Negativity & Expat overwhelm

There are times when expats are faced with negative situations. It may be difficult to stay positive, and as human beings we are inclined to react negatively. It’s a built-in coping device, when in reality it makes the situation worse, and leaves you angry and disappointed. Reading positive affirmations helps, but you need tools to break the cycle of negativity.

I think of expat life as a Desert Island Scenario. You may be familiar with the film, Cast Away, where the character has to learn to survive through setbacks and challenges and then he rises to these challenges and uses skills and strengths he had no idea he had in a completely new environment. Think of your expat life as a real-world desert island experience. You have to deal with the unexpected, the unknown and the unfamiliar.

When I first arrived in the Netherlands, it was fun to explore new surroundings, but once the initial excitement fades, and it will, you start to ask yourself questions: What is my role in my new country?  Will I find a job? What will I do long-term? How you can you keep your body and brain stimulated will be the first challenge. You realise there is no quick solution, it’s natural you start to dwell on the negative.

Tips & Strategies to help you stay positive

Here are some tips and strategies to help you stay positive in negative situations:

1. Embrace interaction

Take something positive from everyone you meet. You may not agree with everything being said, so extract the value of what was said and see where it fits in your life. You can learn something from everyone.

2. Change your circle

The people that influence you and surround you are your "circle." Keep your circle healthy and maintain a positive and growing atmosphere and thrive with like-minded people. Negative influences such as anger, irritation, feeling overwhelmed, frustration and sadness can spread through your thoughts like wildfire. Maintain a healthy, thriving circle and keep the flames of negativity at a fair distance.

3. Stay motivated & Challenge your mind

You know you better than anyone, so whatever it takes to make yourself smile when you start to feel negative, just DO IT! Join a sports club, socialise, start a new hobby, join an expat group, read motivational books. Make sure you keep your brain active, as an active brain keeps you sharp, prepared and open to new opportunities.

4. Think & React positively

If you focus on the negative, you attract the negative. Some of you may say that sounds a little "out there," or it's spiritual mumbo-jumbo, but it’s true. If you constantly believe bad things will be the end result of a situation, that’s all that will happen. You are making decisions based on the atmosphere of negativity. Stay positive, react positively.

5. Build your identity

You may not realise it in the early stages of relocation, but much of your identity has diminished. The identity that defined you, professionally or socially, is no longer the same. It’s crucial that you quickly start re-building your identity. Have business cards made with your contact details. You can meet people in the most unexpected places and it’s a handy way of giving them your details.

6. Build supportive networks

As an expat, we need to build networks fast so we can successfully integrate. Attempting to make new friends and reaching out can be a stressful experience. Most of the time expats choose to sit back and become an introvert. If you are an outgoing person, this change in your character, can leave you overwhelmed and negative. Attend social and networking events and meet like-minded people.

7. Assess your stock of resources

You already have powerful resources within you - skills, knowledge and competencies that you can apply to many different areas of your life. Can you remember the exact moment when you made the decision to relocate? Chances are you acted on instinct from a resource you did not know you possessed.

8. Kick-start your belief system

How do you do that? Inner strength is your belief that you can handle anything that comes your way. There are times when you feel surrounded by darkness, and that is when your belief system kicks-in. Your inner strength enables you to find solutions and discover a new you.

9. Use online media sites to share your journey

With social networking sites it’s easy for you to share your journey with friends and family. Create a blog about your experiences, frustrations and discoveries. Posting regular entries is a fantastic venting mechanism and it will give a glimpse to your friends and family of your new life. When you write something down it's moved to a different place in your mind.

Don't ignore what you’re feeling

It’s difficult and challenging for expats to stay positive when they are overwhelmed with starting a new life in a new country. Reach out to other expats, do what makes you feel comfortable, and always invest in yourself. If put into action, these strategies can alter your way of reacting to life or business situations.

Investing in a life and/or career coach will help you get through the rough spots by lending support and offering direction to ensure your expat experience is a positive one. My motto is you must bring your whole self to the table if you want to thrive, but you can only do that if your mind and spirit is surrounded by positivity.


Maria Habets


Maria Habets

Maria is a Communications Consultant//Life Coach. She has a Master's degree in Psychology and International Business from New York University and Columbia University in New York. After relocating from the...

Read more



Leave a comment