Struggling with living overseas - homesick and feeling sad(19 Posts)
Moved to China back in August with my husband and 2.5 year old daughter, now almost 3. My daughter has settled in really well and is picking up the language really fast, we're now looking at kindergartens for her and she's really thriving.
I haven't settled in well at all - I feel desperately homesick and life here is really frustrating, I've been working hard at learning Chinese but I'm just not learning fast enough and I'm still not confident out and about by myself, I get nervous people will laugh at me when I try to speak. I'm an introverted person generally so I haven't made any friends, I chat to people at work but no one I can really talk to and spend time with outside of work. I know a lot of this I've brought on myself by not making much of an effort with people, I try to keep busy with working, studying and spending time with my daughter. Some days I feel OK and think I'm settling in, but other days I feel like the rug has been pulled out from underneath me and suddenly everything feels overwhelming.
I feel like a stranger in my own life, we moved in with my in laws when we first got here but we are still here and I'm really keen to have my own space. They are really lovely and welcoming but since everyone speaks Chinese in the house I feel like the outsider. When my husband comes home from work, which is fairly late since he's taken a job with a long commute, I feel like the first thing he does is get into a conversation with his parents in Chinese and I barely get a hello. They are currently the primary carers of my DD since I've gone back to work too, and whilst I still have a close relationship with her, I feel like I'm on the outside of the home dynamic.
If anyone has been through the same, please tell me it gets better
I've not been through anything like this but it sounds like a really tough situation. just wondering if you could try to connect with other English muns over there for mutual support? Through online forum, or keeping your eyes peeled when out and about??
Have you looked on meetup to see if there's any expat groups in your area?
Also, I think your husband needs to ask your in laws to have some conversations in English (if they can) or at least translate for you when they're talking - that must be incredibly isolating for you.
oh i can so identity with this. i moved overseas ten years ago and it w s tough at first - and i was single and child free at that point.
have you checked for online facebook community groups? these are prolific where i live, and although they can be a bit mindless they are great for research and support and you can even meet a few nice minded people...
Wow hats off to you - Chinese is notoriously hard to learn and China as a country is a big culture shock to live in (for most westerners) but to do that and move in with the in laws (so living locally not as a expat) - wow and lots of for you.
6 months in is usually really bad for most people moving overseas - you've got over the initial settling in and first explorations, you feel like you should be settled in with friends, local knowledge etc ... but you're not. So first off the way you feel is pretty normal but that probably doesnt make it better.
Where in china are you - shanghai, Beijing or another big city with western community? I'd never advocate only having western friends but it does help in the early days to have familiarity to fall back on.
How are you learning the language - can you go to a class for expats. You'll meet people in a similar situation and probably gain confidence in your language skills.
But with all of this you need your DH to step up and support you more. I'm assuming this is him 'coming home' so it's familiar and of course family delighted to see him. He needs to appreciate how hard this is for you - hopefully he can remember what it was like when he first moved abroad and draw on that to help you. If the grandparents are good child care can he take you out and help you navigate/practise the language?
Ditto everything Yakari mentioned in her post. Where in China are you? I lived there for 6 years and loved, but were part of a large expat community. if you're out in the sticks I can see why you would have trouble settling. Keep having Mandarin lessons, it will get better. Also maybe think about giving some English speaking lessons. When we lived there, young people especially were very keen to learn English. You could start an informal language group in local cafe. Good Luck x
First 6-12months are the worst, esp around 6months mark!!! You are doing so incredibly well though. Despite feeling discouraged, you are actually making huge progress albeit doesn't feel like it. Chinese is extraordinarily hard to learn for westerners - something like 1000hours required to feel ok with it, when learning another European language requires 200-300hundred. Any chance of getting your own space in the near future? Just for the comfort of rearranging space/life more closely to how YOU'd want it - it might provide a positive shift in focus.
Thanks for the replies everyone, I really appreciate the support! As you can probably guess I'm having a wobbly day.
I'm in Guangzhou, which is one of the big cities, although I live on the outskirts so not as in the thick of it as a lot of expats. I prefer living a bit further out as I find the center quite busy and hectic (plus the underground is an absolute nightmare) but there aren't as many things on here. I am part of a mums group on the local equivalent of WhatsApp but a lot of things are organized in the week when I work. I know I should be more proactive in organizing my own things, a language class is a good idea. I am having Chinese classes with other westerners but it's like a lot of things I do - I get along fine when there but never end up seeing people socially. I'm not very good at knowing how to turn acquaintances into friends
We are currently looking for our own place in the area - I hope that will help me feel more settled in. It's been great staying with my in laws from a childcare point of view and has definitely helped my dd but I find it quite draining having to make conversation with them in Chinese (they don't speak any English).
Yakari I do wish DH was more supportive! He's great with practical things but not so great with emotional support. He has an annoying habit of comparing things to life in the U.K. - for example if I say something about China frustrates me (like everyone pushing each other on the metro), he will talk about how bad the London Underground at rush hour is. It's like he's determined to point out how much better life here is, so I will prefer it to home and want to stay!
I think emigrating is hardest on the stay at home parent. My dh and my dc just continued on with the same sort of life they had had in the uk, going to work and school whereas I didn't. Although I was in a very different situation as I was in an English speaking country, I found it difficult to make friends with so called ex-pats as a lot of them just wanted to slag of the uk all the time. (Disllaimer-not all of them obviously).
One thing I'd say about living abroad is most people are just looking for someone to make that first move to shift things socially. I bet it you took a huge breath and said 'who wants a drink' after your language class, most of them would say yes or not this week but absolutely next week (for example to organise extended child care after class). I get being shy and not confident to do this, but don't underestimate how many people are in the same position.
The working is a challenge to - sad fact but many expat mothers especially of young kids, are trailing spouses hence meet ups are midweek or during the day. Again maybe you have to kick it off by suggesting a different time - as spring kicks in Saturday morning in a local park can work well. Try sending something through the WhatsApp group and see what happens or even just ask on there about other working mums?
But sounds like just your own space will help to give you a chance to create a home for your family. Fingers crossed that happens soon.
Just saw your response re DH - I can sort of see how he's come home and desperate for it to all work out. Maybe you need to spell it out to him that you're much more likely to settle with his emotional support and him acknowledging your dress. Easier said than done I know!
I have this but sort of opposite. We moved to the uk 5 years ago. I'm from another English speaking country so I thought it would be pretty much the same. But it's been different. I have friends but they are more like acquaintances really. It doesn't help that I'm also introverted and reserved so I guess it's mainly my own fault. Anyway, eventually I managed to reconcile myself to living here and became sort of settled and involved myself with various social groups but have always been on the periphery of them.
I only realised how unhappy I've been when there was a mistake with our visa and it looked like we'd have to leave within 60 days. I was surprised by how relieved and cheerful I suddenly became and also how depressed I became when the issue was sorted out. It was like moving here afresh.
My problem, as yours seems to be, is that my DH loves the UK. Living here has always been a dream for him. He went to uni here and has loads of friends and his dream job.
We've finally set a time limit on how long we'll stay as he can see how unhappy I am being away from family and friends.
Sorry, not sure that helped you, but it's helped me to say it.
I think I'll try on Sunday and see if anyone fancies a coffee after class and hopefully flat hunting will come to something, we've seen some real dives so far! We had one which we very nearly took, but the landlord said he wanted to keep one of the rooms locked to store his own things so that was a deal breaker for me.
Don't worry about posting buzzybee, in a way it's reassuring to know others are going through the same thing as me. Most people I speak to hear are 'loving it'!
You need more time. I did the same as you, moved to DH's country. Everyone settled faster than me and I felt like I had no friends. We've been here 4 years now and things are very different. People joke that I'm more intergrated than DH.
Do you need to speak Chinese at work? I have to ask why you think people will laugh at you? Would you laugh at someone trying to learn English? Laughing is not a common reaction, unless you make a mistake that is actually rude or funny. I think it really helps to not take yourself seriously when learning another language. If you do make a mistake, you'll only make it once and if people laugh at you just let it go, don't look at it as an insult or a weakness. Mistakes happen a lot. Also you'll find that you'll progress for weeks and then wake up some days and feel like you've learnt nothing, which is usually followed by a massive leap forward in your language ability.
The language barrier makes settling harder but 6 months is a time when major wobbles set in, even when we were living in the USA I remember crying all night at 6 months because I was lonely. This is often a turning point as well. Things can often improve after big wobbles.
Buzzybuzzybee sorry you're going through this. After 5 years and you're still not settled maybe it's time for a big re-think!
Like Buzzy, been here five years, not made any close friends. Love being here at first but homesickness struck me and hasn't left. It got to the point I got depressed and teary. DH doesn't want to live in UK but went on about Europe with my country as the retirement plans. So I had a firm talk to him ( after all, it shouldn't be a100% only where he wants to live) and in about three years, I'm moving back home . Now I have a set time limit, I'm no longer feeling depressed. What also helps is in the meantime we plan on moving to a different area as well.
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