Study shows culture shock affects expat health and wellbeing

Published:  1 Dec at 6 PM
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Would-be expats are underestimating the effect of culture shock on their physical and emotional wellbeing.

The popular perception of relocating overseas is that moving to a totally different environment and taking on a new job and lifestyle is an exciting adventure. However, a new study has revealed culture shock is a very real threat to the average expat’s physical and mental wellbeing.

According to research undertaken by an international health insurance provider, the stress of finding a new job, suitable housing and getting used to a completely new lifestyle can turn the dream in to a nightmare for many. The risks are higher for those relocating with their families, as finding affordable, quality international schools can be hard work for parents.

Given that previous surveys have shown that moving house in the home country is far more stressful than the average divorce, it’s no surprise that moving countries can be devastating, at least at first. Unless the move is to an English-speaking country, language problems can make even the simplest task difficult, and unfamiliar bureaucracy often results in even higher stress levels.

Finding new friends both in and outside the work environment needs far more attention than in the home country, as cultural differences need to be understood before true friendships can happen. However, the good news is that, once all the above has been taken care of, expats who’ve managed to avoid a nervous breakdown find their health and sense of wellbeing is far better than in the UK.

Most favourite expat destinations enjoy better weather than the UK, with the positive effects on general wellbeing of outdoor lifestyles acting as stress busters. Healthier foods help, but the best way forward is to plan the relocation carefully from start to finish. From location within an area through availability of healthcare, childcare, schooling, transportation and social opportunities, the entire experience can be planned well in advance in order to eliminate stress. This way, should there be any problems, you’ll be in a far better frame of mind to deal with them.
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