How to Deal With Loneliness as an Expat in India

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Woman from Malana
Woman from Malana

I’m writing this not because I seek pity or help, but just out of sheer honesty, in hopes that it may offer encouragement to anyone else feeling the same, regardless of the place or circumstances. I know this too will pass, as all periods of sadness do, but lately I just miss home, my friends and my family.

Trying to make friends

I’m six months into a what was to be a 9 month project, and the reality of it is that I probably have at least another 6 months left. By now I had hoped that I would have a bunch of new friends to hang with and create fun memories. But 6 months in, I find that’s not the case. I have an awesome boyfriend that I am so grateful for, but my attempts at making friends has been a huge failure. The question I continue to ask myself is why? I’ve never had trouble making friends before. Hell, I’m always the life of the party. I can and usually do make friends anywhere!  So why is this different?

Malanese girl
Malanese girl

Cultural Differences

I think the answer is primarily cultural differences in lifestyle and the perceptions around it. I lived a year in Australia when I was 15 and I remember feeling this way then. People from other cultures form judgments and impressions, generally wrong, about people from other countries. Our point of reference is completely different than theirs. It’s human nature, but it doesn’t make it right.

Indian boys looking bored
Indian boys looking bored

For example, people here think I’m rich. At home I’m just a typical middle class American, but by Indian standards I’m very wealthy.  They might think that I’m spoiled, undeserving and a narcissist.  What they don’t know is that I have worked extremely hard since I was 12 years old, generally working two jobs at a time. They probably don’t know that I almost lost everything during the Great Recession and had to start all over again.

They might look at me and make judgments about me based on the way I dress. I try to find a balance between being my authentic self while still being sensitive to their cultural values, but I’m sure I don’t always get it right. Perhaps I’m trying too hard.

Girl and her puppy in Udaipur
Girl and her puppy in Udaipur

That’s the thing about loneliness. You end up wondering “What’s wrong with me?”  I’ve always believed that the best way to make a friend is to be a friend, but now I find myself doubting my own beliefs. The fact is, there is probably nothing wrong me, just like there is nothing wrong with all the people here that have misconceptions about me.

What to do about it

All I can do is keep my eyes on my goals, work towards them, and cope the best I can. My favorite way to cope is to write, hence this blog. In closing, please make an extra effort to be nice to foreigners, new people in your neighborhood, work, school, etc. it’s not easy being an outsider and someday that may be you.

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