Blacks Isolation and Unspoken Struggle with Loneliness AbroadSep 17, 2023 10:00AM ● By Gift Joe
Photo by Keira Burton
After years of trying to secure a visa, Andra finally got the opportunity to relocate to her dream country abroad. She was so happy and even testified in church about the goodness of God. She finally left the shores of Nigeria for Canada. On getting there, Andra realized she was in a whole new world. Away from family and friends, she began to feel isolated and alone.
In an increasingly globalized world, more and more Black individuals are venturing abroad for opportunities, education, and exploration. Yet, behind the glamour of moving to a place with greener pastures lies a topic we rarely discuss: loneliness.
Loneliness is a universal human emotion. But the experience carries unique challenges and complexities for members of the Black diaspora living abroad.
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Emotional journey of Black individuals living far from home
Moving to a new country involves a great deal of change as you step out of your comfort zone, leaving all that you have ever known behind. The Western world has been long branded as the “land of opportunity.” So, when people are leaving their countries, they fail to have realistic expectations. As they navigate new cultures, societies, and often unfamiliar social landscapes, the silent struggle of loneliness begins to set in gradually, especially when their expectations are not being met.
Olumide had it all planned out. He would get a good job and in no time start sending money back home to his family. As he lived out his first few months, the experience taught him about the harsh reality of the hard-knock life an African immigrant faces while living abroad.
“I was earning well as a banker back home in Nigeria, balling and living comfortably. When I got here, getting a job was hard. It was heart-wrenching to get rejected day after day. Finally landed a warehouse job that involved a lot of standing and lifting. Some days I get so sad but I have nobody to cheer me up unlike back home where I could just drive to a friend’s house to chill.”
Negative stereotypes and biases against Blacks persist globally. These stereotypes also contribute to loneliness abroad. Feeling like an outsider in the place you now call home can make you sad and lonely.
Experiencing biases was emotionally draining for Jane.
“I love to cook and it brings me joy. But when I relocated, that joy was taken from me. I lived in a shared apartment and my landlady had some tough rules. I was only allowed to cook once a week. She said she did not like the smell of my food. She complained about almost everything. I was sad and lonely all the time in that apartment. I was new and getting another affordable place was difficult.”
Moving to a new country often means adapting to a different culture and way of life. Adapting can be isolating and challenging, especially when the cultural norms and values in your new city differ significantly from where you are coming from. Many people find themselves feeling lonely as they begin to yearn for their home country and familiar circle of friends.
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“After my master’s in Canada, I couldn’t get a job. I was living from hand to mouth. At one point, my mood was so low and I was feeling hopeless about the future. I had no friend to talk to. I was so alone. I began to regret leaving home where I was comfortable. When I couldn’t take it anymore, I packed my bags and returned home,” John lamented as he recalled his experience.
The feeling of loneliness don’t always really go away, but you can learn to deal with it. Here are a few coping mechanisms, and strategies for overcoming loneliness while living abroad:
Stay connected to your loved ones
When you’re not hustling and chasing after money, it’s a good time to reconnect with your loved ones back home. A phone call or social media chat may go a long way in helping you feel less lonely and isolated.
Be honest about how you feel
Pretending that life is rosy abroad and everything is going fine every time someone asks about your welfare is doing yourself a disservice. Being open is a lot better than bottling things up.
No man is an island. You can join Facebook groups and WhatsApp groups in your new city. Joining groups allows you to meet like-minded people who have been through the process and know what you are experiencing. You can also meet others in a similar situation or those who are eager to meet new people.
Leave your comfort zone
Avoid the temptation of going home every evening after work and locking yourself indoors during the weekends to binge-watch your favorite TV show. Go out and socialize, attend events, and make new friends.
Exercise feels and can help boost a low mood. You could register at a gym, killing two birds with one stone - you get to leave your house and you get to exercise. You never know who you’d meet at the gym. You may end up making amazing friends there.
As you go through this phase, remember that feeling lonely and out of place after making a big change is completely natural. Finding your place can be difficult but, in time and with some effort, the initial feelings of loneliness will give way.
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