Pinay Mom's Blogs
Motherhood between windmills and tulips

Feeling isolated: how to deal as an expat or immigrant

When I was new here in the Netherlands, I was excited and all of course. The idea of living in yet another new country makes me look forward to the new interesting places to see, new foods to try, meeting new people and just enjoying my new environment (not to mention, spending a lot more time with my husband who’s the sole reason why I moved here). But after a while.. And in my case, after about 3 months.. my excitement dropped way low and I got quite bored. The idea of waiting for my husband the whole day, watching tv, reading magazines, walking around the neighborhood.. even scrolling down my cell phone was just too much for me, that I started to feel really lonely and homesick.

I felt stuck. I felt bored. I felt disconnected. Even at times when my husband saw that and tried to cheer me up by going out on the weekends, that level of excitement and happiness can only hold itself up until the evening of Sunday when I will then realize that the following day is Monday and he’s back to work again. He also tried to get me to meet more relatives and his circle of friends. I attended a lot of reunions, a lot of dutch parties, but sadly and to be honest, there was a moment where even that made me feel more isolated as I continued to struggle with the language and felt I didn’t quite belong yet.

This is a real struggle of some expats and immigrants here abroad. It’s not uncommon to feel alone and isolated even if you do have somebody with you and you’re not technically alone. You still feel homesick. You miss your family. You miss your friends back home. You miss your extended family gatherings on the weekends, birthday parties, movie nights, your mom’s cooking.. or even just hanging out with barkadas on a KKB (kanya, kanyang bayad). You start remembering those things that kept you occupied. But now, things have changed.

As I waited for my husband during the day, what kept me busy in the meantime was taking care of the house, making sure it's clean, walking around the neighborhood, writing my grocery list and doing the groceries, then keeping the house clean. All. Over. Again. It’s become a routine. But it has become a boring routine. Until I decided it had to change.


Part of the reason why you feel lonely even if you’re not physically so is that absence of an emotional connection with other people other than your partner of course. My solution then? I searched for those whom I share similar interests with and connected with them. I met my first Filipino friend here in Amsterdam via a website that catered to our local community. After a couple of coffee meet ups at The Bijenkorf at the city center and some window shopping together, we clicked and I now consider her one of my closest friends here in the Netherlands. If you make new friends, build new relationships and find that ‘click’ with them, it makes a big difference moving forward as you continue to find other people to connect with.


Try not to think about what you're missing back home. Your Christmas will not be the same as how you usually celebrate it with your mom and dad and the rest of the family. Certain home traditions will be missed, practices that you’re so used to will be changed. Seeing too many on social media that reminds you of home won’t help either! Instead, be open to learning about the new culture you’re in now (even in learning the new language) and have fun while you’re doing so. Find interest in the history behind the new practices you observe. Ask people around if you don’t understand why certain beliefs are such, and be respectful of certain behaviors that you notice even if it’s not something you feel comfortable with. The more you engage, the easier it is for you to integrate, accept and find connections along the way!


I didn’t want to be a couch potato for so long! So I ended up volunteering in a kids daycare when I was new here in Amsterdam. Back in those days it was quite easy to get a volunteer job working with children (I love kids!) and even though I didn’t really connect well with the staff I was spending time away from the house, keeping myself distracted and enjoying my work. For a time being I also signed up for taekwondo (I used to be a varsity player back in college) but the location was quite far for commuting, until I was introduced to zumba classes and started meeting new people there. From that connection I learned about making YouTube videos, which is by far the hobby that best suits my schedule, I became passionate about it, and it allowed me to do meet and greets and make more friends!

Do you see where I’m getting at?

Whether you join a book club, volunteer at a foodbank or subscribe to your nearest gym, these are hobbies that can get you distracted and pave ways to create your own little community of friends. As they say, let your interests lead you to making your own new set of friends abroad and through time you will overcome the loneliness. You will not have that feeling of being isolated anymore.

Oh yes, and as a side note.. talk about how you feel with your partner or your friends. If you’re missing home, your family, or the social activities you're used to back home, it’s quite therapeutic to talk about it even if the other person is just listening. Talking about your feelings is also a good way to move forward. Good luck, stay safe and enjoy life to your fullest!


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