Hating Life in Foreign Country

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

I remarried 5 years ago and moved to my husband’s native country (non english). My 2 sons are grown up and have their own lives in my native country I visit every 2 months.

Since living here I have not been able to feel at home. I hate it here and my life has become very insular. I rarely go out, only with my husband and even then I don’t like to. I have been very sad with whole days or weeks of tearfulness. That time has passed and I am now very numb feeling. I have lack of interest in anything and cannot bring myself to do anything. I miss my family very much and cannot wait until my stepson is old enough for us to move to my home country.

I am always tired, fed up and disinterested. I have had a lot of health problems, some of which have settled but I still ache and feel very tired all day. My biggest concern is the not wanting to go out. I make all kinds of excuses to myself, I delay, I feel very stressed and anxious if I have to go out. I struggle with the language (I have had lessons but find it difficult) and am always worried that someone will speak to me. Before I moved here I was a kindergarden teacher and had a normal social life.

I have told my husband how I feel and he is understanding and sympathetic but there’s really nothing he can do to help. I went to the doctor for a check up and told him how I have been feeling. He said he didn’t think I’m depressed. I’m not so sure, I’ve never been treated for depression so I have no idea myself. He says I ‘have to get out more’ er yes, that IS the problem.

I have tried a language group in the area but hated it as they wouldn’t let us speak! The leaders just did all the talking and when a woman approached me to talk to me (in the second language) we were told off! The local language courses are finished now and I have no contact at all with the outside world apart from once a week to the supermarket with my husband and occasional trips out (which I don’t really like). Really, my question is: Could this be depression or maybe Agrophobia? I do not feel suicidal but I must admit to feeling that I just will be glad when life is over naturally.

A: You must love your husband very much to have made this move. It sounds like it hasn’t been what you imagined it might be. Please don’t be hard on yourself. It’s a major adjustment to move to an entirely different country and culture.

Yes, you certainly could be suffering from a situational depression. Or – it could be an adjustment disorder. Or – it could also be that you are lonely, homesick and grieving the loss of everything that is familiar to you. Talking to a mental health counselor could help you sort it out.

I’m so very sorry that the language school was so unhelpful. The whole point of language is to speak! As an educator, I can’t imagine scolding people for trying to do the very thing that is being taught. I’m sorry there doesn’t seem to be another opportunity. That being the case, I do suggest you purchase a language program on CDs or online. Having more vocabulary will help you feel less alien.

Although your doctor meant well by telling you to get out more, it is easier said than done. I’m wondering if maybe one way for you to get back into the world is to do some volunteer work with little children. You were a kindergarten teacher so working with children is part of your identity. I wonder if there is a daycare center that could use your help for a few hours a week. Or maybe you could offer to read stories to little ones at the local library or to play with them so their parents can have a few minutes to do their business there. As you know, children aren’t judgmental. Their language is simpler. And you would probably begin to meet some of their mothers. It might be a gentle way for you to venture out. Having a task to do will make it easier to relate to people and will help motivate you to get out regularly.

One more thing: If you haven’t learned how to use Skype, ask someone to show you how. Skype lets us use the computer to see and talk to people who are far away. Skype would let you have more regular contact with family and friends in your own country so you would be less lonely.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 19 Jun 2013

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2013). Hating Life in Foreign Country. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 22, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2013/06/19/hating-life-in-foreign-country/