Moving to a new country thousands of miles away from home can be difficult. Making new friends, missing loved ones back home and negotiating new cultural norms are all inherently challenging. For a perspective on the things many new expats in Singapore tend to struggle with, we spoke to UK expat Jessica Lamb (MSc Therapeutic Counselling, EMDR), who is the acting assistant director at The Counselling Place and also a counsellor and mediator herself.
What are some of the things you tell clients who are homesick and anxious about making new friends?
The transition to living in a new country is often harder than people expect because you are not just adapting to a new home, but also a different culture, job, school, social group, climate and way of life. Without family and friends around, it can feel like you’re having to cope alone. Suddenly having to rely on your partner to be your practical and emotional support, best friend and sounding board, can put great pressure on you both.
If you have children, then schools are a great place to meet people, for example at parent coffee mornings or on school trips. Singapore also has many social clubs which organise settling-in activities, classes and events. Fortunately, expatriates are used to new people arriving and friends leaving, and so are generally very open to making new friends.
Do you give similar advice to children about making new friends?
We find that it can be easier for children to adapt because they have the school structure, which is familiar and immediately provides a peer group for them to join. Schools are usually good at helping children adapt and settle in, by pairing children up with a buddy or encouraging them to join after-school activities. However, children can feel very homesick too, even if they do make new friends in Singapore. Encourage your children to talk about their feelings and let them know their feelings are normal, and that together you can find ways to help them settle in and make new friends.
Expats are typically told how great it will be to have a live-in helper, but what about those who are not sure about the idea?
Homes are very private places and so the idea of inviting a stranger to live in your home can be hard to adapt to. There can also be a sense of losing purpose – for instance, stay-at-home mums who are used to doing housework and preparing meals suddenly have someone else handle it instead. It can sometimes feel like you have lost control, or even that you have been replaced. However, you do have a choice, and it’s important to reflect on the pros and cons first.
At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that most expatriates adapt successfully over time, whether on their own or with the support of a third party to help them to explore where their feelings of insecurity and anxiety are coming from and to learn new ways to cope.
For more information, visit www.thecounsellingplace.com or call 6887 3695.