How to stay sane as an expat in a foreign country

Come July, I’ve technically been living in Georgia for a year. Except for a few trips home and to some other regions here, I haven’t left Tbilisi. I thought I’d be stir crazy by now but I have to admit I’ve noticed a change in my perspective since Spring started.

Maybe it’s the seasons, maybe it’s my hormones, or maybe I’m actually growing up. I did turn 21 in Spring and have noticed increasing grey hairs and weird urges since, which might have something to do with it.

I’ve recently come to find the annoying things amusing, which is crazy for me as an irritable Aries. I guess I’ve come to understand the people and mentality enough to anticipate things, which of course could lead to boredom anywhere else, but here there’s always something surprising.

When I chat to my friends and family back home it throws me back into perspective. Things that I experience on a daily basis are completely absurd in the UK, and I’ve got used to it.

One of the main things that encouraged me to come here is the fact that I can leave whenever I want, if needs be. I haven’t felt the need and I’m always reminded of how bored I get back home, as much as I miss hearing conversations in English.

So enough babbling, here’s a few things that I’ve learnt living in a foreign country that have kept me relatively sane!

1: Focus on the little things.

It’s very easy to get overwhelmed in a new place, especially in places so different and opposite to where you come from. Rather than try and cope with everything at once, look at the details and find that little sparrow that’s fluffed himself up into a ball, or the floral patterns engraved into a door frame. You’ll become more mindful and it will be hard to break your zen when you remember those cats who decided you were a friend.

2: Stay in touch with your loved ones.

Now, I’m a worrier and wish I could be with my favourite people all the time, but life doesn’t work that way. I’m forever worried that something bad will happen and I won’t be there or hadn’t talked properly with them or told them that I love them, so I make sure to always make time for my nearest and dearest. In fact, since being abroad, my dad and I are even closer than before, and we chat more like friends than we did when I was back home. I think he realises that I’m in a foreign country and doing my own thing and he can only support from there. Besides, it’s always nice to be reminded of the home comforts, no matter how emotional you might get over chocolate diggy biscuits and awful real estate TV…

3: Don’t be afraid to leap out of your comfort zone!

You’re in a foreign place, it’s not all going to be easy sailing. Why did you go there if you’re not willing to try new things? You can’t live off roast dinners and Victoria sponge your whole life. I always think back to that Terrence McKenna quote where he says:

“Nature loves courage. You make the commitment and nature will respond to that commitment by removing impossible obstacles. Dream the impossible dream and the world will not grind you under, it will lift you up. This is the trick. This is what all these teachers and philosophers who really counted, who really touched the alchemical gold, this is what they understood. This is the shamanic dance in the waterfall. This is how magic is done. By hurling yourself into the abyss and discovering it’s a feather bed.”

Maybe decapitated pig heads and fist fights aren’t you thing but embrace it, you’ll learn something, I promise.

4: Learn the language. 

Says the girl who can barely piece together a sentence in Georgian.. ვაიმე დედა… What better way to understand the people than to speak the way they speak? They’ll love you for it too. People still squeal and swoon when I spout a few words of broken Georgian, but it shows respect more than anything. Just don’t be the ignorant person who yells in English and points at things.

5: Make time for yourself 

After a while the novelty will wear off and you won’t feel like you’re on holiday. Responsibilities overwhelm and life can get a bit routine, so make sure you take some time to relax and rewind to set your clock back to zero. My time alone here is vital to me, even more so than when I lived back home. As much as I love my boyfriend I need this time to reflect, and maybe some people won’t understand that because of their culture. Be patient with them and they will be with you. Do something that relaxes you to unwind, and definitely try to keep notes or a diary of what you notice or how your days pass here – it’s something amazing to look back on no matter how mundane it might seem today!

So these are my crucial tips for coping with living in a foreign country. Most of all though, enjoy it!

If you like this let me know, I condensed it this time but could write so much more on this if you find it useful! Have a beautiful day.


45 thoughts on “How to stay sane as an expat in a foreign country

  1. D. Arthur Wargo says:

    I think you are finding how blessed life might be back home with all the extras, yet how all the extras can blind you to life!


      • D. Arthur Wargo says:

        It’s a great life lesson that will serve you well throughout the rest of your life.

        I went on a mission trip to inner city Philadelphia once. You wouldn’t think that could change a person’s view of their own lot in life. However, the residents of this poor Hatian community, and their daily struggles and surroundings, have stayed with me. I am, I think we are blessed beyond our own understandings when we actually experience life through other’s ‘perceived’ less life. And then we are blessed by that too.

        What amazes me, is how many with so little often are the most giving people you can come in contact with. Perhaps they truly understand being grateful for all good things, and desire to share what they know to others.


      • itstartedinoxford says:

        I did have to google that… Hatian like: “A dark skinned person who usualy immigates to the U.S in seach of money,shampoo,soap,shoes,edable food. You may comonly find them working at Pollo Tropical like i have recently discovered there race is usless and not functionl in our world.” (Urban Dictionary…).

        You’re right, it’s so eye-opening, especially when you have to live in their shoes. Tell me about it! People here are always sharing food, even if they can barely afford some bread! There’s such a culture here of being a good host but I find sometimes it goes too far the other way where it becomes a reason to be snobby, rather than for community spirit. It’s a peculiar world we live in!


  2. pixistics says:

    I loved this! I’m from California and married an Army man stationed in Georgia. My head almost exploded with the culture shock (Even though Cali and GA are in the same country), the south is so different and it takes such a long time to get used to (Like I’m not used to strange men calling me sweetie right in front of my husband!). I’m glad your acclimating well and taking it slow to get the hang of things! This post reminded me that I don’t have to accept and fall into things right away, I can take my time and have some time to be the valley girl I really am.


    • itstartedinoxford says:

      I haven’t been to either of those places but I’ve heard plenty, so I can only imagine! The USA is big enough that it might as well be a foreign country… It’s those kind of things like you say that can really throw you off too, like they add up and you end up feeling like you’re having an identity crisis or something.. Well that’s how I feel sometimes anyway! Yes, I think so long as you do things at your own pace and don’t force anything then things will always end up good (: How long have you lived in Georgia? Would love to hear more about it (:

      Liked by 1 person

      • pixistics says:

        I’ve been living in Georgia since January so only 5 month now. It has been a journey! I definitely agree though I need to go at my own pace because the ‘southern charm’ isn’t quiet settling in! But I definitely can live with the abundance of Crawfish (can you say yum!!) those are definitely a staple in my new southern diet. How long have you been in Georgia so far?


      • itstartedinoxford says:

        I imagine life seems much slower there than back home? That’s the thing I find hardest to get used to, although that’s a blessing in itself as well! Haha nice! I’ve been here basically since July, but officially lived here since October. Then a few trips back home too. I’m just thankful that home is only the other side of Europe, small world (:


  3. John W. Howell says:

    I really like your advice. I moved to a small island from a larger city and can relate to your points. Although there is not a language barrier, there are spoken nuances that have to be learned. Thank you for following my blog as well.(loved the buckwheat recipe. Need to make some.)


  4. This British-American Life says:

    Very well written post.

    I remember when I was in tech school in the US Air Force, and I received my orders for my first assignment. It was to a base outside of Miami, Florida. I was not happy because I absolutely abhor hot weather. One of the sargeants in the class who was retraining and had a couple of remote tours in harsh places gave me a good dose of perspective. He told me about being stuck on a remote island where his squadron played American football with coconuts on the beach and how it was one of his fondest memories. In other words, you can find the good in most settings, if you are secure and your needs are met.

    By the way, I was only in Miami for 3 months because of Hurricane Andrew, but I had a blast while I was there.

    Little did I know how much I would be moving in my life and how much I would have needed his advice. His words have served me well because I can honestly point out things I have loved about each place in which I have lived.


  5. plainandsimplepress says:

    Nice post! I grew up in Saudi Arabia (am an American type). These are great suggestions…and Facebook and Twitter make staying in touch with friends and family back in the Old Country a lot more feasible than it was back in the day. We communicated by pieces of paper (remember that stuff?), tissue-thin so as to keep the air-mail postage down. Needless to say, we didn’t do a LOT of communicating.

    Treasure this extraordinary adventure… ❤


    • itstartedinoxford says:

      Thank you for such a great comment! This really woke me up, you’re right, I’m very lucky to have such an experience. It’s hard to remember on a day-to-day basis. I love writing letters but they’re so expensive now, especially to send from abroad!


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