Belonging and Identity Abroad

Published by MartaCastro on

Belonging & Identity Abroad

Where do I belong and what has happened to me abroad?

When living in our home country, we have a sense of efficacy, autonomy and independence, we are able to solve our own problems by relying on our own skills and competences.  Also, we know where and how to ask for help. In our home country we have a sense of control, predictions and belonging. Together with our family, colleagues and friends we are able to manage our emotions and have the social support we need to move forward. 

When we move abroad, we take longer to complete easy tasks (ex: going to the supermarket and understanding the products). At the same time, we have to rely on others to solve our problems, we feel like outsiders, social life can be very challenging and it requires more energy, emotion feels more extreme, we often feel less resilient. 

Furthermore, adapting to a new country includes:

  • Developing new skills and competences
  • Adopting new behaviors
  • Adapting the way you speak to others
  • Speaking in a different language
  • Challenge our knowledge and ideias
  • Correct our stereotypes
  • Dealing with discrimination
  • Live under different laws, social rules and habits
  • Challenge our beliefs and values

The adaptation process to a new country can make you feel confused and disconnected with both your home country and host country. Feeling like you are stuck in the middle:  “(..)too foreign for home and too foreign for here (..) (from “Diaspora Blues, Ijeoma Umebinyou).

Identity crisis is a period of uncertainty and confusion in which a person´s sense of identity becomes insecure, typically due to change in their expected aims or roles (society, work, family..). Culture shock is a transformative process at individual and societal level. Adapting to a new environment means developing new resources and has impact on our values, roles, way of thinking, working and living, that is why it can happen while moving or living abroad. 

Some signs that you are experiencing identity crisis abroad:

  • Questioning your role and purpose in life
  • Questioning your spiritual beliefs
  • Questioning your values
  • Questioning your passions
  • Questioning your role in the world
  • Questioning who you are

Living abroad is an exciting adventure but can also impact your self-esteem, sense of belonging and identity. As a psychologist and intercultural coach I can help you process your thoughts and emotions and explain the psychology behind the adaptation process and culture shock. Do not hesitate to get in contact. 

Categories: ENG


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