Home expat life How To Fight Expat Depression: Just Remember You’re Not Alone

How To Fight Expat Depression: Just Remember You’re Not Alone

written by M.E. Evans November 7, 2014

Let’s talk about the thing that nobody ever wants to talk about because it sucks: Depression. Usually, it’s only a matter of time before expats experience some form of situational depression, anxiety, or the need to hide under their bed with a bottle of wine for days on end. Hell, you don’t even need to be an expat. Sometimes life is just overwhelming and hard. Sometimes we are all going to deal with depression. It sucks. It’s hard. But at least we have each other.

Living abroad means a lot of things, a lot of conflicting things.  One minute life is a paradise and you find yourself drinking cheap wine in a vineyard, tasting olive oil in an olive grove, laughing to yourself as old men wave to you in the street. Then five minutes later your world is full of confusion, humiliation, it’s a cataclysm of WHAT THE HELL AM I DOING!? This “what the fuck,” moment often happens after your dog poops in the street and an angry shop owner comes out to scream at you while you’re cleaning it up, your papers have been lost or denied by the consulate, your partner moves you into a family commune, or you end up in a house in the middle of nowhere surrounded by wild boars and the sound of deafening silence. Sometimes a breakdown can happen if you’re spending too much time alone or surrounded by people you like but don’t at all identify with.

gif: wheninlawschool.tumblr.com

I’ll never forget the first time I had a total mental breakdown. I was at one of my husbands’ friends’ home and everyone was joking around and laughing but I couldn’t understand why any of their jokes were funny. I just couldn’t get it. I was sitting at a merry table, while everyone was having the time of their life and I was totally bored out of my mind trying my hardest to relate to anyone on even the most basic level. It was as if the room froze, I looked from face-to-face, then back to myself and thought, “I don’t belong here.” I went to the bathroom and held back tears. Nobody was being mean, nothing was terrible, but it finally hit me that I didn’t connect with anyone in Italy at all at that point.  And I didn’t understand it because at home I could get along with just about anyone. I felt like an asshole and totally isolated. It was really, really rough.

Photo: myinsanebrain.com

Expat depression and overall insanity is totally common and you know what? It’s normal. One of my best friends just moved to London from Utah. She’s been totally dying to get out of Utah for years but when I Skyped with her and her husband the first thing they both said was, “This is really difficult. How did you do this?! Having a mental breakdown is a very real thing! Who knew?!” These are intelligent, hard-working, totally amazing, normal people. Okay, normal is a stretch, since she’s one of my best friends, but you get the idea. Living in a foreign country is really difficult for everyone at one point or another whether or not you speak the language. Living in Italy is even harder for us from the anal-retentive English-speaking world because the culture is so different from ours. Dr. Kirsten Hogh Thorgersen wrote, “When you arrive in a new culture, you’re shaken in self-confidence, and the more different the culture is, the greater the challenge.”

The difficulty of living abroad often leads to anxiety or depression. In my case, it leads to some weird form of social anxiety and agoraphobia where I would come up with any excuse I could to avoid leaving the house. And despite what many people think, depression doesn’t necessarily mean that you feel sad. You could be depressed and not even know it. Signs that you’re depressed:

  • difficulty concentrating
  • insomnia or oversleeping
  • irritability
  • significant changes to eating patterns
  • lack of interest

The worst part about being depressed abroad is you feel totally isolated and misunderstood within your new country, but also nobody at home gets it either. I mean, you’re abroad! How can you be depressed!? Well, unfortunately, it can be really depressing even if you live in a century-old city with incredible food. It’s okay. You’re okay! Every day I receive emails from expats who are struggling abroad. They feel stupid or confused, they’re angry or isolated, and I do my best to remind them that they are all epically awesome because despite the difficulty they keep on keepin’ on because they are total badasses. That’s right! Even if you’re in Italy having a hard time, you’re a badass! And you’re not alone.  You’re a part of the expat mafia, a group of rogue crazies who had the guts to put themselves out there even when things became rough. Sure, an old woman called you a foreign sack of shit, some embassy denied your paperwork, and your in-laws are trying to move into your guest room as you read this sentence…BUT! At least you’re doing something that most people would never get the opportunity to do in their lives. So, it sucks, it’s frustrating, but it’s an experience that can help you grow in new ways, too. And we’re all growing together! That’s exciting, right? I know, I know, but it feels terrible.

Photo: Hypescience.com

I’m a perfect example of a romantic, Europe-obsessed woman turned Italy-repulsed homicidal maniac. It can happen to even the most positive, happy, well-intentioned of us. You’re not broken or somehow deranged for experiencing frustration. You’re in a foreign place and it’s normal to have one or two-hundred major meltdowns for various reasons. I mean, for the first time since being a child you’re thrown into a place where you don’t know how to navigate anything. Plus, you have to start over. It can be frustrating to start your life all over from scratch. New friends, new city, new apartment, new coffee maker. It’s a lot to take in, guys. And there will be days when you don’t even recognize yourself anymore. That was the hardest for me because I liked myself before I moved to Italy, dammit.

gif: giffy.com

So how do you deal with it all? How to help alleviate that sinking black feeling, that rapid heartbeat, or that strange new fear of going outside?

Take it one day at a time. On days that are really bad just try to focus on one positive thing. Write it down, put it on your wall! Or in my case, I combatted my depression with goals and activities. I started THIS BLOG (thank depression for that!), I wrote a book and a screenplay, I also learned how to Flamenco on YouTube. Yes, seriously, I’m terrible and it’s embarrassing but now you know my secret. I’m sure the people who lived downstairs wanted me to trip and die. Depression is hard but you can beat it! Beat the shit out of it. And, more wine, of course.

Gif: stxrbucksbxtch.tumblr.com


1. Make a goal or a list of goals. If you’re working towards something you’ll feel accomplished. Have a task to do every day. Take some pictures, spend the day outside stalking people like an anthropologist. You’d be surprised by how relieving it can be to follow someone in a supermarket whispering, “I’ve just spotted a middle-aged Italian woman buying what seems to be some kind of bread. She’s making her way towards what appears to be salami! Just get a look at her in her natural habitat! She’s examining it! She’s purchased the salami with tiny, round metal objects and paper squares. How fascinating!” Start a blog, or keep a notebook! Venting can be very helpful. Get it out! Take some online classes or take a class in your area. Painting, language, cooking, whatever! Check off some goals you’ve always had but never had time to accomplish!

2. Yoga. Every morning when you wake up, tune into YouTube and do a yoga video. Those videos will really help you to relax. Exercise is a great way to combat fatigue, depression, and anxiety. Plus, it never hurt anyone to get a smokin’ healthy bod.

gif: yogabycandice.com

3. Hang out with people you love from home! Sure, you can’t invite them over but you can do activities with them on Skype or Facetime. Invite one of your friends to do a cooking date with you. You guys can cook together, drink wine, via Skype! It’s totally fun and worth it.

4. Get out of your house, even if it’s just to read a book at a cafe. If you’re anything like me, I get depressed when I’m home too much but I also hate leaving my house when I’m depressed. It’s a pain in the ass, really shitty, super frustrating cycle. Force yourself out! Sign up to one of those meet-up websites like http://expatitalian.meetup.com. Always take a friend with you or meet in a very public place though. People are usually friendly and normal but can be rapey and psychotic. Go volunteer to walk dogs at a local shelter or buy cheap dog toys and donate them. Teach English.

5. Learn everything you can about the culture. The more you know and understand the less you’ll feel like an outsider. I mean, you’ll probably always feel like an immigrant, but at least you won’t feel like a total weirdo who is always in the dark. Plus, you’d be surprised by how useful it can be to be a cultural know-it-all! Learn the history, the language, the art, the food, become a master of it all and then just rub it in everyone’s face. Just rub it right in. That feels nice, right? Rub a dub.

Bonus: Try to remember that expat depression is usually situational and temporary. If you push yourself out and on you’ll improve hugely. If you have a history of depression or your depression persists and you’re thinking about suicide or self-harm please seek out a therapist for help. I’ve been to therapy and it’s awesome. You’re important, you matter, and I’d miss you.

Have you experienced depression or anxiety abroad? Please, share your story in the comments below so others can learn, relate, or find ways to cope. And of course, “share,” if you’re feeling sassy.

*This post is just suggestions and personal experience. I am obviously not a doctor or any kind of professional.

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Heide Steinkraus November 7, 2014 at 12:58 pm

You are dynamite Lady!!!

M.E. Evans November 7, 2014 at 1:18 pm

Thank you!

chirose November 7, 2014 at 1:13 pm

Very on point blog.!! Super insightful as always 🙂

M.E. Evans November 7, 2014 at 1:17 pm

Thanks love!

sexliesandnutella November 7, 2014 at 1:31 pm

Something all expats can certainly relate to, and you expressed it really well.

M.E. Evans November 7, 2014 at 1:41 pm

Hey love! Thank you! And, aren’t you joining us at COSI? Can you email me your email address?

sexliesandnutella November 8, 2014 at 4:11 pm

Yes, I would love to!

Bish November 7, 2014 at 2:02 pm

Very insightful and down to earth wisdom. Thank you!

Gillian November 7, 2014 at 2:20 pm

I have so been in the bathroom crying during a dinner party.

What a great, honest post and even better are your very practical things to do about feeling blech when everyone tis telling you how lucky you are. Brava.

Sarianna November 7, 2014 at 2:47 pm

I haven’t been living in Italy (well, Sicily) for more than a few months officially, but I recognize myself in so many parts of this text after having spent the previous 2-3 years in Germany as an expat. 100% on point! I’ve totally cried in bathrooms almost regularly at some point. I’m originally from northern Finland, which represents a complete opposite not just geographically but also in terms of culture, customs and people in comparison to Italy (not to mention Sicily), which has brought a whole new set of challenges even after having spent years abroad already (Germany is more similar to Finland). I happened to fall for a Sicilian guy a few years ago and now here I am, trying to find the funny in the everyday struggles, sometimes with immediate success but often not before banging my head against the wall a few times (or until concussion).

I agree that the worst part is feeling so isolated from everyone – for me the loneliest times have been those when I’ve tried to talk about my feelings to someone from home who’s supposed to be there for support, and then having to swallow my anger and disappointment when a family member or a friend has replied with some variation of “Oh c’mon you have nothing to complain about, are you kidding?! You’re living the dream!” and totally making me feel stupid for even feeling depressed. I understand where they’re coming from and I’m aware of how lucky I am to be abroad experiencing all kinds of cool stuff, but sometimes I just feel like there really is no place where I belong anymore, since I have essentially become foreign also to the people I originally left behind.

My best way of coping with this has been to build a family of expats around me (unfortunately my family has now spread all over the world but at least we can all whine to each other on the internet while drinking cheap wine alone in bed). I don’t have much experience from an Italian expat family yet, but the one that I was part of in Germany helped me get through a lot of things, and already knowing that someone totally gets your frustration is often enough to make you feel less alone. Granted, hanging around with too many expats might also keep you from forming enough local contacts and learning the language efficiently, but at least you don’t feel as isolated.

Liz November 9, 2014 at 11:55 am

Sarianna, Sicily is a harsh place (mentality etc). You must love this man very much to endure living there and to give up so much of what you love – your own life, for him. Sometimes we have to ask ourselves; “Is this really what I want?” I believe that in a relationship both people should have their needs met so that there is balance. I’m struggling with this one myself at present – learning how to “give” to myself too, not just to others. As women we often too easily forget our own needs and sacrifice ourselves to lovers, husbands, family etc. Balance is so important on the path to fulfillment and happiness.

Sarianna November 10, 2014 at 1:38 pm

Not to make my love for my boyfriend seem anything but massive and grand – I do indeed love him very much – but I don’t really think of this decision to move to Sicily as some kind of major sacrifice, and I also don’t think I’m giving up too much to be here, since I am doing this out of my own free will and not because I have to. I mean, I appreciate the honesty and also the sentiment, however I decided to move to Sicily (for now, anyway) due to circumstantial factors and practical reasons, and considering my boyfriend already moved to two separate foreign countries to be with me (both of these being places he never once visited before and doesn’t speak the language of) I am only doing my own share. I totally agree on maintaining a balance in relationships and believe no one should be sacrificing themselves or their own happiness for anyone else at all, no matter the gender! Good luck with the learning! Good for you.

Liz November 10, 2014 at 8:14 pm

It sounds fair enough, if he’s already moved to other countries with you also. It’s certainly important to be friends in a romantic relationship too, so that you can turn to each other for support in adjusting to a new culture/country etc.

Helen November 7, 2014 at 3:32 pm

Thank you ME, I will no doubt be re-reading this for fortitude, before/during/after another baffling dinner here in the south. Relieved to know I’m normal after all. Rub a dub 🙂

ericrwsmith November 7, 2014 at 3:54 pm

Great post. I have been very surprised (wow I just seriously questioned whether surprised was spelled with an s or a z, Damn British/American English differences) with how difficult the transition has been. Nicki (my wife) and I have been in London for almost 2 months and these last few days I have had a severely abnormal amount of difficulty concentrating and working on homework. A small assignment was so overwhelming to me that I almost cried. It’s so weird how the buildup of all the little challenges can be so oppressive. The expat mental breakdown is real! Thank you for the tips, you give great advice. Also, the Xena gif = Perfect hahah!

Sarah November 7, 2014 at 7:12 pm

I am from mid-west America living in Shanghai now for 1 1/2 years. I found your blog shortly after moving here and it has been an amazing comfort! Thank you M.E.! Just to know I am not the only one feeling crazy living in a foreign country, when everyone around me thinks everything is just “fine” and “normal”. I have had my share of days feeling depressed and isolated. Not just from the very different culture here but also in Shanghai the pollution and food safety issues are pretty bad and make you want to get on the next flight out and never return. The holidays are probably the hardest for me when everyone back home is having a great time celebrating with simple things I love from back home that I cannot have here. Sometimes I avoid looking at Facebook for that reason…too depressing. I have made it my mission, while here to indulge in the things that make me happiest. For example, I love yoga, so I make sure I do lots of it. I also found a spa that has amazing facials and I go there regularly. I read books in cafes, I watch a lot of American movies that I love. I find the beautiful places to walk around. These are all things I would do when I lived in the US but now I do more here. This is the 3rd country I have lived in. From my experience, in order to feel happier in a foreign place, you need to be doing what makes you happy. Shanghai has been so far the most difficult place to live for me. I tell my husband when I am having a particularly tough day that I am having a “Shang-low” day. Having said that, there are also parts of Shanghai that are really unique and special and great. Those places are where I choose to spend time. It is a process of re-creating your space around you into something you can live in, and hopefully be happy.

maura November 8, 2014 at 1:02 am

Thank you for a really wonderful article and also funny! It helps to laugh. I have been in Italy for almost 15 years now. I am struck by what Sarianna wrote in her post about becoming ‘foreign’ to the people left behind and feeling as if one doesn’t belong anywhere anymore. I have also had that strange sense as if I am in limbo and what was comfortable back ‘home’ no longer fits or feels normal for me anymore. So basically there is no sense of home as it used to be. I think that using the internet for skyping..which I have yet to do is a great way to keep in contact. I have often thought if email didn’t exist I don’t know if I could have done this. To be able to be so far yet connect in a matter of seconds is great. How did the women and men of ages past, the great explorers do it? How could a woman have left Denmark to go and live in Africa on a coffee plantation? Or the writers on the classic American canon who wafted through Parisian cafes and Spanish bullfights? It does help to be part of an ex-pat community because of the sense of people coming from the same place and understanding things without having to ‘explain’ be they traditions or familiar ways of being able to speak and use words–I used to miss being able to just freely express myself verbally with the ease of truly knowing my language and its nuances that I could never have had with Italian in the beginning. At the same time I have noted that many of my fellow countrymen and women do not want to really mingle with one another. When I used to live in Florence it seemed if someone knew you were also American they’d run the other way. They didn’t come to Italy to mingle with americans. I have heard british friends say that there are brits here that you wouldn’t want to know in England so why befriend them here. I see often a very exclusive set of ex-pats. Sometimes I also think that having a partner who is of another culture is in itself a difficult emotional challenge in an already emotionally challenging circumstance—but I do believe that sticking it out and getting through the tough moments one will arrive to some awesome ‘new’ ground.

Geri December 6, 2014 at 1:58 pm

Totally feel exactly like you Maura. I moved to Florence fifteen months ago and am starting to question everything. Where will I go now if I leave Italy? I sold everything to come here, still have friends back in Minneapolis but don’t want to return to that climate again. I found it hard to meet people I really connect with here. I have gone to expat aperetivos and am in a book club but people seem to have their own lives and they are not single like I am. I had a few great friends the first year but they all moved back to the U.S. Now I feel alone, especially at the holidays. I am 62 and love to travel, am on a waiting list for art classes and am doing a conversation exchange but have to force myself out the door. I was a former comedian and don’t find people that have a sense of humor here which is even harder. I am thinking of seeing a shrink to see if I should stay or go. Thanks for this site.

bonniegm December 7, 2014 at 2:09 pm

Hi Geri, Have you found a neighborhood bar where you can be a regular? I think that really can help, when you are recognized and greeted. We are the same age so your reply really struck a chord with me. Trying to think how I would be reacting if I lived in Italy instead of just visiting every year. Winter time is harder since people aren’t hanging out in parks, etc. where you can strike up a conversation. I’m rooting for you!!

wanderlustwilliams1 November 8, 2014 at 3:28 am

Really great post, I can totally relate to some of things you mentioned. I am going to go stalk a ham buying nanny in the supermarket now!

Heather Carlson November 8, 2014 at 3:40 am

Loved this ME, could relate to nearly every single word. Thank you for helping normalize the highs and lows- Helps when we know we are not alone on the expat roller coaster… XO

Laura November 8, 2014 at 3:46 am

I feel comforted to know that I am not the only one who has had that experience – being with my partner, in a group of totally nice, friendly people but they’re all laughing at jokes and pop culture references that I just don’t get. And my boyfriend doesn’t understand why I’m not enjoying myself. I’m actually pretty smart and funny in my native language, and could contribute a witty remark, but by the time my brain finds the Italian words it’s way too late. Sometimes it simply feels like you can’t really be yourself and for me that is depressing because I too really liked myself before I started living here.
Thanks for reminding me that I’m a badass. That is going on a post-it.

Naphtali November 8, 2014 at 9:36 am

I am going through this. After the initial excitement of being in Europe faded and the concept that I will be here for a year started to feel different at times I am an emotional roller coaster. I feel more introverted because despite all the great people I meet I am looking a shell to hide half the time. I have heard from people abroad and here in Italy that I shouldn’t be feeling depressed because I am having a lifetime opportunity , which is true. Yet, a deep feeling of being lost has overcome me. The things that I find difficult is language then there’s making connections and cultural diversities.
I am focusing more on me since I am now situated with work and housing, I am exploring my interest and curiosities , one at a time.
Thanks for putting this out there.

M.E. Evans November 19, 2014 at 1:08 pm

Oh honey, I can relate to this all too well. I felt really bad telling people in the US that I wasn’t blissful in Italy. Yes, I love Italy. Yes, I dreamed of living there and it’s my favorite vacation spot in the world. However, it’s also so culturally different that no matter how well you speak the language there is always a feeling of “otherness.” Honestly, the more Italian I learned the weirder I felt. But, I have to say that knowing lots of expats and making fun of the entire thing helped me a lot. I started this blog just to talk about cultural differences, my family, struggles and to make fun of everything (including myself) because humor really relieves some of that sinking yuckiness. Fight the good fight, darling! I’m cheering for you!

Naphtali November 19, 2014 at 4:18 pm

Thanks! This experience has taught me so much about me. Despite it all I have no regret

Naphtali November 21, 2014 at 9:07 am

Thanks! I never would have imagined such feelings. The best part is that I am learning more about me. I usually am reserved with my emotions and with expressing myself….yet traveling , living outside my comfort zone is making me grow. I am becoming a big girl, now.

bonniegm November 8, 2014 at 10:57 am

Wow M.E. one of the, if not THE, best blog entries you have written to date!! This should be handed out to every person who moves to a foreign country!

M.E. Evans November 19, 2014 at 1:03 pm

Thank you! I’m so glad that you enjoyed it!

Rick Rager November 8, 2014 at 11:52 am

This is great advice and a real eye opener. If I had read this years ago, I’d probably still be living in Italy. I moved over in 1998 from the US with some expat friends who already had a home in Marche. Unfortunately, I stayed in their apartment in Cattolica, three hours away, because they thought the best way for me to experience the Italian culture was to “throw me in the deep end”. They never explained this to me, just left me there, and apparently didn’t know me very well at all. I was already depressed over a grevious personal loss back home, didn’t speak the language and didn’t know anyone there. All of my possessions that I couldn’t carry on the plane, including my canvasses and paints (I’m an artist) were stuck in a container at the port, along with my friend’s stuff, because he refused to pay duty on them and wouldn’t back down to the government, (As hard as it is to believe, he eventually won the argument three months later). After being completely alone (no computer or internet) for several months, I had a “breakdown” and called them to say that I couldn’t do it anymore. I called my boss in the US, got my job back (with a substantial raise), my condo in Florida hadn’t sold yet, so I could move right back in, and my friends called their travel agent to arrange for my ticket home. It was waaay too easy and in a little over a week I was in Ancona boarding a plane. The odd thing was that on the plane flying to Italy, I was saying to myself “What the fuck am I doing” and on the way back to the States, I was on the plane saying to myself “What the fuck am I doing?”. The point is….I didn’t know what the fuck I was doing! Had I realized what a shared experience this was or had I known that it wasn’t only my personal failure dealing with the culture shock, I’m sure I wouldn’t have left. I’ve been back to Italy a half dozen times since then, even trip longer than the one before, and each one making me regret my decision more and more. I still have it in the back of my head that maybe, just maybe, I might try again.

Audra de Falco (@audratranslates) November 22, 2014 at 2:32 am

Try again! When I was living in Italy I was dealing with some pretty heavy stuff, emotion-wise. I can relate to this so much. I would just spend days sobbing sometimes.

But I’m going back one day. Life is short, and we only get one go (as far as I know!) so why not try again? Home will always be there if it doesn’t work out. And if it does work out–well, in that case, home is wherever you are.

Joanna November 8, 2014 at 12:08 pm

Fantastic post! And YES to #2. We’re wrapping up an extended visit to Italy and spent 5 weeks in Florence. Instead of practicing alone (with YouTube) try a local studio like I did. You have a wonderful, healing studio in Florence near the Ponte Vecchio and the teachers lead in both English and Italian. All levels welcomed.

lafemmet November 9, 2014 at 2:02 am

This is brilliant! I agree with all of it, and wish I could have read it all in 2008 when I came to Serbia for the first time. From what I have lived here and read about it Italy from your blog and others… Serbia is the secret twin culture. It just lacks the prestige. I would add it has a bad rep. But it is a wonderful place. I would add only add writing as therapy. A blog or a journal. It helped me tremendously. Writing is great therapy and it is cool now to look back at posts and see how things have changed. For the record, I have had my share of break downs. For instance the first time I went shopping for dinner I came home two times crying and never made a thing. They just didn’t have anything I was used to or didn’t know the name in Serbian for it. This is a small town, so the one time I saw another expat and heard her speaking ENGLISH, I was thrilled and immediately had dreams of long conversations. But she didn’t share my need to make English speaking friends. When I realized it I went home and cried in the privacy of the WC. The ups far surpass the downs, and we learn from our mistakes and misunderstandings… Thanks so much for writing, I love your blog! May your highs in Italy far surpass the lows!

AmericanEspirit November 9, 2014 at 10:03 am

Last year, I had a full-on mental breakdown after two Spaniards, in the same day, asked me if Americans ate vegetables… wish I’d known about your blog back then!! Great tips.

Audra de Falco (@audratranslates) November 22, 2014 at 2:34 am

Oh my god. I think I would have needed a shot after that.

Holy hell.

bast April 16, 2015 at 12:57 pm

I thought most Americans only ate Pizza or McDonald’s hamburgers!

Kaley November 10, 2014 at 6:18 pm

Gosh, I so relate to having a breakdown after feeling like you just can’t relate. It’s not like anyone is being mean or rude, like you said, but it’s just a feeling of isolation.

shannonsapt November 11, 2014 at 6:40 am

I moved to Ireland from America two years ago and the situational depression really knocked me on my ass. It took me totally off-guard. Moving to europe was a life-long dream come true – why was I crying everyday thinking I’d made the worst mistake of my life? One on the things that helped me was learning from other expats that what I was going through was perfectly normal. I still have my moments but now, I really do love my expat life.

M November 15, 2014 at 3:51 am

thanks for this, lady. Much needed.

M November 15, 2014 at 3:53 am

Meant to say “little lady”… much cuter than “lady”… which makes you sound strange.

lafemmet November 15, 2014 at 3:56 am

Reblogged this on Chronicles of Serbia and commented:
I don’t think it is a secret I have been fighting the dark forces of expat depression lately. (Isolation and PMS are a horrible combo!) I found this and loved it. Spot on advice and a great blog too! Enjoy!

Michael Sokol November 16, 2014 at 1:17 pm

I lived in Mexico in 1986 working as a teacher of English as a second lang. I too can relate to feeling alone and depressed. It didn’t last long however it can be very nasty when it happens. I like to call it “Road Burnout” not depression but I’m sure its the same thing. Cheers and Best Wishes to all, Michael

Jen November 27, 2014 at 2:12 am

Lovely blog, I can totally relate to some of your issues! If you have to live in the South of Italy for the first time, like me, here is what i observed aswell. Besides the warm hospiatlity of the italian people, esp from the south, i have observed how everyone screams aloud all the time, stops to speak at any time of the day, neighbours visiting you or inviting you over everday, looking into your home from every angle possible(they know everything about you, even things you still don’t know), men sitting around the whole day speaking about the same thing for about five hours, woman over cleaning their houses whilst the whole town looks like its falling apart from being so old and uncared. Italian television will make Hugh Hefner look like an angel. Even during family time half naked woman are parading around adverts and more endless tv shows, but yet daughters are taught to dress decently only in church.(hypocritical).
Many will assume you are unfriendly or too cold if you don’t scream out loud or talk all the time, especially if they hear you speak English, it makes them feel so uncomfortable for some reason.
Italy is a beautiful place and so are the hospitality of the people, but they are also very closed minded and wont allow anyone having their own identity. Everyone has to speak the same, dress the same and scream the same way. I miss seeing people dress imperfectly or wear something besides the usual fashionable perfectly matched shoes, handbag or the usual grey,black, or beige clothing. The huge puffer jackets especially used for the harsh winter makes me feel like a 100 kg balloon, but you have to wear one, because everyone herein Italy is doing it, everyone has to look like an alien clone.
The part that really gets to me are the thousands of stray dogs starving,reproducing and suffering on the streets and towns of South Italy,Calabria, Sicily and Sardeignia. Theres nothing being done to help them, in the south they would rather keep a friend than to say the right thing to help the situation. My mother in law who is Italian usually throws stones at a starving dog, but will make sure to invite everyone for a big fat pranzo. Being an animal lover, this is a living nightmare for me as I grew up being taught to respect all forms of life. As for the North,the problem is the endless dog shits like you mentioned on the sidewalks and every other place.If Italians had a little garden to every apartment and some good architects to create homes with some common sense, im sure most of the people and their dogs would be happy. Being married to my husband for almost six years, I have to totally forget about the idea of ever having a child. Jobs are few and life is a constant struggle to survive in Italy. Don’t even think about having a degree, in Italy a friend gets the job more than the educated one. Thanks for sharing your life, sorry for ranting so much on Italy. There are many things I love about the place, but there is also the reality that not everyone wants to admit!

bast April 16, 2015 at 1:31 pm

I can certainly relate to the lack of caring for stray dogs (and cats, though cats dont survive here for long), since I live on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona, USA. I can’t wait to leave here, but alas, we have to stick it out for a few more years to save money to buy a house back in Europe (probably the UK or Ireland), where I grew up. I do what I can for the dogs. I drive out to the ‘shopping plaza’ every evening and put food down for them in a quieter area. When I see one that is in desperate need of help, such as starving to death, we take him home and drive him to a good shelter outside of the reservation, about 3 hours drive away. Trouble is, we live in School Housing units, complete with all the often unreasonable rules etc that come with living in such “managed” residential areas, and now we have a new manager who is evicting us because we have 4 dogs of our own (we’ve been here with our dogs for 2 years with no issues), instead of their pet limit which is 2 (two of anything. Even if you have a gerbil, a bird and cat, you still get evicted). So, I haven’t been able to bring home a stray to drive to the shelter lately, since we usually have to wait for a weekend before we can go. They have given us a choice, either you ‘get rid’ of two of your dogs, or you are evicted – which, by the way, means my husband also loses his job, since this is the only housing available for school staff, and all other homes are for Navajo or/and their relatives only. SO, we are moving on in a few weeks, our dogs are our family. We have kept the apartment clean, no damage, no noise, ( we never leave them outside to bark all day or night) and I pick up dog pooh every day from the yard – unlike the majority here who leave it lying around to pile up. Anyway, chances are we will move to another school district on the reservation and try to keep a low profile with two of our dogs at least. The previous manager left us alone, but this new manager is a control freak. Anyway, back to the point, yes, I too have experienced culture shock living here for two years now, and it’s been an agonizing experience, not just because of the horrible neglect of domestic animals (horses are often seen wandering around starving to death, or dying of thirst, and it’s not uncommon for when we drive a 11/2 hour drive to a health food store to do our shopping, to see at least 5 or 6 dead dogs on the side of the road, rotting away), but also just the life-style, which is actually mostly just 3rd world American, (the native Americans don’t seem to have much of their own culture left – at least the Navajo don’t), and I long for the refinement, elegance, beauty of European cities, nature, the fresh, natural food, culture etc. Everything here is the same – all run by big corporations (everything is a “chain” now) and big business. I came to the USA in ’93, and it still had some character then (I’ve lived in numerous states including Hawaii), but that’s mostly gone. So, yes, it is hard to adjust. I have come to realize that I really NEED and owe it to myself to eventually live where I feel most comfortable, and alongside the people/culture, values I am most in tune with. The Italian culture was once great – it isn’t anymore, let’s face it. Nowhere is perfect, but some places are definitely more evolved – spiritually, culturally, etc than others. Americans are generally very evolved people who are reasonably compassionate compared to most other cultures, but then so are most of the Western European countries. Once we’re done here, I don’t EVER want to have anything more to do with 3rd worldy countries/places, or rigid, backward mentalities – given the choice.

Jennifer G November 27, 2014 at 2:30 am

oh god, I’m so happy to hear i’m not alone with the sudden-onset agoraphobia! If I don’t have to go to work I can easily pass 48 hours without leaving my apartment. And it’s not like I like my apartment either!

It’s funny how friends back home always make the comment ‘you’re so lucky to live in Rome – you’re living in a dream’ right when things are the hardest. You end up with a double feeling isolation with wanting to kill your friends alongside the expat isolation.

thanks for article!

November and the Dreaded In-Between - Gee, Cassandra November 28, 2014 at 4:30 am

[…] I read a blog entry that summed up the general malaise that I was feeling toward Spain and life: How to Fight Expat Depression: Just Remember You’re Not Alone from Surviving in Italy. Yes, yes, yes, I found myself nodding along. Often, it can seem like […]

cassandragambill November 28, 2014 at 4:41 am

These observations are spot-on! I have been under the spell of expat depression lately, and it helps to know that others can identify with this push-and-pull of expat life.

I referenced a quote from this post on my latest entry (http://geecassandra.com/november-dreaded-in-between/). You said everything so succinctly that I wanted to include a bit of your own words (with due citation, of course).

With Thanksgiving and the start of the holiday season, I hope that things aren’t too crazy at your home in Italy.

Jessica (Barcelona Blonde) November 28, 2014 at 9:53 am

Yup, I’ve done the trying not to cry in the bathroom thing at parties too (and at work, and randomly out in the street, and in the supermarket…). It always feels just weird and surreal – almost like I’m watching it happen to somebody else, and any moment I’ll snap back to my regular life back home and this was all a bizarre dream filled with perfectly nice strangers.

Even though logically I understand it happens to everyone, it FEELS very isolating because I’m often the only person I know in real life that it’s happening to. Boo to expat depression!

Cewek Indon December 2, 2014 at 12:31 pm

I’m really glad I’m not alone! I always thought, being an Asian myself moving into Denmark Europe where everyone else seems like an old nice lady [I’m serious] and get depressed from that is really really weird.

I ramble about many things in here.. My social skill got reduce when I tried to speak English with a “oh-i’m-not-good-at-english” person. Because it’s really weird! The teachers are super nice even when the student doesn’t respect you [if you compare to Indonesia, that again], the friends here are also very nice. But it’s just.. me and them don’t fit together very well.

And no Asians here! Ugh, I’ve been craving for an Asian friend since everytime I turn I can only see Dane, African, India or Turkish. And even if it’s Asian, it’s from Thailand and they were adopted. The lesson are super easy, the environment is clean, more greeny, and heck, even my Indonesian friends got jealous because I can meet some cute Western boys! [Yes, Indonesian people always think western people are very gorgeous, no matter where are you from or how old are you]

I just thought I’m being over reacting, and.. I could cry when someone talked to me about of how “I don’t have any friends” [I do, but uh, you know, close ones that I can easily get?] And I would get many mood swings, because of how ‘lonely’ I am. I keep rambling of how I miss my country.. miss the food! Ugh! But yeah.. It’s lucky for me to move here, even if I have to learn the language who can’t even read ‘r’ XD

But oh, sorry for writing a novel in the comment section. I really like your blog! Especially this article, your blog has teached me things about Italy other than Pasta, wine, and ciao bella. I’m going to do those steps you wrote down on how to ‘deal with depression being an expat’

Have a good day!

Cassidy December 3, 2014 at 2:46 pm

This made my day! It is soooooo exactly like this! Thanks for the much needed encouragement and laughs. Love, Who am I? in Rome

Wynne December 11, 2014 at 2:16 pm

This is really eye-opening, and something I likely wouldn’t have thought about until it happened. Your suggestions for coping are terrific. I imagine it could be terrifying to experience moments of utter helplessness and solitude in a foreign country, no matter how much, as you mention, you love said country.

I spent 3 weeks in Florence last fall and LOVED it. It was the last stop on my three-month European “odyssey” and though I was never depressed (since I was gone so briefly), I DID get bored with my own company after the first couple of days in Florence. I looked up local events on Couchsurfing.com and found a group of locals and expats who had dinner every week together, and joined them for a night of dinner and night-time sightseeing, as well as a party a few days later. It was wonderful, and really helped take me out of my shell and get out there. I made a friend from the group, a young woman from Russia who was in Florence for several months, and we hung out a couple of times. Priceless. We’re now friends on Facebook.

Your suggestion of using meetup.com is on-target, too. I also used that site to find Thanksgiving dinner in Lyon, France!

Thanks for such an insightful post – invaluable.

Orana Velarde December 27, 2014 at 8:17 pm

I just stumbled upon your post but haven’t finished reading it yet. I will, but I feel just like you were describing. I’ve been an expat in Asia for over two years. Sure at the beginning it was ok and I had a newborn but lately it’s just been rough and rougher. My husband works and has made plenty of “friends” and has a social circle. We never go out at night together because the baby STILL nurses and I don’t really trust sitters. I don’t drive and he refuses to teach me because he is scared I will crash. I have made no friends. I depend on him to go anywhere further than the 7/11. I am at home with the kids all day (this is new, in my home country I was a workaholic). I am totally depressed at this point. My husband says it’s my own doing and the “cant drive” excuse is getting old, that there are other ways to “make friends”. I don’t even want friends I just want to feel understood. Its not happening. Im going to try some of your list and see how I go. I guess from the lowest the other direction you can go is up right?

Francesca January 20, 2015 at 8:47 pm

Honestly, you already got me at the GoT gif, but then you had to add a Xena, a Scrubs and even a Thor gif! And THEN you nailed it all with your article, and even if I hardly ever write comments on sites anymore, I just realized I now HAD to.
First, because I’m Italian (wo-ho) and I really must commend you on your bravery. Living abroad is a difficult experience in itself, but I think that living here is, like, the ultimate challenge. What with all the stereotypes going on (Italians being super out-going but protective of their social groups, Italian guys being latin lovers and what you have), of course one never knows what to really expect.

Secondly, I had to comment because I lived the exact same experience. I lived in Belgium for one year (studying abroad), and while I spent the first semester partying hard and making lots of friends, the more time passed, the more reclusive I became. I suddenly couldn’t hang out anymore, couldn’t even go to the canteen without feeling stared at. So, yeah, from that it just became a downward spiral until I had to come back home (my mum had to come fetch me, which was a blessing as well as a hard blow on my pride). The idea that I had that I didn’t fit in, that everybody was looking at me, that I was utterly lonely and miserable, it all led to me hiding in my room and making everything worse by self-harming. I came very close to suicide more than once (I was in a very dark place then). Everything had lost its charm to me, even the things I had always loved: food, movies, the beauty of the town, art, music. I was a total wreck, let me tell you. Thank god I’ve been in therapy ever since and now I’m doing better. Still struggling, honestly, but better.
I have to admit that I’m still scared at the idea of going to live abroad, but it’s the only place where I envision my life to be (Ireland *swoon*).
I particularly relate to what you said about loving the person you were before Italy. Well, I loved the person I was before Belgium, yet here I am. A changed individual. I think that, along with the culture shock, the thing about going abroad for a long period of time is that it literally forces you to deal with every issue you have, because you’re out of your comfort zone and it’s then that you really look at yourself in the mirror (to me, it was acknowledging that I had a self-esteem lower than the ocean’s floor).

I don’t know if you can relate to any of this but I can say that I relate to what you said, and as much as it sounds kind of egoistical, I’m honestly glad I’m not the only one who’s gone through the experience. I hope your time in Italy will be as sunny as our summers!

monica gambino August 27, 2016 at 4:38 am

wow, i agree with you. I have the same feeling, i am a expat in holland. I feel like all my insecurities have multiplied by 100 since being abroad. Back home I did like myself and was proud of me but now i hate myself…

cmm January 28, 2015 at 7:45 am

Thank you for this compassionate, accurate, and well written article! I’m a US expat living in France with my French husband— I just hit the 6 month mark — and am going through a scary and terrible depression- crying, anxiety, the works.

I smiled at what you wrote here: “at one of my husbands’ friends’ home and everyone was joking around and laughing but I couldn’t understand why any of their jokes were funny. I just couldn’t get it. I was sitting at a merry table, while everyone was having the time of their life and I was totally bored out of my mind trying my hardest to relate to anyone on even the most basic level. It was as if the room froze, I looked from face-to-face, then back to myself and thought, “I don’t belong here.” This is my exact experience every time we’re at the home of my husband’s friends’ or family, which is ALL the time, for days on end…and he is kind and compassionate but just doesn’t understand why I feel lonely and isolated when everyone at the table is so nice.

Last week in Bordeaux with his family, I played a one-person drinking game: Every time someone said something I didn’t understand, I took a swig of wine/champagne. It was the only thing that kept me from having to excuse myself to cry. It’s the worst, really.

Denise March 4, 2015 at 1:54 pm

Hang in there. I’m a US expat. I lived and worked in Grenoble, France a few years back. It was awesome, initially, new apartment, new language, new job, a lot of new things, experiences, and people. I only had a basic knowledge of French, so it was a real brain drain for me to be working in the French language all day, but I learned it eventually. However, the culture shock was horrendous, and I fell into a dark depression which I consoled with booze. Trust me, don’t do that. I cloistered myself up in my apartment, and truly missed out on some magical experiences because I was overstimulated, stressed out, and pessimistic. Don’t be me.

The thing that got me through that year, and actually made me appreciate and love France and the French was sitting down each day and truly studying the language – struggling through the newspapers, battling the TV, crooning to French songs, and learning the lingo from anyone I could chat up. I’m an introvert, so putting myself out in the city and forcing myself to talk to people was a real challenge for me. But people will realize you’re an expat the moment you open your mouth, so don’t worry about making mistakes. After a few months, I started understanding and conversing back, and it was almost a game to see if they could guess where I was from. Learning the language helped assuaged a lot of the culture shock.

If you ever want to chat, drop me a line. I live in Italy now, and love it. I hope that in time, you’ll grow to love France. I surely do, and I can’t wait to hop on over the border to visit.


M.E. Evans March 4, 2015 at 2:06 pm

Thank you Denise, it’s really sweet of you to reach out to other expats who are struggling. You’re awesome.

Denise March 4, 2015 at 2:19 pm

Aw shucks, we’re all in this together. I’m just doing what I can. You’re awesome for writing this blog. It has really helped me on so many levels, so I should be thanking YOU.

I’ve been there, got the shirt, and hopefully my experiences can help validate others’ experiences and ease their anxieties. The brain wants to hold onto what is familiar and safe, therein lies the struggle. Living in a country where you don’t speak the language can really disrupt everything. I’ve lived in ‘lots of countries, and in each one, I struggled through culture shock, but it does get better each time, thankfully. I just hope other expats realize it does get better in time. Don’t give up on yourself or your new experiences.

Lish January 30, 2015 at 4:34 am

Thank you so much for this post. I just moved to London and feel like I’m the only lonely person in this big city… Your article is really inspiring and it’s a relief to know that I’m not “abnormal”!

Rachel Marie January 30, 2015 at 9:55 am

I really relate to this Misty. Thanks for sharing these tough experiences with us, I’m sure you have made a lot of expats feel better and less alone!

Denise February 5, 2015 at 8:55 am

Thank you for this post, and also thank you everyone for your comments. It’s refreshing and comforting to read expat perspectives, particularly ones that echo my own sentiments.

I’ve been living in northern Italy for 3 years now, and it has been the most mentally, physically, and emotionally challenging adventure I’ve ever taken on. (And I thought boot camp and Italian mother-in-laws and ex-wives were tough!)

In the past 3 years, I’ve experienced a roller coaster of emotions from elation and I’m-in-love-with-Italy to I-can’t-wait-to-get-the-hell-out-of-SHITALY-where’s-my-ticket-back-to-the-USA. Mood swings, weight gain/loss, drunken rants, overnight dreading of my hair, general bitchiness, anarchist yearnings, midnight romances with dark chocolate and American tv series on YouTube, and desires to annihilate the Vatican and create a new Roman resort for distressed expats. You name it, I’ve suffered from it.

With my Italian companion constantly on the road (he’s a sound Engineer and parties a lot, I mean works a lot), and my 5-year-old Itanglish daughter constantly throwing me into social situations (I’m an introvert), I’ve had my fair share of meltdowns. Isolation, culture shock, missing American things like Doritoes, non-hand-waving conversations, and logic can really take its toll.

I’ve lived in and visited many countries, but none of them screwed me up and over like Italy. It’s a love-hate relationship. Some days, there’s not enough dark chocolate or wine to keep me sane. But I’m learning to chill out, keep my mind open, and embrace Italy and Italians for what it is and what they are. At their worst, Italians can the most lying, slimy, insensitive and unethical turds on the planet. At their best, they’re charming, poetic, and full of “we don’t read or listen,we’ll do it our way, and if we get caught, we’ll just blame it on everyone else” comedians.

There’s good and bad everywhere, and it could always be worse (like, you could be a vegan lilke me with a horrendous case of debilitating toxic gas). Life is too short to be pissed off all of the time (which here, in Italy, I am), so I’m choosing to stop being an ingrateful jerk and start appreciating the blessings I have. Like, if I breed enough with my Italian companion, we just might start a new generation of superhuman expat Ital-American geniuses and breed the current Italian ecosystem out.

I wish all of my fellow expats the best. Stay strong!!!

Emi September 10, 2016 at 12:20 am

“Breed enough “! Ha that is the very biggest fear I have. If another child came along, it would have to sleep in the bathroom. And then where would I go to drink the Novello and melt down? September sucks

15 years in southern Italy with 1.0 children and a three-room house. But the Sea is literally across the street and the mozzarella is worth the weight gain.

So true about not fitting in completely here or there, but luckily I have never truly fit in anywhere. Still, my points of reference have changed.

I like the idea of stalking natives. My Mother-in-law ( God love her and so do I) would be a great place to start.

I love my husband, my Italian family and my life for the most part. Sometimes, it’s just hard. And it’s not for everybody.

Much Love and Big Hugs to all you badasses;)

clara@expatpartnersurvival.com March 2, 2015 at 7:27 am

It’s so important that these issues get talked about. Too many expats think they are the only ones who feel like this – but if more people admitted that the reality of expat life isn’t all easy, it would help those going through it. Thank you for this post, I look forward to reading more from you.

Kris Edlund Gibson March 2, 2015 at 8:44 am

Great piece, thank you. I have struggled as an ex-pat in Ireland. I wonder if there is an Irish expat meet-up page like the Italian one?

ashn0tray March 4, 2015 at 8:59 am

Great post, thank you for that. I just started to feel struggle recently, I live in small city in Northern Italy since I moved there 4 months ago. At first, it started great like I really enjoy travelling around and experience the new culture. Then I broke up with my long distance girlfriend a month ago, it began to change from then on. Right now I live alone (I used to hope my ex would come and live with me here) so it has been difficult to move on after the break up. I have tried to become more active outside (join a local choir, etc). But in the end, I still felt miserable and lonely :(.

Maraud March 16, 2015 at 5:45 am

Thanks so much for this blog. I moved to the Netherlands almost 2 years ago from the US for my dutch husband and his kids. I, too, thought moving to Europe was a dream come true! Now almost 2 years later I am still struggling with the same, if not worse, homesickness. Due to my stepchildren, we need to live here for a minimum of 5 more years, if not 10. I just don’t know if I can do it! Today I had plans to meet someone but then she cancelled so I have absolutely nothing to do all day. How do you beat the loneliness when you have tried all options? When, if ever, do you decide going back to your home country is best?

M.E. Evans March 16, 2015 at 8:50 am

I’m sorry to hear that honey. That is really frustrating. Have you considered going back to the states for long periods of time every year? At least a month? I know it’s a long time but I’ve done that a few times throughout the years. Leaving for a month or two really resets your brain and helps a lot. I know it’s expensive but your mental health is very worth it. Have you joined any expat groups?

Maraud March 16, 2015 at 10:05 am

Hi! I have joined expat groups but they are far away. (I live im a village). I am going to take the 1 hour journey to one tonight for a 45 min meeting just to get out of the house! I was working until a few months ago which at least got me out of the house, but I have since lost my job. During the time I was working, I didn’t have the vaca time to take off a month at a time, and now I don’t have the money! Agh! I know I will eventually learn the language, get another job, and meet more people, but in the mean time, it is sooo lonely! 🙁

Jacqui March 19, 2015 at 7:31 am

So glad I found this site. I know intellectually I am not alone but it feels that way? I am married to Frenchman for the past 8 years. I moved to Paris in late January but it feels like I moved here 5 years ago??! I had a job before I came here, a car, friends, family.. now I have nothing and my husband works 10 to 11 hour days. I’m totally isolated. The funny thing is, I lived here in our apartment a few years ago for three months and I was totally social. Perhaps knowing that I am not going back to the US makes it different. I too have nothing to do all day… I can’t bring myself to go out and meet people. I just want to hide yet I know this is unhealthy. Ugh.

M.E. Evans March 19, 2015 at 11:28 pm

That isolated feeling is one of the worst feelings in the world. Sometimes I felt like a caged animal. I do think knowing that the stay is “permanent,” does something to your morale and makes it feel harder to get out. It feels more daunting when it’s “forever,” versus just a vacation. I’ve found that the longer I stay home the worse it gets because social skills are linked to habit in some weird way (I might be making that up. But it feels true). I have went through phases where I was nearly agoraphobic, and I’m usually the kind of person who hates to be home. I’m so sorry you’re struggling and feeling like that. It’s really hard and sad and frustrating because other people don’t really get it. You’re not alone. Paris is full of expats who feel a lot like you do. Have you looked around for any expat groups? Internations? I found that the expat community really helped me get my ass out the door and helped me settle in. I put off finding them for a few years because it just felt weird but once I did it was so worth it. Also! Bloggers! I’ve met so many amazing people through blogs. Have you found any blogs in Paris you enjoy?

Jane March 25, 2015 at 9:59 am

Hi – thanks for Sharing your
Thoughts. I am Jane and we are currently on an orientation trip in Seoul – southkorea. I am German and we already lived abroad in Sao
Paulo and London. But this was 2004 – 2006 – now we have a child and now situation changed. It’s day three and I lay in the bed of my
Superposh hotel looking outside right on the skyline of Seoul and I have such a massive sense of loneliness right now. Everything is absolut superb a hype here so clean so high tech so
High end so artificial in a way – everybody is 200% nice to us still I am sitting here asking myself what the heck I am doing here?! We have such a wonderful life in Bavaria a supernice social network and good friendships and now my husband is needed here and I see the beauty of the place the perfectness but still I feel like an alien. The lifestyle of course is a complete different compared with Germany my husband will work long hours and told me we will have time
Together only at the weekend. My son will be in school what
I going to do? I won’t be able to go on with my studies – in Brazil
I knew the German club
And all the charity this and lumgeon that but I was always very me and did not feel well – I try to enjoy Asia but only say three and I miss our food and our friends. On the other hand it’s a chance for all of us to see more than Bavarian medows and this chance is not given to many. I don’t know why I am so scared right now I thought I wouldn’t be a problem after we did this twice but it is. I honestly don’t want to held son and husband ( that are very happy) away from this but I have no idea at all if I can do it. With regards from Seoul ( sleepless) Jane

Jacqui March 26, 2015 at 1:56 am


I just want you to know you are not alone. I have the SAME exact feelings as you and I could have written this post. I don’t think it matters what your surroundings are… I am 2 blocks from the Eiffel Tower and I have meltdowns. Hard for anyone to understand. Everyone in the USA thinks I am living the dream. But alas… that is not the case. You don’t want to say anything to people back home because you are afraid they will say “stop whining” or “whats wrong with you?” I wish I was in Seoul because we could meet up and I would give you a big hug! From one troubled expat to another…

Susie April 15, 2015 at 12:43 am

I’m reading this, sitting on a bench in a mall in Abu Dhabi, after googling “fighting expat depression”. Thank you.

M.E. Evans April 15, 2015 at 11:52 am

Susie, you’re welcome. We’ve all been there, it’s difficult, but hang in there! You’re a badass who moved abroad! That takes guts! We’re happy to have you here with us, sharing the awesome journey and unfortunately the occasional stint of depression and terribleness that sometimes comes with it. Or in my case came with it at least half of the time. Ugh. You’re not alone!

bonniegm April 15, 2015 at 10:59 pm

This is such a valuable discussion and M.E. did an awesome job with it!! People are still reading and commenting on it over 5 months after it was published!!

I was just thinking of the episode my then 20 yr. old daughter had during her first trip to Italy in 2002. She went for three weeks, in a group, for a culinary school through her university and then ended up spending 10 days touring Italy by herself, which had not been the original plan. Three days before she was due to come home she was in tears, lonely, overwhelmed, exhausted. I suggested she just find some lovely park to hang out in and simply relax, not feel like she HAD to see another famous statue or piece of art. She ended up at the Sforza castle in Milano and fell in love with it. She had the most amazing day just relaxing and came home planning her next trip which included 3 months of studying in Siena. Taking time to just be, to find that experience that rejuvenates your soul, is really, really important.

jayfs88 April 19, 2015 at 4:24 pm

Finally! It’s so nice to read about someone who’s in a similar situation to myself, and is handling it like a champ! I have been livig in australia for 1 1/2 years and sadly it hasn’t gotten any easier, everyday I wake up and ask myself what I’m doing here and the feelings of inadequacy are becoming too much to bear. I miss being my young confident self with goals and aspirations of my own instead on constantly reinventing myself for the sake of pleasing other people. I’ve tried making friends but I feel like I’m being judged all the time which is probably down to the fact that I refuse to be assimilated into another way of life . I always find myself in places where everybody is having a good time and all I can do is smile and pretend. Hugh Laurie said “if you’re sitting in the middle if a room full of people tryin to figure out which one is the asshole, it’s you”.

Jo - Migrating Bird April 25, 2015 at 2:52 pm

Thank you so much for this post, even if I am late in reading it. I spent a year in Milan, and had a total breakdown. I couldn’t eat, sleep, focus or even cry. I just had this constant anxiety that completely changed me as a person. I really want to live abroad again and am terrified of the same thing happening. But you have some great tips for feeling better and I’ll probably limit the shock by picking somewhere a bit more like England. Maybe Scandinavia or Germany. Fingers crossed it works!

BeccaLongman1982 May 24, 2015 at 7:58 am

This helped. Thanks so much 🙂 I still feel like a weirdo but at least I don’t feel so alone now!

goinginsaneinumbria June 2, 2015 at 10:00 am

Ugh, once again, nailed it. Thanks so much for these entries! I have felt this so often (still do) and my husband just does not get it. It honestly makes me feel crazy. We met in the US, in New York, where we had both lived for 8 years and where I was totally happy. It was my dream place, having moved from Arizona where I grew up. After 2 years of dating he decided he wanted to move back “home,” something I found confusing being that he was 32 and had left Italy at 11, but I digress. So we moved to a house in Umbria in the middle of nowhere so he could start a sustainable community. And here I am 3 years later. The community is doing amazing and he’s loving life and I am surrounded by tourists who think I live the dream life in paradise and I just dont agree…and I constantly feel isolated and spoiled because of it. So this post really really really helped. thanks a lot! Im spending more time in Rome now trying to find work as a Pilates teacher and learn Italian properly, but its a struggle. So again, thanks! Im thinking of starting my own blog now for this same reason you stated! will let you know if/when I do. I also apologize for littering your comments area recently but im just relating so much!

breakinitdown June 3, 2015 at 9:44 am

Goinginsaneinumbria I totally know how you feel. I am in a smaller town as well, not a village but a town. I go into Rome occasionally, and would love to meet up and do a Pilates class, have some coffee etc. Let me know when you’re around. My email is robynwoodman at gmail dot com. 🙂

Laura October 12, 2015 at 12:00 pm

I have been reading lots of posts about homesickness today, and this is a great one. However, what they are all missing is the conclusion that all this pain and isolation is actually worth it. Is it? I mean, there are so many people that describe homesickness in great detail, yet I hardly ever read a positive conclusion regarding it. Like, “I used to feel this way, but I don’t now!”. It sounds like it is going to be an ongoing issue for the foreseeable future, which is terribly discouraging. Is that the case? I mean, if so, then why should I fight it? Maybe I should just cut my losses? If I was in a terrible relationship with a person I don’t love and it was making me depressed, surely people wouldn’t tell me to “stay positive” or “find hobbies” or “practice yoga”. They would say, “Dude, you need to move on”. I mean, if you are not at least marginally excited to be living where you are, and you have the financial means to leave, why wouldn’t you? (Excepting those of you with kids of course, I can’t imagine). I appreciate the comment from the guy who had the nervous breakdown (sorry about that but I am really glad you shared it), because he was the only person who I have read about that actually went home. Everyone else just talks about how they are toughing it out. I respect your fortitude and grit, but it is only underscoring my feelings that maybe I made a big mistake by thinking I would be happier in Europe than the US. I have been in Spain for only 4 months (kinda like Italy with all the hand waving and loud conversations, amiright?) and I am experiencing all the agonizing agoraphobia/anxiety/depression that has been described here. However, I was in Spain for 6 months 5 years ago, and my experience was vastly different. There were some bad days, sure, but I didn’t want to leave. Now I just daydream of going back. All I can think about was how good things were back home, and how I threw it all away to move here only to be lonely and depressed. My question is, as much to you, as to myself is, “why are we doing this”? I have gone out of my way to meet expats since I have been here, and in my experience so far, they are generally unhappy people who drink a lot. I came here because I knew there would be some improvements to my quality of life, and there definitely are, but the meaningful relationships and sense of belonging that I feel in my own (annoying) culture, seems vastly more important to me than a shorter work week and good, cheap wine. I would love to hear if anybody decided to go home or stick it out and how that turned out for them, (but I guess they wouldn’t be reading this blog if they did). I am seriously considering going home, except for the worry that I would later discover it to be a mistake. Because you can “always go home” but you can’t always “move away/go home/ then move away again” unless you have a private jet and a lot of time and money. Which I don’t.
I’d love to hear someone else’s thoughts on this.
Nonetheless, I really appreciated this article. Thank you.

M.E. Evans October 12, 2015 at 12:08 pm

Truthfully, sometimes it gets better and sometimes it doesn’t. It depends on whether or not you’re able to find friends and carve out a life for yourself. Sometimes it only lasts a few months, sometimes it comes and goes, and sometimes it lasts longer or hits hardest at certain times of the year. For me, I wasn’t homesick at all until my second year in Italy. Then for two years it was very tough but I stayed because I fell in love with my now husband. Otherwise there is no way I would have stayed with that shitty feeling. Are you getting out and making friends? Joined an expat group?

Maraud October 12, 2015 at 1:34 pm

I posted on this thread a while back when I was in a deep depression. I can now happily say that things are better. (I have been here 2.5 years now.) I have heard from many people here that it took them 3 years to feel at home. When I realized that, I stopped being so hard on myself and looked for things I could do to make improvements. One of the biggest changes was moving cities. I flat out told my husband that I moved comtinents for him so he should move cities for me. I searched areas that had more international people by lookong at groups on facebook and meetup.com. Then I visited these areas to see how I felt in the surroundings and what I saw. Within 1 month of moving to my new city, I was making friends and getting involved. I quit a job I hated and eventually found a better fit. It is sooooo hard, but don’t give up! Try to change the things you can and you will eventually forget about why you wanted to move back to the States. Good luck!

Brigit October 18, 2015 at 5:07 am

It will be worth it. It’s something you did- something that was hard. You don’t have to have regrets, but they will try their damnedest to creep up on you. It will be worth it because you will always know, no matter how “according to plan” it went, that you did that. Happiness is so important, though. Having your own little “stuff”, and things to look forward to. If you stay, that’s rad. If you go, well you did that and you learned that you loved what you left behind. No shame in that. If you gut says go- then listen- but let it simmer a bit, first? Maybe it’ll change. I will send you little joys and big hopes from my similar situation in Australia. You deserve to be happy!

bonniegm October 12, 2015 at 1:37 pm

Almost a year after this was written and it is still reaching people. So very cool!! M.E. maybe you could do a follow-up column. It is such an important topic. I wonder if reactions are determined by your original reasons for moving abroad? Do you just want to live “somewhere different”, in a “different” culture? Have you traveled much or spent a considerable amount of time “away from home”? I would think that even moving to a different part of the US for college would give you a certain amount of “away” experience. Are you drawn to the country your grandparents or great-grandparents were originally from? I think all of these stories would make a great book M.E. With our world becoming more global every day, the “migration” of people to different places will only continue.

M.E. Evans October 14, 2015 at 11:23 am

Great idea! I definitely will get on that!

Brigit October 18, 2015 at 5:00 am

I can dig it!

Brigit October 18, 2015 at 4:56 am

This is great. It was the first thing that popped up in my google.com.au search of “depression expat”! It’s been a great experience, so far, here in Australia, but not at all easy, and tonight was the first hard night in a couple of weeks. It took me by surprise. Things have been going so well, and then one thing happens that kind of unravels all the joy and comfort that my partner and I have built as of late. I don’t even know what happened, but we are both feeling not ourselves, tonight, and taking a little space because of that. Thank you for “and more wine”- thank you for your honesty and humility. I should start a blog. Not sure where to begin! So much goes into relocating, even if it’s just for a year. Depression and anxiety have been my long-term “friends”, and they’ve traveled with me. But there’s room for all of us, on this adventure, and there’s also room for little joys, big discoveries about myself, breakdowns and rebuilding. I hope that you are currently in a great place, and that if you’re less than great, you’ll swim right through the cold water to the nearest warm spot. Love from an expat-US in Aus!

Sara November 1, 2015 at 12:12 pm

I’m SO glad i came across this site..finally…i have been an expat since 1991 when I left the UK for Australia which Ioved and enjoyed. Sadly 3 years later circumstances changed and I ended up in NZ. It is vastly different to Oz and I struggled with it and the downscaled size of the country etc. I was alone and had no job, friends or place to stay. However, after 16 years I had a home, career, partner and friends….until..circumstances changed again and I arrived in Germany in 2010. I did this mostly to avoid going to the UK where I knew I had no one and nothing. My cousin in Germany “held my hand” for my first 2 weeks in Germany and I enrolled in language school and got a job in a beer garden over summer. At the end of the summer, my job ended and also the room I had rented. I was alone and that’s when it all started..the depression from hell, anxiety, loneliness, fear and panic. I stayed with my cousin during the next 4 months over a very harsh winter and became more and more isolated leading to such bad depression I was hospitalized. After that, a brief stint in the UK for 7 weeks made things worse..reverse culture shock..a country I hated and could not relate to. My family couldn’t understand or relate and basically sent me packing back to Germany! Another job, another room..then…the breakdown and 7 months of therapy in various clinics! I eventually got a job in my field (fitness) and I felt better and more like I belonged and more “normal”. Unfortunately I wasn’t earning enough to get a place to live so I was struggling and made a mistake…I moved to Spain to join a new partner…I love Spain but without the language, job and limited finances relationships can swiftly crumble…as mine did..I went back to Germany and the following year had another job in Germany but no fixed place to stay. Because of this I moved a lot between Germany and Spain feeling more and more unsettled etc. Then, in 2014 I was offered the chance to go back to Germany but far away from where I had been (Bavaria) and what was familiar…the depression which had disappeared violently and suddenly returned..i felt confused, disorientated..even from the different accents and words used in this part of the country, the town was not a nice one either…I bombed again….too much moving around can seriously do your head in! Stupidly, I panicked and ended up back in the UK and now face the reverse culture shock which has got worse, not better over the past year and a half. The panic attacks, agrophobia, loneliness, fear and all of these horrible feelings have escalated and no one understands. Strangely, I feel homesick for Germany and have another chance to return but yet again, in another strange area, new people etc. Whereas before I would just go without thinking now I’m crippled by the what ifs etc…I know that to stay here in this awful town where I am in the UK is going to continue to damage me mentally I seem to have lost my courage to leap into the unknown as I once, and often did. This has been the worst year and a half of my life here. In the UK I hate everything about it, the people, lack of culture, crime, weather, shitty food. I feel like I have lost myself and who I am. So, I do so relate to others who have posted here who feel the same way. Now, I don’t know where I belong any more and it is impossible to talk about it to anyone which is why I’ve posted all this here, it’s the first time I’ve been able to express any of it. Mentally I feel like I am going insane and of course the mental health system in the UK sucks compared to Germany for eg. I feel so lost and everyday is like a living hell..I have prepared mostly for going again to Germany but worry and fear that another change will do more damage but staying here isn’t an option either…I want to rest my head and weary body and mind somewhere but I don’t know where home is and on top of that, I am alone…

Any advice or comments..

P.S. The saying “Trust your instinct” is a good one but as i have no home anywhere it is this fear and constant instability as I’m nearly 50 years old is taking me to breaking point!

Avwill November 1, 2015 at 2:05 pm


What a difficult time you have had. With this new global world we live in, there are so many new challenges that people have which have never been addressed. Know that you are not alone. You were once happy and you will be again. My thoughts are with you! Hugs!

Anna de Jong November 18, 2015 at 1:22 pm

Reading this just saved me from a really hard place! Thank you so much.

M.E. Evans November 18, 2015 at 7:25 pm

Anna, I’m so happy to hear that. I’ve been there honey, hang in there!

briannelynds November 19, 2015 at 10:12 am

I just moved to Madrid, a little over 2 months ago now. And while I’ve struggled with depression for well over 7 years, I go through periods where it comes back and hits me like a pillow case full of bricks. This happened recently, and it was almost as if I could feel the bricks being laid overtop of me before I woke up one day and felt the full weight of it. I came to Madrid through a TEFL program and while i met a few lovely people through the program, I only really clicked with one girl. Just my luck, she leaves in a matter of days. She decided Madrid wasn’t for her. I can’t blame her really, I feel somewhat the same. But with the time, effort and money its taken to get here, I want to give it a fair shot, or at least finish out the year I originally committed to. So, after this weekend, i’ll officially be alone in madrid. My living situation isn’t ideal, living with a crazy OCD landlord, but at least I have taken the necessary steps to change that. The job that I’ve been spending a few hours a day training for and working part time (very part time) may very well be on hold for another month, meaning no hours and no pay until after christmas holidays. Its frustrating. I don’t speak the language, also frustrating, and unfortunately don’t even have the motivation to try and learn. I have so much free time bc of this stupid job that i’ve been holding out for and I don’t even do anything with that time! With no money coming in, I feel guilty just going out for lunch! I don’t leave my room for fear of coming into contact with my certifiably insane landlord, I honestly try to wake up and make breakfast and have everything cleaned up before she is even out of bed.
I feel utterly defeated because I realize that the ‘change of scenery’ that i thought would be exciting, and fresh and awaken myself, has only left me alone, depressed, unmotivated, and entirely lost on what I should really be doing next. I often say I am going to do things without following through, and this is one things I just can’t back down from. I just don’t know what I can do to help myself. When i feel so unmotivated, lost, when I can’t speak to anyone, nevermind understand them, I just can’t even see what is so great about this expat life. I hear a lot of people say that it took them months before they settled in and found people they got long with well enough to be friends. I just don’t know how long I can’t wait. I’m not the most outgoing person, I am not a big drinker or party goer, which seems to be the worlds past time, and it just seems whenever I think a friendship will blossom, I fall face first in rejection. I know you can’t expect everyone to like you, I understand that I may not even be the easiest person to like, but what the hell is so wrong with me that I feel like this and that people don’t even …. I just don’t even know what i’m doing any more.

Bish November 20, 2015 at 3:52 pm

Hi, your message is quite moving, and it’s easy to feel your frustration and loneliness. It does sound as though at least you are only there temporarily, and at least it’s not permanent. One of the best things for depression is vigorous, outdoor exercise. It sounds almost too simplistic, but it works – provided you make an effort as often as possible (preferably every day). If you can get out in nature, preferably away from the city and crowds, somewhere clean and where you can hike, run, or cycle in peace, lay on the grass in the sun or whatever, you may find that it helps. Aerobic exercise is the key, but again, it should be outdoors in a natural area, and it doesn’t have to be something forceful. Also, are you getting enough sleep, sunshine and healthy food? Lifestyle can be a big factor in affecting mood, often more so than how other people relate to us etc. I’ve also found that surrounding myself with like-minded people is important, rather than trying to fit myself into other people’s lifestyles and views on life when really I’m just not in tune with, or in the slightest bit interested in it – such as the drinking and partying scene for example. I don’t choose to mix with those people because I don’t have enough in common with them, so instead, I look for those who I do find interesting. This is not being snobbish, it’s simply being honest with oneself. To each his own. It’s important to be comfortable with yourself and accept who you are as an individual instead of trying to fit into what others expect us to be, or trying to access our own “value” and self worth when comparing ourselves to others. It doesn’t sound as though there is anything wrong with you other than the fact that you probably just haven’t found the right circle of people to mix with and be-friend, and that you feel rather lonely and lost at the moment – understandably, and Spain can be a bit of a harsh culture and mentality for some. Again, it all sounds temporary, and no doubt you’ll soon be at another cycle of your life looking back at this one and feeling perhaps relieved that it’s over with! All the best to you, hang in there, and do what you can to nurture and nourish your inner and outer (body) self.

Open Mic, Open Life | Elisa Writes November 22, 2015 at 9:13 am

[…] videos, and drink, and scroll through Facebook seeing what my friends back home were doing. (Check out this blogpost from Surviving in Italy for more information about it.) For some reason, in Italy, it hadn’t […]

Ale December 10, 2015 at 4:31 am

Thank you so much for writing what is hard for me to express in words. And helping me to feel normal again.

Aubree December 18, 2015 at 1:17 am

I cannot express how amazing this blog is. While, not Italy, I am living in Hungary and have been having some major issues lately with just not being cool with the situation. Its been almost 2 years, so you would think the fact that I cannot communicate with 80% of the population in this small little town would be normal now, but its not. I have been having a harder time as of lately due to it being the holllllllidays and have been feeling anxious and blue and I couldn’t put my finger on why. This article pretty much said everything that I have been feeling. It felt like a freaking weight was lifted off my chest. I am not nuts and this happens to other people! It was also super entertaining to read, just like having a convo with a friend over some wine. Thank you so much for writing it. You rock. I have gained enough courage to go navigate this dang country for the remainder of my time here.

Nadia December 25, 2015 at 2:04 am

It’s really weird for me to read this because I’m experiencing the exact same almost in reverse, I’m from Italy and now live in Ontario. I can relate to everything so much but almost in the complete opposite way. Hehe
The first year was relatively easy for me, we were in a university town two blocks from the downtown and we were both (me and my bf) in a new place, it was also very lively and full of other foreigners which somehow made me feel less lonely.
Since moving to the outskirts of my boyfriend’s home town it’s getting worse and worse. Everyone I know comes from family that have lived here for generations and never had a similar experience. My old friends feel more and more distant, and family uses every call to pressure me to go back and just add guilt to the loneliness. There’s really nobody I can talk to.
My partner would just brush it off for the longest time or act annoyed, he’s convinced that it would have been a breeze for him to move to Italy… I wish he tried it on his skin. He’s sort of a natural loner though, so he can’t understand the alienation, the idea of having very few friends doesn’t scare him, but that is not what makes it so heavy. I feel abandoned by him too sometimes. Especially now, during the holidays. I don’t have my family and he just thinks about his relatives while I get dragged around like a backpack. I can’t do this, not the way he wants to.
This place is so dead and isolated that I can’t even go out and see some colors and people to get distracted and feel a bit more connected. It’s horrendously lonely, I want to move away as soon as possible but he just keeps finding excuses because it’s cheap and wants to save money for a house. I just want to be in a place where I don’t feel like I’m losing my mind.
The fact that he’s just ignoring my feelings away is the most hurtful part in all this.

M.E. Evans December 26, 2015 at 8:14 am

Nadia, I feel for you honey. The problem is that if someone hasn’t had the exact same experience they tend to have a difficult time relating or being empathetic. Have you sat him down and just blatantly told him that you’re unhappy and you feel ignored and isolated? Those are terrible feelings that can have a long term effect on your well-being. He needs to take it seriously. I honestly think that moving abroad is a little easier for a lot of men. They don’t seem to need emotional connections. My husband (he’s Italian) only needs sex, food, and soccer, and an occasional hug, to feel pretty okay in life. Me, I need friends with a sense of humor and people who I relate to and a long list of mentally engaging and emotionally stimulating things. I say “most men,” because I do know some guys who need more emotionally and who got very depressed abroad. But generally it’s more the women. Have you joined a group or something to find a way to meet new people and make your own friendS? That might really help a lot. Is there a book group or a yoga class or something you could do? Have you tried reaching out to an expat group to find other Italians perhaps? Hang in there honey, we all go through it at some point when we move abroad. You’re completely normal and it really does get better! It really does.

Mario December 29, 2015 at 10:53 am

China…Oh Shanghai. The city that never sleeps like New York City’s evil – polluted bizarro twin. I happen to be from NYC. I been in Shanghai now for 7 months and there are days lately where I just can’t cope with the stress of people around me when I am at work. I’m frustrated and just want to do my job which is to teach classes, plan lesson etc. However everything I know here is not acceptable to the academics I’m currently serving. They think I need daily micro management to improve. Its not me! I know its not me. I been teaching for over 10 years of which that last 5 was in leadership and within that time I started my own business where I worked with clients from all over the world. The people supervising me maybe at most managed an Arbys or Mc Donalds back in America for 3 months. Its so awful. I am so depressed and sad that I have to listen to these morons let alone live in a country where outside of work no one understands me either. I feel so alone and conflicted. I feel unable to think of solutions. I miss my family but I also know that things back in my home country are now so different that going back would be just as much as starting over. cry cry cry – I would if I could but being out here alone I have to remind myself to be strong and not go there. Great advice in the article. I try to always do stuff like that mentioned but sometimes getting out of bed is so difficult. Thanks for listening.

Denise December 30, 2015 at 8:18 am

Mario, I feel your frustration. I’ve been living in Italy for 4 years now, and am so fed up with the incompetency and inconsideration here sometimes, I find it better to just stay at home. But if we do this, we’re missing out on a beautiful experiene. Ask yourself why you moved to China to teach in the first place? With that answer in mind, come up with ways that you can focus on achieving that. I came to Italy to experience a different lifestyle, learn the language, and expand my mind. Yet, I find, even after 4 years, sometimes I’m fighting the Italian lifestyle, criticizing why things instead of appreciating and celebrating their difference, and blocking myself mentally from learning the language. Once I get back to the core reasons I decided to come here in the first place, things become clearer. When I’m at my wit’s end, I meditate, do Yoga, and focus on the overall picture. There are times when I feel isolated and alone, and even talking to people doesn’t do the trick. Find something in China that inspires you, and pursue it. Also, reach out to the expat community where you are. They’ll understand your struggles, and are a great support system.

Ceece B January 6, 2016 at 5:02 am

Thank you for posting this! It really did give me wings today 🙂 I’m usually an upbeat person and had the hardest time putting to words how I have been feeling these past few days. I can’t tell you how much peace this has given me to just allow myself to sit back and say “I’m not alone… ” and most importantly “You are not crazy” ….
Thank you, thank you…. thank you

Asher February 5, 2016 at 9:05 am

Thank you so much for this post! I’m an American living in Germany for the last couple months now, and dang is it hitting me hard right now.
I had been talking about moving to Europe for years: studied German in college, had been here before to visit a good friend and native of the country, landed a sweet job.
And I can’t wait to get out of here.
It sounds so stupid doesn’t it? I can’t even say it to folks back home without a little forced, maniacal laughter, but it’s true. I think I became the symbol for everyone back home that escape from monotony was possible, and that I’m over here skipping through castles with Bretzeln in one hand a big glass of Pils in the other. That’s only true on the weekends.
Nothing could have prepared me for the utter alienation I feel as an American here, though. Not only to be an Auslander–foreigner, lit. “outlander/outsider”– but one from one of the most malignantly stereotyped countries in German eyes. On top of that, being totally severed from my support group.
I keep thinking, “I should have known better”. See, I suffer from depression anyway…but I felt so ready to take this adventure in my life. But in the days leading up to the flight to leave, I felt it in my gut that it was the wrong move. I figured it was just fear…but it’s gnawed at me more and more ever since I left. I feel so completely alone here.
So, I decided to end the “adventure”.
I guess I don’t have the courageous “keep at it” message that I wish I could carry on from your post.
I strongly encourage others to take that approach and give it their all, but if I may add a different perspective, it’s this: If you’ve really given it a shot…like REALLY given it a try and instead of getting better, day after day gets worse, It is OKAY to be done and go home.
You are not a coward, you are not letting anyone down, and you are not “giving up”.
Especially if you suffer from depression or find yourself in a real crappy situation.
You are under no obligation to continue to be happy just to satisfy other people’s expectations. Your friends and family rooting for you back home may not understand, but they will be just as happy and proud that you gave it a shot and are coming back to them.
There is nothing worth forcing yourself to be more and more depressed until things become really dark. Don’t wait for that.
Give it a good shot, but remember
It’s always okay to come home.

N.R February 14, 2016 at 3:34 pm

Just wanted to say thank you so much for this. Im a city-bred Canadian who has been living in Milan for medical school for the past 5 months (with a break for Christmas back in Canada) and I have literally been on the brink of calling my parents and begging to come home and quit my dream of becoming a doctor because of how depressed and unhappy I’ve been here. I always dreamed about living in Europe, since I was in high school, and came here with an open mind and a lot of hope. But the lack of community I feel in my class, also feeling alienated while living on res, and having no family here at all-has all resulted in random outbursts of crying, being unable to concentrate on piles of school work, and locking myself in my dorm room to the point where some people don’t even know that I live on campus . Also, like many expats, I have noticed that italian culture is very different from North American culture, at their worst they are ridiculously snobby, very two-faced, massive cheaters (on exams), and don’t care to talk to foreigners. But there are some great ones, and i respect the Italian culture greatly. I’ve been working on my anxiety and unhappiness-skyping family, planning trips (Japan for a week, Positano in June, Ireland for March) , and I’m meditating every morning. These things have helped immensely, but yeah, sometimes I do get low and it does get hard. Today was one of those days and your article literally saved me from a night of crying. Thank you so much, and for all the commenters too. I don’t feel crazy or alone now 🙂 xx

Sanbvf February 25, 2016 at 4:34 am

How “good” it feels I’m not alone…!
It is been 7 months now we (hubby and me) moved to Switzerland.
I thought it would be very easy but it’s being terrible.
I had to quit my job to follow my husband and I thought it would be an amazing opportunity for me to finally have time to do what I love (study art, spend all day in museums, take language classes, go to the gym…) but in the end, I just didn’t do anything yet.
My husband is very busy at work and travels a lot, and he seems to be happy but I don’t feel the same…which is making me feel very guilty to not appreciate the comfy life we have.

I’m sure it will get better (next week, I’m starting language courses).

Sorry for my english and thank you for your post, it helped me a lot to understand what I’m going through right now ;o)


CLE2SPR March 3, 2016 at 4:58 am

Good LAWD this post speaks to me like you would not believe!

Last night in bed consisted of me stumbling across this post, crying and synchronizing my nose blowing along with my fiancée’s snoring as to not wake him. Exactly two months ago today since we’ve relocated from Cleveland to Shanghai. It’s good to know that I’m not alone (of sorts) and that I’m not totally going bonkers! Thank you thank you thank you for this post!

Amy March 6, 2016 at 10:03 am

Thank you SO MUCH for this. This is my 7th onth living in America and I’m depressed ad questioning myself. I cried myself to sleep last night thinking if this is worth it. It’s nice to know that this is all normal and finally have someone who understands. I will definitely try your advice. THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!

Maz May 14, 2016 at 9:12 pm

Thank you for the good read. I’ve been living in the USA for the past 2 months (originally from Australia), and I’ve been finding it hard to adapt to the culture… Probably once a week I have a breakdown. I just cry. I don’t have any friends, I know work people & go out for drinks sometimes with them but that’s it. What makes things even more depressing is that my fiancé lives in Australia. It’s hard not to miss him. It’s even harder because we’re planning our wedding, he goes to all the appointments, I can’t do anything. It all feels so surreal. It makes me incredibly sad, and it makes me feel stupid for leaving home. I don’t even know what to do.

Helena Guderian May 16, 2016 at 1:44 pm

Hi all.. thank you so much for sharing your emotions. I thought something was wrong with me, now I realize it is normal for me to feel so depressed and without motivation to even leave my apartment. My husband’s work takes him across the world, I get left on an island nearby and see him every two weeks for a week. People think I have such an exotic a life, but it is not. In Bali I learned the language quite easily as it is very similar to my mother tongue, because of the Dutch influence during colonial years. There is also a large community of Australians whom speaks English. In Thailand I only learned a few words as i could not read Thai but there was also a large Expat community. Now living in Gran Canaria, Spain, it really got to me. I live in the north where very few people speaks English. My English has deteriorated as I have to use a simple way to communicate to non speaking English to make myself understood. My brain has shut down, I do nothing now except wait for two weeks to pass so I can speak to another human being. Having an animal is not even an option, I can not bear the pain of having to leave them behind. Returning to South Africa is not an option either as the economic and political melt down makes it impossible.The worst is hiding my depression from my husband, I lie to him every day, telling him I have just been for a long walk, I have been shopping whilst really I sit on the patio drinking cheap wine and longing to be with people of my culture and language, nature, animals… I have to find a way to make it work. Hopefully before I drown myself!

banannagram June 1, 2016 at 1:58 am

Very reassuring to read this post and the comments! Having lived for 10 years in London before moving to Paris with my French husband 5 years ago. I speak the language relatively well, have a full-time job, and have supportive in-laws and my husband’s friends here, plus 2 cherished expat buddies. After 5 years, I would have imagined things would feel pretty settled, fairly sorted. They’re not.
The struggle to feel like me, to feel confident in what I’m doing and saying on a daily basis, to have a reasonable social life with people who I identify with, has never let up. And on the home front, feelings of missing of my own family and friends and of being absent from their lives, definitely hasn’t got easier with time.

The question I’m struggling with is this – how do you know if it’s time to call it quits, pack up and go home, or whether to persevere? How do you decide after all the work put in to build a life in Paris, whether it’s really the right life for us?
Trying to answer with this question has created a paralysing sort of limbo. I’m not really ‘moving forward’ in my life here, nor making plans for life anywhere else, but just waiting and wondering and going round in circles. All this is putting on hold plans with my husband to hopefully buy our first apartment, have a baby. That’s partly because I’ve shared with him how unsure I feel about being able to be happy, or at least ‘me’, here. And partly because my lack of self-confidence and sense of alienation has put considerable strain on our marriage. Having once been an independant, confident partner who could be pretty cool-headed in a crisis and who had her own stuff going on, I’m now almost always at home when he gets back from work, haven’t much news to share, and have to muster up the energy for outings and social events that I would have jumped at in the UK. He understands to a point, having lived in London for a few years. But still admonishes me for not having made more friends, or for my crises of confidence.

Even if we were to decide that life in Paris isn’t for us, there’s no longer an obvious spot to call home. Family is spread out in the UK. Having been away for so long, moving back to London now feels financially challenging and unhumanely big compared to Paris.
I’d love to hear from anyone who’s doubted the path they’re on after several years of life abroad, or any advice on how to deal with the dilemma of persevering or calling it quits.

JR June 1, 2016 at 6:44 am

My eyes just fell out of my head when I read your post Banannagram! I am an American living in Paris. I too go through a daily struggle. I WAS an independent person like you but now I find myself relying on him a lot. But what really got me was the part where you said that he “admonishes you” for not making friends! WOW! My husband does this too and we have got into fights about this very thing. I thought it was common knowledge that French people don’t let people into their circle?! I don’t know any expats that have become good friends with anyone French. The only French people I know are my husband’s friends and thats because, well, they are my husband’s friends! As for packing it up, you just know when its time. I’m packing it up and moving back to the USA next year. I miss my friends and family… those are things it took a life time for me to build and I am certainly not going to build those (or wait around) to build those in the next 20 years! Hugs! xoxox!

Andy Smith November 27, 2016 at 12:21 am

Yes I agree with JR, an excellent reply, you’ve really hit the nail on the head there. I feel similarly unsettled but not wiling to move back to the uk, especially with the whole Brexit situation. There appears to be no clear step forward but no clear step ‘backward’ either.

I think you have to be sure you’ve made all efforts you can to make it work in your location, mix things up by finding new hobbies, exercise a lot to avoid depression, and living in the moment (Eckhard Tolle helped a lot here), also understanding what you really want deep in your heart or indeed what you don’t want. Above all, look on the bright side of everything not the negatives. Best of luck.

Aura Maria August 19, 2016 at 9:31 am

Wow, Ive been an exapt for 4 years, and its so hard! I feel every word you say… and I’m happy that its not like there’s something wrong with me, other women feel the same! I know a lot of happy exapts but I’m not one of them, somebody told me that maybe I need to go out more.. well… its not nice to walk around the streets by yourself all the time!

bryntest August 22, 2016 at 5:09 am

Thank you for this post. I’m an American gal who gave up my small business, friends, and family to accompany my husband to Sweden for his job. Much of what you wrote in this post resonated with me. I am so depressed and feel like such an outsider/outcast, and your blog is cheering me up and giving me hope. I’m looking forward to reading more of your posts.

Ashley Briggs October 17, 2016 at 3:25 am

Hi. What a great piece of writing. As a Brit now living in Sweden this really rings true. I’m 18 months in and over the last 5 or so months these sorts of feelings have really crept up on me; and they’re so foreign. What’s strange is that I’m very busy and have lots of colleagues that I do like and do socialise with, but it still isn’t home. When I go home I instantly ease up and relax and the happiness just flows. I made a decision, maybe in error, that going the ‘expat social route’ wasn’t a good solution, but now I might buckle under the stress and go find some Brits to share life with here. Foreign living isn’t ‘living the dream’ as it’s so hard – it makes the everyday seem almost insurmountable.

Andy Smith November 27, 2016 at 12:10 am

Great post and I can agree, anyone planning to leave should read this. I can relate to many of these points. I have lived in Switzerland for 6 years and have made a family life here, yet I still feel unsettled and somehow alone quite often. I think when you leave you think your friends and family will always be back in your home country, but there is a trade off – you grow apart and you change as a person so it’s slightly harder to relate to those back at home. Your life situation moves on and maybe at different rates to your friends, so this also changes things. The benefit of living abroad and the excitement and everything that you experience does come at a cost of not sharing things with life long friends and family, which cannot be underestimated. Seeing pictures of friends together at home can also be painful sometimes. All that being said, it’s an incredible experience and adventure, I would not change a thing, but it can be as hard as it is exciting quite often. If one were to stay at home then there would equally have been a longing to leave and experience something new.

Denise November 29, 2016 at 5:07 am

I’ve lived in Italy for almost 5 years now, and though I feel more comfortable with the language, the bureaucracy, and the culture every passing day, there are still moments when I detach myself from all things and all people “dolce vita” and hunker back down to my roots. I miss Doritoes and Mountain Dew, I miss efficiency, I miss the rawness and fearlessness of Americans. Though I adore Italy, my heart will always pine for the USA. Like they say, “You can take the girl out of Philly, but you can’t take Philly out of the girl.”

Raluca December 29, 2016 at 11:52 pm

Thank you so much for this article; it really validated how I feel and made me feel like I’m not crazy. I’m a Canadian expat in Romania married to a Romanian guy and yesterday, I had a mini breakdown after my inlaws excluded me from all the Christmas and New Year’s preparations. The loneliness really struck me and I told my husband I’m going back to Canada with or without him, as I can’t stand it here anymore (I told him before we got married that I want to go back, he agreed to come but he keeps changing his mind).

Your article came in hand at such an emotional time, so thanks again!

VEMA January 2, 2017 at 5:07 am

Crying for two days after my Xmas family holidays are over. I came back to where I currently work and live and I feel I just hate it. I miss the warmth, compassion and open personality of the people in Spain, and as I arrive here I get blocked and dont want to see anybody. I live with two locals and they are friendly but in the distance. I am afraid my happy-go-lucky personality fades away here and it takes me so much emotional effort to bring my self up that a lot of times I wonder if this is worth it.

Ashley January 17, 2017 at 12:28 pm

What a great article 🙂 this helped, and youre wonderful sassy wisdom (much needed). I just relocates to Holland from USA with my husband and I feel utterly miserable and hopeless. Adding to the fact I’m 4 months pregnant, my intuitive abilities kicked on immediately when I got here (full moon 1/11), that it wasnt the most thought out desicion. Flight or fight was in too notch, and I felt the need to protect myself and hide. Now, I barely interact with anyone, and all we want to do it go back to America, but I need to make enough money to sponser my husband, blahhh its just overwhelming. All of it. This has been the most uncomfortable, in-your-face moment of “what the fuck am I doing Here” with at least 4 meltdowns in one week. I’d give anything to be back in America where I’m most comfortable (maybe partially due to the native american in me) but wow, talk about a WAKE UP CALL. Life’s expensive too. Depression happens, and I’m experiencing it full blast. Hopefully soon I can start to engage myself in more. We will see though. Much respect and empathy for those suffering abroad!

Audrey January 18, 2017 at 12:57 am


Send me an email. I am in Holland and can meet up, if you are close enough, or at least connect you to some groups. (I am also American.) cncaud@yahoo.com


Funky Monkey January 18, 2017 at 12:25 pm

I have been an expat for 8 years, mostly in the Netherlands, and the longer I stay here the more lonely and alienated I feel. I have read articles on how to tackle expat loneliness, and it’s all the same thing – “put yourself out there” “be active” “join sports clubs” etc etc. I am an introvert and putting myself out there is difficult. I shouldn’t have to have a personality transplant in order to be accepted. I used to be in a sports club with dutch people but they bullied me for being different (i.e. foreign) and I was forced to quit. I met some nice dutch people over the years who I had some nice conversations with, but time and time again when I tried to meet up socially, they ignored my messages or were too busy, because they are already happy with the 3 friends they had since they were 5 years old. To make matters worse for the last 18 months I have an illness which means that I generally can’t eat out so I had to skip all the social events with my work colleagues. Sorry for my huge rant. I don’t know what the solution is. It helps just to write it down somewhere. I never normally do this. I can’t go back to my home country (UK) because of brexit.

Rachael January 23, 2017 at 7:54 am

I’ve been living in Brescia, Italy for 5 months and I’m finding it really hard going. I moved here on my own following a successful couple of years living in Malaysia. I’m single and in my late 30s. I can identify with lots of the comments and observations on here. Although I’ve found it painful and upseting to read.

I’d like to find some sort of access to therapy to try and understand what I’m going through and help me to manage the panic and anxiety that I’m experiencing right now. I’m unable to really rest or relax properly as there’s a constant buzz of worry coursing through me. I really don’t know if I should stay or go. But where do you start with accessing therapy when you’re overseas, feeling pretty isolated and don’t speak the language! Any recommendations would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

M.E. Evans January 23, 2017 at 12:31 pm

I’m sorry you’re going through that. It IS really hard. I’d start with talkspace. It’s an online therapy solution and they do Skype sessions. The reason I’d recommend that, is that having a therapist from your own country is pretty important.

Alberta January 23, 2017 at 2:46 pm

Thanks M.E. for this. I was looking up expat depression on the internet and bam, here was this blog post describing exactly how I felt (and still feel). I moved to the Netherlands by myself two months ago and its been difficult settling in. The people are quite nice but its been tough making real connections. Back home i was very energetic, very outgoing and not afraid to be alone by myself. It’s the total opposite here, its as if my personality just disappeared into thin air! i feel like an outsider here and I end up crying most nights and hardly want to leave the house. I also notice I am becoming a bit withdrawn because its too exhausting to make the effort. At least, it is comforting to know other people are experiencing what I’m going through. Sometime in the future I am hoping I can come come back to this tread to say everything worked out well!

Juliette February 1, 2017 at 2:09 pm

Hang in there! I feel the same way!!

Juliette February 1, 2017 at 2:08 pm

Thank you for this article! I googled “Expat depression” in the hopes that someone wrote something about this! I was fine the first few months, but the honeymoon has clearly worn off and reality has taken its firm, tight hold.

We can’t forget that we got the opportunity of a lifetime and even if it’s a shock, it’s not forever and it will help us grow and learn more about what we’re capable of.

Eva February 14, 2017 at 1:20 am

You’ve expressed what I’m feeling so well, thanks.
I’m five months into my expat journey and its not going too well. Everyone said by the sixth month I should feel fine but i still feel like the first day I arrived. My biggest concern is I don’t have any friends so I tend to be by myself often and I feel so lonely. I feel everyone around me has their own social groups so I am left on my own. I tried to go for some meetups but I find it hard meeting new people. I went for a meetup, saw all the people and wondered ‘how do i go about introducing myself to them?’ so I just walked out and went home. I miss the person I was back home and hate this person I am now. Does anyone have tips on how to meet people and ‘put yourself out there’? Any tips are very welcome

Marija March 20, 2017 at 7:35 am

Group sports or group exercise classes might be worth looking at. Also other courses eg cooking class, hobby etc

stephaniequirky March 17, 2017 at 6:14 am

Thanks for the laugh! I found the article after googling ‘feeling stuck expat’, I am in a small town in France, and have been here for a month. My french is really poor and this afternoon I felt like screaming! Instead, I ate a block of chocolate, and hide in my room. Maybe I should try the walk intead. 😉

Steve March 19, 2017 at 11:15 am

I’ve been in Germany for about a month, and I can’t recall ever feeling this helpless in my adult life. My barometer for success has gone from huge personal and professional accomplishments down to “don’t look like an ass while ordering pizza”. I’ve found it’s just easier (probably too easy) to stay at home and cook instead of putting myself out there.

Kora April 1, 2017 at 8:12 am

This post was just what I needed to read today. I’m a 34 y/o expat living in central Italy. I married an Italian very quickly (shotgun wedding) and am now mum to a 9 year old. I’ve been separated from my ex husband for 5 years but can’t go home due to her father and custody issues. Italy can be excruciatingly lonely. I know the language and the culture, but even after ten years I’m still an outsider and worse, in my small town I struggle hideously with the events I have to attend for my daughter (sports, catechismo ecc). I’m a lot younger than all the other mothers, and in the small isolated town I live rumors of course are rife. I hate that I can’t be myself, joke, laugh and mingle like I once did. I literally feel like a black sheep, but paranoia of being seen even more as the ‘unusual one’ means I feel unable to even try. My only Italian friends are the few women who are also single /divorced – as I guess they too are seen as outsiders.

That moment you wrote about in the above post ” time standing still- looking face to face” I feel that all the time. When friends start laughing in dialect or with Italian humor I don’t understand .. or when I have a verbal dyslexia moment and forget all my Italian grammar, and say something that comes out all wrong.. and see their expressions….it’s a horrible feeling.
I would be back in Australia in a heartbeat if I could, and agree with the above comment ” if you don’t have kids or family tying you a country, and you really feel miserable..then leave”. As soon as there’s kids involved you become tied to this country, and that is a very frustrating position to be put in. Italy has many great elements, but for sure it is a hell of a tough place to be in as a single mum with no family help. Jobs are scarce and when you have one you feel almost obliged to the employer, and state help is almost non existent. There really are many reasons to get depressed,but reading all these comments made me feel at least not alone in that struggle. Cheers.

Marija April 1, 2017 at 9:29 am

You are strong Kora. It is great not to feel like you’re the only one feeling that way. Hugs to you.

Audrey April 1, 2017 at 9:39 am


I really feel for you. I have been thinking a lot about a way to connect all of these stories. A support forum online. Chatting available. Some way to link everyone. If anyone reads this and is good with creating a website, I think an expat help for women site would be invaluable for me and others to feel less alone.

M.E. Evans April 1, 2017 at 9:54 am

Audrey, I’m in the works of adding an expat forum to Surviving in Italy. Should be up by April or May. 🙂

ExaptGermany April 3, 2017 at 1:58 am

I live in Germany 4 years now and I started having depression. I don’t find comfort here. When I am at home I feel great and everything works fine and I meet my friends and parents and cousins and my old neighborhood. In Germany I feel constant loneliness depression and anxiety. I choose to go shopping at night when it is dark. This is not life. This is not enjoyment. Facebook makes it even worse when you see your old circle of friends and relatives move on with their lives. I went to a therapist and a psychiatrist but they didn’t help. I don’the want to get caught up in an endless loop of visiting psychologists and doctors. I feel I don’the belong neither in Germany or back to my home country. I also started having suicidal ideation because I feel empty and lonely and that the future will be exactly like that. I now find it difficult to connect to new people because the motive is to extinguish my loneliness. So it does not happen naturally. Even when I meet people I return back to my appartment with feelings of loneliness. My parents keep telling me to return back home instead of suffering alone. I see my parents grow old and I cannot abandon them. One day they will become sick and lose them. I need to be by their side these last few moments. That means having to leave my job in Germany to be able to do that. Right now I came to visit my parents and for the first time I feel guild and depression even here. Because I know I will have to return to Germany in 8 days. Back to more depression, loneliness and waste of life.

Mercedes April 21, 2017 at 12:18 pm

How do I really fight expat depression? How do I will myself to go through the motions every single day when I have lost all desire to? How come some people fit in effortlessly but I am having an incredibly difficult experience? Why does everything at work overwhelm me? Where did my personality disappear to? My self confidence is at an all time low and the worst thing is, I can’t speak to anyone about it. No one will believe me because back home I was very bubbly and energetic, few things could get me down. I have tried to talk about it a few times with friends but they just brush it off or they don’t understand. The expat life sucks…at least for me.


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