Struggling to Make Friends After Moving Abroad: A Guide for Shy Expats

Struggling to Make Friends After Moving Abroad

Moving to a new country is a monumental change, especially when combined with the life-changing event of getting married. It’s completely normal to feel overwhelmed by these transitions, and struggling to make new friends in an unfamiliar environment is a common challenge many expats face.

A Familiar Struggle in an Unfamiliar Place

Back home in Pakistan, you were in your comfort zone, surrounded by familiar faces, places, and cultural norms. This familiarity made it easier to connect with others and build friendships. Now, in a new country, you’re faced with the daunting task of starting over in an unfamiliar setting, which can be particularly challenging if you’re naturally shy and have low self-esteem.

Understanding the Impact of Stress on Social Interactions

When we’re stressed, our nervous system can react in ways that make social interactions even more difficult. This can manifest through the “Four Fs” responses: fight, flight, freeze, or fawn.

  • Fight: Confronting the stressor aggressively.
  • Flight: Avoiding or escaping the stressful situation.
  • Freeze: Feeling stuck and unable to act or respond.
  • Fawn: Trying to please others to avoid conflict.

It sounds like you might be experiencing the freeze response, where you feel stuck and unable to engage in conversations or make new friends.

Steps to Regulate Your Nervous System

Before you can comfortably make new friends, it’s important to be in a healthy mental and emotional state. Here are some methods to help regulate your nervous system:

  1. Breath Work: Practice deep breathing exercises to calm your mind.
  2. Body Work: Engage in activities like yoga or massages to relieve physical tension.
  3. Talk Therapy: Speak with a therapist to process your feelings and gain strategies for social interactions.
  4. Movement: Regular exercise can help reduce stress and improve your mood.
  5. Journaling: Writing down your thoughts and feelings can be therapeutic.
  6. Meditation: Mindfulness practices can help you stay present and reduce anxiety.
  7. Sleep Hygiene: Ensure you get enough restful sleep to support your overall well-being.

Practical Steps to Make New Friends

While working on regulating your nervous system, consider these additional steps to help build your social circle:

  1. Acknowledge Your Feelings: Accept your emotions without judgment. It’s okay to feel out of place initially.
  2. Set Small, Achievable Goals: Start with small steps, like greeting your neighbors, to build confidence through manageable interactions.
  3. Join Classes of Interest: Enroll in classes or groups that align with your hobbies. This provides a structured environment to meet like-minded people.
  4. Connect with People from Similar Backgrounds: Seek out expat communities or cultural groups where you can find support and understanding.
  5. Develop a Routine: Establishing a routine can bring structure and stability to your daily life.
  6. Enhance Your Communication Skills: Practice conversation starters and responses. Over time, this will help you feel more comfortable engaging in conversations.
  7. Stay Connected with Home: Regularly communicate with friends and family back home. Their support can provide comfort and reassurance.
  8. Practice Self-Compassion: Be kind to yourself. Celebrate small victories and progress, no matter how minor they may seem.
  9. Consider Professional Help: If you continue to struggle, seek support from a therapist. A professional can help you develop coping strategies and social skills.

Final Thoughts

Remember, making friends in a new country takes time and effort, but it’s entirely possible. By taking small, deliberate steps and focusing on your mental well-being, you’ll gradually build the confidence needed to form meaningful connections in your new home.

Written by Team Neemopani


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