for expats and leaders of virtual teams alike. Because they are the communication channel between two or more cultures (organisational/national), they may feel split in the middle. I support my clients in being a bridge, with different communication styles at the two ends, and yet retain their authenticity. This helps them foster a sense of trust and belonging among the various team members.
Kalaivani Mattern

Kalaivani Mattern

I am Vani, an intercultural trainer and coach. As an optimist, I strongly believe in cultures being complementary and my wish is to promote dialog, appreciation and productivity. The core of my intercultural philosophy is, that diversity with all its multitude of challenges, is our ultimate strength. I invite you to explore and leverage this unique capability of humanity - to cooperate and work across such vast distances in time, space, experiences and lifestyles.

Countries: Germany, India, Sri Lanka
Languages: English, German, Tamil, Hindi

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  • Caring for aging family members at home from far away

  • For white, single women in Asia: finding a partner/spouse, seriously a big topic.

  • And there is something else that came to my mind. It may be not too big in number, but for the people involved it is a big deal: Homosexual marriages that are fully recognised in the home country / countries, however not in the destination place. In these cases it is so hard for the accompanying partner to get visa and social status, work permit etc.

Work-related struggles of expat life:

  • Belonging as well as loyalty: in new location to be the “spy” coming from headquarters and/or “We have seen these expats come and go and do not care”, while in home location “not one of us anymore”.

  • How much do I need to change my habits as a foreigner working here, how much am I expected to behave as a foreigner, and what do I personally want?
Jutta Depner

Jutta Depner

Acting intercultural, our mind needs wings to leave what we know, to newly identify what is around us and to anticipate what may be about to come. My clients and I are going on journeys together to explore, to analyse, to stop and think, to share experiences, to try concepts out. Your mind will have wings to take zou to new openness and enlarge the options for action.

Countries: Austria, China, Germany, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Lao People\s Democratic Republic, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand, Viet Nam
Languages: English, German

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  • I think the struggles of expat life can vary immensely. One of my clients had found making friends at work difficult in the UK because she was very direct and was not able to be more indirect when sharing information and feedback with colleagues. For her, being direct was connected to efficiency, so together we worked on some strategies to prevent any miscommunication!

  • Bringing up children is another area of concern for many expat parents because when people have kids they often get nostalgic about their own childhood back home. Maybe they find the way things in the new culture are done rather strange and fail to see the positives. This takes time, and demands patience and tolerance – it’s not so easy when you feel you have to keep positive in front of your children at a time when you actually feel displaced and vulnerable.
Vanessa Paisley

Vanessa Paisley

I’m an interculturalist by birth, upbringing, education and life! I also know all the ins and outs of being different, being an expat, not belonging, integrating and I am at best when facilitating groups of differences! In my job, I see things from 360 degrees. I encourage people to find out about the world – how are you supposed to manage in a global world if you don’t know anything about it?

Countries: India, Russian Federation, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Languages: English, German

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  • Since my work with expats typically focuses on the sense of identity and loss,I frequently hear from clients about their anger and frustration around having to “reinvent” themselves every time there is a move. This can be particularly hard when there have been frequent moves and there can be a certain level of fatigue related to having to attempt to understand others and also to feel understood, and attempt to fit in a new culture.

  • Our personal and professional cues can be stripped away each time we move, and without those identifiers we can feel isolated and lose confidence, and experience depression and anxiety as a result.
Bonnie Wims

Bonnie Wims

It can be difficult to feel fulfilled when we move locations and we put pressure on ourselves as a result. Having been an expat myself, I understand the challenges this pressure can create. Through a supportive and trusting relationship, I utilize my training as a counseling psychologist to help identify areas that are difficult, validate concerns, assist you in challenging your perceptions, and encourage change where possible. Together we can step into the exciting possibilities this change can provide!

Countries: general
Languages: English

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Most of my clients are German expats.Having been managers before in Germany, many of them struggle with their direct communication style they are used to in their former positions. Often it is difficult for them to change communication patterns.

Irmela Riedlberger

Irmela Riedlberger

Empathy and trust in the power of change are most important for my work as a systemic coach. I support my clients to reflect on professional and personal matters under different perspectives, to understand different communication styles and change according to their needs. My own intercultural experience as a consultant, manager, trainer and coach in 19 different countries has paved the way for understanding my clients´ concerns.

Countries: Dominican Republic, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, Peru
Languages: German, English, Spanish

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