How to combat shyness when you’re abroad
Even the most extroverted of us will have moments of shyness or social anxiety when working abroad.
Not only are you living in a completely new country, culture and environment where you’re away from everything comfortable and reassuring such as family and friends. But you’re also expected to work to your normal capacity, complete professional activities and be able to handle stressful situations exactly as you would at home. This can be a formidable combination – even for the strongest, most social characters.
You already have so much on your mind when you’re working abroad let alone if you have to deal with shyness or social anxiety as well. Socializing is, not only, an important aspect of travelling, but it’s an important aspect of our lives. We need that time to unwind and laugh and to stop thinking about the tasks we still need to complete.
So, how do you combat shyness when you’re abroad and away from your usual comforts? Having experienced this situation ourselves (yes, you’re not alone!), here are some of our tips to making new friends and connections while abroad:
It might sound like a bit of a cliché, but something is only a cliché because it occurs often enough – right?
What I mean by this point is, don’t pretend to be someone you’re not.
You know you are shy, you know some social situations make you feel uncomfortable, you know there are certain personality types you prefer to avoid. Understanding this about yourself releases a lot of the pressure we place on ourselves in social situations.
Understand that you’re not going to be able to, or not going to want to do everything every day while you’re overseas. Learn to love yourself and listen to yourself when you’re having a bad day.
Set boundaries with yourself
This is an easy and great way to combat shyness. It involves setting rules or tasks for yourself.
Some of my favourites working abroad were:
- I will go out for dinner ‘x’ amount of times this week.
- I will leave the house at least once every day.
- I will speak to at least three new people today.
- I will visit somewhere new in the city at least twice a week.
Setting yourself boundaries such as these is about achieving two things:
- You are placing rules on yourself to force yourself to be more social and, thus, trying to combat your shyness.
- You are acknowledging that you are shy and you are also allowing yourself allocated relaxation time to recuperate and reboot. This helps to combat stress and any pressure we feel about our shyness and social anxieties.
Force yourself to smile
Yes, something so simple can help shyness!
Firstly, you will appear more attractive and approachable to strangers if you’re smiling. And we have science to back this up.
But secondly, forcing ourselves to smile when we’re shy or anxious helps our brains to release endorphins, which are our happy chemicals. These happy chemicals help to combat stress and help us to relax. In turn, this has a positive effect on our social interactions since we won’t feel as anxious or nervous as we once were.
Yes, Man !
Have you ever seen the Jim Carrey movie “Yes Man”? Yes? Well, apply this theory to your entire life abroad. This literally involves saying ‘yes’ to every offer that comes your way – ‘no’ does not appear in your vocabulary.
For example, you are asked any of the following:
- ‘Do you want to come with us for drinks after work tonight?’. Your response would be? ‘Yes’. Of course.
- ‘Everyone in the office is dressing up for charity on Friday, would you like to be involved?’. Your response? ‘Yes!’.
- ‘We’re all trying the new sushi bar for lunch, want to join?’, ‘Yes!’.
- ‘Want to be involved in the office basketball team?’, ‘Sure, why not?!’.
You get the point.
This movie is, in fact, about a man who is stuck in a rut and who wants to get out and experience more of life. Combatting shyness is very similar to this man’s life; forcing yourself out into the world and into uncomfortable situations is often the only way to combat our deepest fears.
‘Fake it till you make it’
Last, but not least – and this is my favourite of them all. In essence this tip encapsulates all of the advice given above and bundles it into one neat package which you can apply to every aspect of your life.
‘Fake it till you make it’ literally means ‘pretend everything is ok until it is ok’. This is not to say we ignore or bury our feelings and anxieties! It just means that sometimes pretending we’re comfortable and happy in a situation will lead us to feel comfortable and happy.
So strap up, put that smile on your dial and try to enjoy as many of your overseas moments as possible! We hope these tips help you and ease some of those anxieties you might be feeling.
But at the very least, just know that you are not alone.
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