day 8: on loneliness

We’re one week into my 31 days series! This week, I’m looking forward to exploring with you a few different ways you can embrace the unique relationships of expat life. But first, let’s start with the hard. Let’s start with the loneliness.

Moving to Luxembourg ten months ago was my fourth international move. You’d think I was fully prepared for any culture shock, for that adjustment period. But I was a little naive. It was also my first time moving as a married woman and I thought that in itself would make it easy. The previous three international moves I’d been on my own, going to places where I knew not a single person. This time I was going with my best friend and partner – it’d be easy, right?

Instead, the loneliness of the first few months blindsided me.

I’m an extrovert (I get my energy from being around other people) so the reality of long days on my own without anyone to have conversations with, bounce my ideas off, debrief the newest cultural challenge with – gosh it was HARD. Rasmus would walk back in the door at the end of the work day and I’d fall on him before he’d had a chance to take off his coat, so desperate for some human interaction.

Because there’s something almost soul-stealing in the reality of not being known. We’re meant to be known, we are made to be in community.

But here’s the bizarre thing: the more lonely I felt, the less motivation I had to leave the house. It can become a vicious circle. That’s when my remembered determination to be brave this year kicked in and I decided to get out of my cave.

The expat life requires courage in so many ways. But here’s a quick recap on my biggest realisation about being brave this year: bravery rarely feels brave. Generally it feels scary. And big. And overwhelming. Brave is simply choosing to keep putting one foot in front of the other when the fear rises in your throat.

It takes courage to go out and seek new relationships, new friendships. It involves walking into lots of new bars and cafes. It means answering over and over the introductory questions of where you’re from and why you’re here. It requires not becoming cynical or closed to new people.

But the good news is that it rarely goes on forever. One day you’ll realise you’ve come though that first hard period and you’re making friends. And a little later you’ll look around and see all the good friends you’ve found and feel surprised that it ever felt so hopeless.


This post is part of my 31 days to embrace expat life. I’m writing every day through October on this topic.

Yesterday’s post – Eat local.