Expat Guilt

October 03, 2017 4 min read
Expat Guilt

The guilt of being away from family and friends back home is something that is not often associated with expat life. However, this guilt is normal and completely understandable. It can lead to large amounts of stress and anxiety. This blog post touches on why expat guilt exists and provides some helpful tips for dealing with it.


We’ve already covered some of the stressors and challenges associated with expat life, however we haven’t yet touched on the notion of expat guilt. Although most people consider expat life glamorous and exciting, people often neglect the extreme sacrifice that is foundational to being an expat: leaving loved ones and comfort zones behind. For most people being an expatriate is a short term commitment– a few months to a few years– nonetheless it is easy to feel guilty or shameful about your departure and absence. This is especially the case if there is no end in sight to your time abroad.

The people I love are happy for me, so why do I still feel guilty?

expat guilt
  • Aging parents
  • Lack of physical presence
  • Loneliness
large amount of stress and anxiety on expat life
  • You rarely spend time with old friends
  • You don’t want to impose, leading you to communicate with people less than you should

More tips for coping

  • The way you perceive your situation will impact how you experience it. People often perceive a situation as far worse than it actually is, causing unnecessary feelings of stress and anxiety. This is a common thinking trap. For more help dealing with this sort of issue, click here.
common thinking trap
  • Try to better appreciate kind gestures from people around you that remind you of home, whether it’s friends who take care of you when you fall sick or somebody inviting you to their family’s dinner.
  • Support networks make all the difference. Of course moving to a new place is very daunting and hectic, but you must not let that prevent you from prioritizing making friends. There are friends, and there are friends who feel like family. The latter are fewer but are the reason why you are able to live so far away from yours. Do your best to build a "family" away from home. For advice on how to help others with stress, anxiety, and depression, see this and this.
  • Be disciplined with your communication back home. It's important to recognize the constant struggle that exists between living in the world around you and the one you're video chatting with back home. Of course you want to keep everyone updated on your life, but this is best done in moderation. For example, if you're video chatting with someone back home for 3 hours each day, this is going to prevent you from experiencing the new environment you find yourself in. It will also take your video partner(s) away from their environment. It's all about balance. Find consistent and strict time slots and stick to them. This will everyone to experience the best of both worlds!
skype distraction.jpg
  • Quality of time versus quantity of time. Although you certainly won't have all the time you want with the people you love, take solace in the likelihood that the time you do spend together is of a much higher quality. When you only have limited time with someone you're close to, you'll find that you tend to focus on positive aspects. Mundane and negative aspects of life no longer creep into your relationships: there is no room for this to happen when you're just so happy to see someone you haven't seen in a long time.

No matter where you are in your life, it always helps to have someone coaching you.

If the above tips don't help you control your guilt of being an expat, it may be a good idea to seek professional help. Speaking to a therapist can be more effective than talking to friends and family because of the non-judgmental and safe environment that therapy provides. They can teach you various techniques to help you become more self aware, and help you come up with actionable strategies to alter your thought processes. If you wish to learn more from experts, feel free to message a therapist on RingMD (use the button below) and ask them how they can help. You can talk to them in privacy and book an appointment with them effortlessly.