New research reveals the difficulties faced by expats

New research shows that 40 per cent of expats consider being away from their family and friends one of the most difficult parts of moving overseas and 20 per cent find making friends an issue.

New research reveals the difficulties faced by expats
New research has found that expats and their children are finding it difficult to be away from close friends and family.

Being away from a support network

The research by AXA PPP International was conducted with around 500 expats living in a country different from that of their birth. Of those, 40 per cent – and 32 per cent of their children ­– said that being away from their support network was one of the most difficult aspects of their transition to life abroad, no matter what their nationality or where they had relocated to.Making friends was an issue for both groups, with 20 per cent of adults and 28 per cent of children citing difficulties. In addition, 20 per cent of adults and 15 per cent of children (according to their parents) struggled with building a new support network after relocating.

Adults face more barriers in relocating than their children

Perhaps surprisingly, the research consistently highlighted how adults were impacted more than their children and faced more barriers.“Wherever you move, it’s natural to experience a sense of loss due to this transition and miss family, old routines and familiarity”, said Dr Mark Winwood, director of Psychological Services for AXA.“People manage change differently but the key to managing a major change successfully is preparation. We know that many people relocating spend a lot of time planning their finances and accommodation. But they should consider their wellbeing too and prepare equally as much.“If they don’t know or have not planned how they might go about integrating when they move, it may lead to difficulties making friends and can leave an individual trying to operate without a support network. Poor adjustment and the lack of a good support network can trigger feelings of isolation, which over the long-term could lead to mental health difficulties.”

Childcare is a significant consideration

When it came to family life specifically, childcare was a significant consideration. Of those surveyed, 36 per cent agreed that childcare is more affordable where they live now than in their country of birth.When asked about the standard of childcare, the results were divided as 41 per cent thought it was better than in their home country but 38 per cent thought it was worse.

Language: an obstacle for adults, but not children

Language was another obstacle to overcome for adults, with almost a third (30 per cent) of expats saying they have found the language a challenge, along with 25 per cent of their children. German seemed to be more of a struggle than other languages with this figure rising to 62 per cent in Germany.However, language was not seen as a concern when raising children, with almost half of the respondents stating that language difference does not cause a problem.Surprisingly, weather was also a barrier to settling in – especially for those moving to the UK. Overall, 26 per cent of adults found the weather difficult to get used to but this rose to 42 per cent when speaking about the UK specifically.
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Tips to manage the transition

Dr Winwood offered some helpful advice to those looking to relocate, “Speaking to seasoned expats who are keen to share their experiences or using expat forums or social media can be great ways of understanding what the move might be like. It’s also key to be proactive when you make the move.“You have to make an effort to create a support network – one won’t just appear. Socialising with colleagues or fellow expats is a good way to start. Also considering how you might over-come the language barrier might also help this transition.” “How the family adapts will have a significant bearing on the success of the time spent abroad. Bringing up young children can be tough when away from home and what they know. However, it’s clear that bringing up children abroad can have many advantages, with high standards of childcare and the opportunities to learn a second language.“Again, knowing what to expect is key when gearing up for a move. Preparation, preparation, preparation will help expats-to-be envisage what it will be like so everyone in the family is ready for the adventure in store.”For related news and features, visit our Health and Wellness section.Access hundreds of global services and suppliers in our Online DirectoryClick to get to the Relocate Global Online Directory  Get access to our free Global Mobility Toolkit Global Mobility Toolkit download factsheets resource centre