1. Heather
    November 1, 2014 @ 11:24 am

    I really empathise! I hope it does become easier for you! Loving a country above your social existence is a powerful force,and, having the grit to make such an important decision to stay for that, I’m sure, will hopefully sooner than later, evolve into an established life with a satisfactory social network of similar~minded, brave people! Good luck!
    I left England 2 years ago to France and am lucky my English hubby has great family & friends of all nationalities, and they’re usually very patient with my awful French!I’m finding it difficult to learn the language as I am stressed (won’t go into all that…), & trying to find teaching work.i started a French course on arrival, but the teacher was incredibly hostile toward me, I had to leave..( I was the only female in a class of 20 Portuguese men, who were very supportive). Strange situation…I also work as a jazz singer/musician, & have had a few successful gigs & met some lovely people. Again, my French keys me down, but thank God for a sense of humour! Driving about in my husbands big transit van and going to towns, markets, big shops on my own helps. I am suffering horribly with homesickness ( another stress!), and have decided to visit England a bit more next year. Never simple, is it? Ah! The rich tapestry of Life….

  2. Paul
    October 31, 2014 @ 11:25 pm

    I’ve been living in Madrid for nearly 9 years now, and although I consider it my home, I’ve always felt like an outsider. I decided to face a fear and Study a Master. I have 4 months left now and this Master is taught completely in Spanish. My level of Spanish is C2, but I’m not native and some of the modules I’m studying are really difficult, even for the Spaniards. I enjoyed the Master to begin with, but now I hate it, because I just feel dumb a lot of the time, and sometimes the teachers make comments suggesting I’m on another planet; then everyone laughs. Furthermore, the economic situation is so bad here that I don’t even know whether or not this Master will ever open any doors for me professionally. I sometimes think about going back to England, but I love Madrid too much!

  3. Yasmin
    September 27, 2014 @ 2:12 pm

    I am probably second generation expat. I understand what my mother went through as my father built an illustrious career overseas for over 25 years and they were both glad when it was over. I did not think it would happen to me because I had hobbies, interests and I mixed with lots of people of different backgrounds. Some were at work, some had families and some were not my age group. It was easy to find common ground. But as an expatriate you have to address the day will come when you are told your dear friend is pulling their business back to the continent or they are retiring or a new job offer comes up. The years pass and people tell you it is a function of age that your community changes till you cannot recognise it anymore. My initial reaction was to put more effort, try new things, set up more network. It was an epensive mistake because it exposes you to traps, insincere people and then you have really good reason to be careful and avoid unwanted sales or foolish endeavours. You are wiser if you live a quiet life and in that quiet life things can blossom from introspection.

  4. How to meet people in a new city by following this one step- Refreshed Perspectives - Tips and tools to overcome homesickness
    February 18, 2014 @ 5:52 am

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  5. Heather
    November 3, 2013 @ 12:09 pm

    Thanks Andrew! I am working out a routine where I do stuff (work prep’, chores, French learning etc), with huge energy, then be a total slob with my kitties & flop out to watch episodes of tv stuff I never got round to but hoped to one day, one my iPhone! It works for me. I feel So much better. I hope it doesn’t buggar my eyes up, but with my new job (yay!) maybe I’ll eventually have enough to buy an iPad or something more practical. Hope all going well.

  6. Heather
    October 17, 2013 @ 1:13 pm

    Just to say I feel less weird by wanting to hibernate when I’m “Totally Frenched-Out”, but do realise I ought to get out & ‘be there’. I’m in a real funk atm, and am losing a little confidence I’m trying to learn french, but stress blocks me. I am hoping to get back into teaching, and must get the language, but oh! This gloom is such a bore. !!!

    • Andrew
      November 3, 2013 @ 11:55 am

      Hibernation urges is totally normal. It is part running away from unpleasantness and part trying to find the energy to deal with all the new stuff. As you mention though, it is usually a sign that you do just need to get out and do other things. Give yourself more active ways of being comfortable rather than retreating into darkness.

      Good luck with French. I tried it twice in school and college and could never manage. German though is way harder fro most people and I am ok with. Go figure.

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  8. zam
    August 23, 2012 @ 7:25 pm

    I really liked your article Andrew. I’m in Prague as an expat now and can relate to much of what you’ve said about the barriers, the isolation, and lack of friends when starting out or when they have a baby, relationship etc and move on, ending your association with them. It happens. Totally agree about how even a relocation back in the states can have many of the same adjustment stress (knowing nobody, being ‘blind’ to where needs can be met, etc). Thanks for bringing up “hibernation” and how you can just hole up in your flat, it really happens (esp to me!). And with a good computer and comfortable chair you could easily never leave the house. Especially as you get into your 40s and 50s, you know whats at the corner bar and its…erm….really boring. You’re older, balder–I mean who wants to talk to me LOL. Its not all that interesting sitting alone in a pub—while you’d much prefer to have a beer at home and surf the web’s offerings. Its true! To intensify the feeling of isolation and aloneness while being an expat abroad, just add being unemployed. Most of my waking time is spent at home alone staring into the monitor, applying to jobs, surfing this or that site, fucking about on YouTube, etc. The brave new digital world we all now live in has consumed us. Surreal sometimes, you just have to persevere. Holy crap what rubbish did I just write LOL πŸ˜€

    • Heather
      October 17, 2013 @ 1:20 pm

      Zam it was so interesting reading your stuff. And positive actually. I guess realising what’s up is a big part of the way out of the crappy side is being expa, and it’s not bloody easy! Not easy for any age (I’m 60 going on 30, which helps!). I drive my new hubby’s 2ton tranny, & it helps to take the edge off a bit. (Used to diving in the UK… wrong side of the road, lol!)

  9. PBateman
    October 31, 2011 @ 1:43 pm

    Great read. I have been really struggling of late in London. Moved here about 8 months ago, started out ok as I had some friends here already I knew. Then one had a kid, the other found a girlfriend and the other’s girlfriend moved over here to live with him from NYC.

    I definitely can relate to the hibernation theory. I do it all the time. Just can’t work up the energy to do anything to meet people. It’s terrible and if this continues I fear I’ll go back home.

    • Andrew
      October 31, 2011 @ 2:41 pm

      I really hope you find a way to stay. Living abroad has been one of the best things I have decided to do. Hibernation, as you mention, is unfortunately the worse thing possible; as it isolates from the help you actually need to get over it. You have to make an effort go do soemthing. In a town as large as London, there should be plenty of clubs and such. Pick an interest, look up ppl on Twitter, try meetup.com, and just go do stuff. Even if it is only once a week. My lifeline the first few months here was a twice monthly meeting, and even that was enough to help me get through stuff.

  10. pomomama
    June 13, 2011 @ 7:16 pm

    Great post – I loved the discussion on loneliness and isolation, it meant a great deal to me. As the trailing spouse in a 10y relocation to Canada from UK, I’m finding the loneliness hard to bear – I think it’s absence of close family around and the lack of shared cultural references as a back story which makes finding friends hard. I’m also feeling somewhat trapped being here as the rest of my family is doing well out of it. My husband has a good job and my son was born here, loves it. I get tired of continually forging my own identity without much back up – yes, it can be lonely but I try to aggregate the good points on a weekly basis.

    • Andrew
      June 14, 2011 @ 6:24 pm

      Looking at the good points every week is a great idea. That is something I should do more as well, especially in the dark of the winter.
      You at least have a common language which should help in some ways to overcome the different backgrounds, though the culture differences will be there regardless. It sounds like you need a tie directly to the place as opposed to only through your husband/son or even through your family to back home. Family is important and people are usually more important than place, but if you only anchor yourself through them you may end up resenting the place somehow. Do you have the chance to work? Or create some other project, maybe for other expats in the area?

      • pomomama
        June 14, 2011 @ 7:02 pm

        Those are great points re: anchoring, and yes, the common language has been a boon (though there are some interesting miscommunications and nuances).
        Volunteering has been a great way to network and integrate – I’ve made some wonderful contacts that way, and still try to keep the hours going (was easier before my son was born). I’ve also immersed myself into the financial and taxation side of life here by starting my own business. And I’m updating qualifications thru college. On the face of it, I am setting down my roots – so far though they feel shallow. I’m still searching for my community – it’s a work in progress and I’m surprised that at 10y it’s still ongoing.

        I’m going to give another plug again for volunteering! – it’s been my luxury as the trailing non-working spouse πŸ™‚

  11. Frank
    June 13, 2011 @ 6:28 pm

    Hi, I am not surprised you dont make a lot of friends – you are german, you kinda hav a rep, naa mean?

  12. Andrew Jernigan
    June 9, 2011 @ 2:46 pm

    Great to read, thank you for reflecting so genuinely and authentically. I identify completely with your feelings. I’ve live in the USA, Africa, Netherlands, UK, and Brazil – and the battle for community in newness is ever-present. Whether in ASmallWorld, InterNations, or MeetUps in these different environments, it’s often shallow and isolating still. I have found that a strong multicultural church provides a healthy community for support and friendships.

  13. Angie
    June 9, 2011 @ 1:23 pm

    I live in Romania now and it seems I am the only foreign woman here, most Expats live in Bucharest. I started to learn Romanian on the computer because there are no language classes.
    Here are so many things wrong they could fix but nobody wants to change in Romania.
    I spend my days here alone and always happy when my husband gets home in the evening. We don’t even have a working airport (only open between June and September but no direct flights to my home country Austria) and we have to drive 3 hours on horrendous roads to the next one.
    Here in Constanta are not many things you can do. It’s near the holiday area Mamaia but the sea is really dirty and full of algae in Summer.
    Most restaurants are italian but how much pizza and noodles can one eat?
    We have another 3 years here and I will do my best to entertain myself with sport (gym because of stray dogs it’s impossible outside), painting, reading and cooking.

    • Andrew
      June 14, 2011 @ 6:19 pm

      Hi Angie, that sounds like a tough situation. Especially with 3 years still to go.
      It sounds like you have a good list of things to keep you distracted, but if you try to go completely without social interaction that could be really hard on you in the long run. Are there any other expats at all in your area? Maybe you could organize something and help others in your situation as well as yourself.

      • Angie
        June 15, 2011 @ 12:31 pm

        This is the problem Andrew. No Expats here in Constanta. Some man but they come here on/off for some weeks only for work. We have them sometimes over for dinner but that’s it.
        I am not sure how long I can live like this.

        • Andrew
          June 22, 2011 @ 7:28 pm

          I’m sorry to hear that. Talk to your husband about how you are doing. Even if he can’t do anything, it might make you feel better to be able to talk about it with him.

          • Angie
            June 23, 2011 @ 10:29 am

            Oh we talk a lot. It’s not the rasiert Job for ihm here either and it’s good to have Dach other.

  14. Tracy
    June 9, 2011 @ 12:04 pm

    I moved to Copenhagen about 2 months back, and at first I made sure that I made some initial connections through expat groups. And the first few weeks were marvellous. But my job requires me to travel alone, so after a few weeks of missing out on dinners, get-togethers, parties etc, I am usually forgotten. Afterall, it takes effort and time to build new friendships, and reminding others that you’re still around! Recently, I have started to feel lonely and in response to that I just want to do absolutely nothing on the weekend and as you correctly pointed out, hibernate. Making friends, inheriting new friends, maintaining this constant contact is no easy feat. I can only hope that I will get out of this miserable situation soon. Thanks for an excellent post!

    • Andrew
      June 14, 2011 @ 6:14 pm

      You’re welcome. Thanks for the comment. I am glad that the post helped you.
      I am a part of one of those expat groups. We only do dinners every 2 weeks, but still it is as you say sometimes easy to forget someone that only comes in every so often. Do you have an email list for those groups? Keeping active even in email should help people remember about you as well as help you with a more regular stream of activities that you could go do when you have the time. Try also setting up activities on your own, though that does take more energy.
      Don’t hibernate, that is probably the worst choice of all of them. Try to seek out just one person at first and grow from there. I met an 18 year expat within weeks of moving here and she has become a very good friend and helps me keep my head above water when things get frustrating.

  15. Brenda
    June 9, 2011 @ 11:33 am

    I have traveled quite extensively but always to English speaking countries to live. Vacations to Greece, Milan, Spain, Mexico, etc don’t count because the stay is so short. I lived in The Bahamas for 14 years but it had a LARGE expat community Again, they were very welcoming and many events every weekend and I didn’t find it hard to make a few special friends. My only feelings of isolation was living on an island. Now, I am in Sweden with my boyfriend and have not conquered the Swedish language let alone the vocabulary and pronunciations. But, I am trying. Even my boyfriend tires of my English so I am double lonely most times. Most south Swedish people refuse to speak English, some are too shy to even try. I find if a English speaking man friend is around, everyone speaks English all the time. But, not for me as a woman. Funny how I have observed this phenomenon.

    • Andrew
      June 14, 2011 @ 6:09 pm

      Keep trying on the Swedish. I have no experience with that, but in Germany when I started speaking even a little German the people were more likely to talk to me in general as well as try some English. When you show that you are trying their language, mistakes and all they will be more open to trying English if they are shy or not so good at it.

      • Pumby
        June 15, 2011 @ 12:17 pm

        I agree on that, it happens here as well.

  16. Pumby
    June 9, 2011 @ 11:24 am

    Thanks for sharing, you put words to my feelings. I am a Spaniard who lived in Italy and is currently living in Norway. I must say life in Italy was easier because of the Mediterranean culture and the similarity of the languages. But I also love Norway because of its lifestyle. It’s difficult to make friends here though, and you are forced to learn Norwegian quickly if you want to work here (even if everybody speaks perfect English). But I don’t feel lonely. Yes, I miss my own culture sometimes, that’s why I basically listen to online radio (Italian and Spanish). Internet has helped me a lot to keep up with my own roots. I would say I keep a foot on both cultures, Mediterranean and Scandinavian πŸ™‚

    • Andrew
      June 14, 2011 @ 6:07 pm

      Wow, Spain to Norway is a big move. Both at a language and a weather level. Indeed the internet has allowed expats to more easily keep that one foot in both worlds.

      That is so great that you don’t feel lonely. How long have you been in Norway? Do you live in a big city or a town?

      • Pumby
        June 15, 2011 @ 12:14 pm

        I live in Bergen, the second city in Norway. Not a big one, but we’ve got all we need πŸ˜›

      • Pumby
        June 15, 2011 @ 12:15 pm

        I moved here in 2007.

  17. Marivic Pelaez
    June 9, 2011 @ 10:15 am

    Oh for 13 years being on the road, I reached the point that I lost my identity at all. Yes, I am lonely and Isolated at the same time yet still trying to embrace what the world can offer us from the bright side. But how if you leave in a very extreme posting where so many restrictions are being imposed? I or you must be a tough cookie to face it from day to day basis specially you when have a family counting on you or at least being the support system for the husband who’s eking himself out of living. Yes, an opportunity to see and understand the world yet it can be overwhelming physically and mentally. Just a thought:)

  18. jade
    May 18, 2011 @ 6:53 pm

    Heck, I feel like this sometimes even at home! I get restless after traveling for awhile and like Heather said, the newness wears off, or I stop exploring and I just get in a funk. In order for me to get out of it, I have to force myself to hang out with people- once I’m around them, I feel better. I guess I’m saying- you’re not alone in feeling alone!

    • Andrew
      May 19, 2011 @ 8:06 pm

      Oh indeed. Being home doesn’t make you immune from this.
      I like that “not alone in feeling alone.”

  19. Heather
    May 18, 2011 @ 6:34 pm

    I didn’t feel like an expat last year as my experience in Oz would only last a year, but I definitely encountered the isolation and loneliness from time to time. It really hit once I stopped traveling and set up shop in Sydney. Once the newness wore off, I was either at work, relaxing with my laptop or the TV in the flat, or occasionally going out to meet up with a friend. On my days off I mostly stuck to myself and tried to watch how much I spent. Always a balance to strike…sometimes taking care of yourself is enjoying alone time and sometimes it means going out, even if you feel like retreating a bit.

    Glad you’re talking about these feelings and that Ali will join you soon!

    • Andrew
      May 19, 2011 @ 8:05 pm

      Newness seems to push away the isolation, but it can come back when you are fixed to a routine. Especially being at work means we all need rest and relaxation alone. This can just become part of the routine and get to us. Like you say, balance is key.
      Thanks for the comment. What is the next adventure for you now that you are back?

  20. Tuula
    May 18, 2011 @ 5:34 pm

    Well done, nicely written! We’ve all experienced these feelings at one point or another – sometimes more strongly than others. I still remember waking up in the morning my first few weeks in France & it felt like a dream-world. Totally hard to connect with people & feeling like a complete “fish out of water”.
    So far, learning the language has been the key to becoming more integrated & avoiding isolation – it’s not an easy route, but well-worth the pay off. Thanks for sharing this with us!

    • Andrew
      May 19, 2011 @ 8:00 pm

      Thanks for the comment. Getting over the language barrier is indeed a big step, making the whole thing just a little more like moving within your own culture.

  21. Ali
    May 18, 2011 @ 5:10 am

    This is a really great read. I can totally relate to the feeling of being lonely even at a party. I’ve been living in the Atlanta area for 16 years and I’ve made plenty of friends, but my closest friends have moved to the other side of the country. The friends I have here all have their own best friends and little circles they hang out with, and I miss having a best friend around, someone who is your go-to person to hang out with quite often. I definitely have a tendency to feel isolated and lonely, so we’ll see how that goes in a couple months when I’m in Freiburg!

    • Andrew
      May 19, 2011 @ 7:57 pm

      Yeah, that “best friend” is definitely a good description. Someone that no matter what will hang out and do stuff if you call, especially if you are down. We will figure it out here. πŸ™‚

  22. Ariana
    May 18, 2011 @ 4:48 am

    I really liked this post. Isolation and loneliness are a very real part of the expat/ travel experience. I think I expected it to be a little worse than it actually was for me in Germany– having an expectation of feeling like an outsider for a long, long time was actually helpful, since I didn’t expect a feeling of connection to happen right away. I do have to say that Germany can be a more difficult place for this, since the culture is more reserved (at least in Bavaria) toward outsiders. When we traveled through Italy, it felt like everyone was hugging us– the relational warmth was palpable.
    The part you wrote about “this too shall pass” is totally true, and can really save one from despair when loneliness feels overwhelming.

    • Andrew
      May 19, 2011 @ 7:56 pm

      Thanks for that. The idea that it will pass is a hard one to remember in the midst of a problem. I know it will change, but that is rally hard to see when everything looks dark.

      Italy can be overwhelming in the other direction almost. So much attempt at connection. There needs to be a balance.

  23. Norman
    May 18, 2011 @ 1:03 am

    Very well done and thoughtful post. The “Γ­solation” and “loneliness” distinction or nuance is a good one. Being different is something that expats will always struggle with, I believe. It can be a hard thing to realize and experience, it can also make you richer. I like the quote of Louis Roux: “Solitude vivifies. Isolation kills.”

    Good luck with everything!

    • Andrew
      May 19, 2011 @ 7:52 pm

      The being different is a good thing most of the time, but it has its pitfalls as described. Thanks for the quote and the luck wishes.

  24. Jeremy Branham
    May 17, 2011 @ 11:02 pm

    I agree with you about loneliness. It breeds more loneliness. Whenever you are down and lonely, the last thing you want to do is be around others. Recognizing this and seeking that connection with others is a good way to get over that. Not easy but necessary. I wish this was a lesson I learned when I was younger.

    • Andrew
      May 19, 2011 @ 7:51 pm

      Seriously, me too.

  25. Sabrina
    May 17, 2011 @ 10:45 pm

    I think it’s just like you said: it’s easy to feel isolated or lonely when you move to a new city and it’s only more difficult when you move to a new country. Despite having lived in the US now I still sometimes feel that I am somewhere in between cultures. I kind of fit in both the German culture and the Texan one and I kind of fit in neither. Like you, I really enjoy being with other expats (not necessarily only Germans) because they instantly get your situation without having to talk about it. But that can be dangerous too, because many expats keep moving around. I can’t count how many friends I had that moved away and left me feeling even more alone. I think I have a fairly healthy balance of American and expat friends now, but since I also live in a kind-of college town the turnover even among Americans is high. Oh well. It helps to have my boyfriend here. But one still needs friends outside the house πŸ™‚

    • Andrew
      May 19, 2011 @ 7:51 pm

      Yeah, the turnover of friends can be tough. This is again true in “normal” life, but as an expat the number of people that really understand is fewer and they tend to move more often. It means the few friends are valuable. I don’t yet have my fiancee here, but it is coming soon. That will help a lot like you having your boyfriend.

  26. Katherina
    May 17, 2011 @ 10:27 pm

    Great piece that has made me wonder a lot about my own situation right now. I’ve been living in Switzerland now for more than 2 and a half years and have learned to deal with punctuality, early closing shops and restaurants and the country’s healthy love for doing sports. I’ve also met some nice people along my way.
    But then, these people have their lives (and don’t always count on me to live it). I still don’t speak the language because… oh well – my job is in english and spanish and my company only started offering french classes about a month ago. There are weekends where I will just not talk to anyone.
    And not only do I feel lonely, but also isolated. I’m still in Europe – and theoretically not all too far from home (only 4 and a half hours by plane)… but that’s already far enough to feel as if I was living in a 200 people village in India. My friends organize weekend trips to which I can’t go because everything is too expensive from this country… and I’m missing that “other life” I could have right now if I were in Spain.
    But I guess there’s always a pro and a con for each decision taken. At some point, I thought being an expat outweighed staying at home. So now, when I’m in one of those days, I just need to remind myself the positive side. It usually helps πŸ™‚

    • Andrew
      May 19, 2011 @ 7:48 pm

      Yeah, I go through that thought process too. Of deciding that staying an expat is better than going back. But, like you say, there are times when the “otherlife” calls very strongly, and the calls seem to sound louder when for whatever reason we are down or lonely.
      If you ever feel like coming up and seeing Germany, I am not so far from Switzerland. You are welcome to come visit.

  27. GoingKraut
    May 17, 2011 @ 10:18 pm

    It is a little bit of a difficult situation. I always have the problem of trying to avoid being the too forward or too friendly American as an attempt to integrate with the culture. However, in the end it also contributes to my isolation because I am not getting my butt out there as much as should. I think being able to live a little more isolated as usual makes you stronger as a person. It “grows character” as they say. A few years ago I saw a “making of” of the Bourne Supremacy and they were talking about how they had picked out Berlin because it is incredibly isolating for Americans and Bourne was supposed to be alone against the world.

    • Andrew
      May 19, 2011 @ 7:41 pm

      The classic phrase of “don’t be what you aren’t” applies here too. Yeah if you act the brash outgoing American, then the German’s might stare, but still if you try to be too reserved you will feel that isolation for not being who you are. So what if they stare? It gives them something to stare at, so you are offering a service to the community.
      Isolation growing character also means growing harder. I find that it means my shell is thickened so stuff doesn’t affect me, but I also keep stuff inside too much.

  28. Raika
    May 17, 2011 @ 9:46 pm

    Thanks for that article. I’m a German who lived in London for almost 6 years and this is exactly how I felt and although I then lived with my Scottish boyfriend I missed certain German commodities like beer gardens and a certain quality of life. Most of all I missed a properly working shower…
    In the end this feeling was so overwhelming that I felt trapped and miserable most of the time and decided to change something. Now I’m back in Germany looking for a job… not sure yet if it was the right decision though as there were days where I really liked my life in the UK. But I guess this torn feeling is typical for an expat, even after returning to the home country.

    • Andrew
      May 19, 2011 @ 7:38 pm

      Thanks for sharing your story. Every situation seems to be slightly different. London can be overwhelming for people used to Britain, so it must be harder on others. What do you mean by properly working shower? The only difference I remember is that the Brits seem to fear damp more than the Germans in the bathroom.

      Yeah that split life feeling is typical expat. Entangled in one place and still yearning for another.

      • Raika
        May 22, 2011 @ 5:55 pm

        I found it hard finding a flat in London with a properly working shower, e.g. proper pressure. Most places have a shower that is merely dripping rather than showering down.

        They do have electric showers but that just heats up the cold water but doesn’t improve the water pressure. Only so called ‘power showers’ have proper pressure but those need a loud engine driven pump. I had one in my first flat share in London and it’s noise woke up everyone in the flat when one of us had to get up earlier than the others.

  29. Jeremy Branham
    May 17, 2011 @ 9:29 pm

    I am not sure who is doing more introspection and soul searching lately – me or you? You definitely experience a side of this I don’t since you are an expat. I am sure there are many things you wrestle with but all of it is normal. Going to explore more of this later and it may inspire me to counter with another post! πŸ™‚

    • Andrew
      May 19, 2011 @ 7:33 pm

      It doesn’t have to be a contest. πŸ™‚ And yes of course these are normal sorts of things. I felt the same moving to a town I didn’t know in the US, just being abroad you are further from friends and families and there are additional social and linguistic barriers.

      Feel free to post.