5 Ways to Cheer Up When You Feel Like an Outsider

March 19, 2015
5 Ways to Cheer Up When You Feel Like an Outsider

I hung out with a large group of all Aussies two days ago – my first time since I’ve gotten to Brisbane! I relished watching a group of local friends interact comfortably with each other, without much interruption for clarification or cultural explanations (even if I didn’t know what they were talking about for some of the time). It was refreshing in some sense to see “normalcy” happen in front of me, and I loved every second of it, even if I was so clearly an outsider to the group.

It’s so easy to socialize with fellow foreigners when you yourself are from elsewhere; locals are often harder to meet because they already have their own lives and social groups in the area. I find that expats and other travelers make tribes of outsiders with whom they can travel and explore the country. Often I wonder if those tightly-knit circles skew the experience while living abroad, and makes it harder to truly get a firm grasp on the culture in which I’m immersed, like always viewing it and discussing it as an outsider.

Don’t get me wrong – I love the eclectic mix in my group of friends who can relate to being an outsider with me, but is finding and surrounding myself with fellow travelers the point of being somewhere else? I am not so sure. I try hard to find a group of locals with whom I can hang out and make friends, even if it does mean I feel lost while listening to the conversations happening around me. Here, I am making it a mission to make an adventure out of finding and making new friends from Australia, even if it can be exhausting at times.

5 Ways to Cheer Up When You Feel Like an Outsider.

But being an outsider can be hard and lonely business. Sometimes it feels like being the only living human around. I’m not sure I understand those surrounding me while feeling like they do not quite understand me. Gauging cultural differences and appropriateness in conversations can be exhausting, and people often single me out in the group (“Oh, was that supposed to be funny?? I didn’t get it…” is a common statement made on either side).

I can be found on some weeknights staring at my bedroom wall, wondering if the current discomfort and un-belonging will be worth all of the trouble.?? I deal with this loneliness in different ways. Here are five ways that might be able to help others when they are managing the burden of being an outsider. I hope they can help you out.

5 Ways to Cheer Up When You Feel Like an Outsider

1. Keep in touch

Connecting with my friends and family via email and Skype can ground me back into myself, much like resetting a computer system by shutting down the extra running applications running in the background (even if just for a few minutes).

2. Blog (or write) it out

I use my blog to write about the things I find peculiar or hard to understand and share with my community. Blogging has helped me get insights and clarity from reading friends; it also lets me realize through writing it out that some of the things that make me an isolated outsider can be easy barriers to break.

3. Fake it

In those other times when the barriers are not-so-easy to break, maintaining the positive attitude of “fake it ‘til you make it” is one way to persevere. Like my inability to understand my roommate’s strong Aussie accent.

4. Enjoy Being an Outsider

At the end of the day, when I am not tired and lonely, being an outsider empowers me to converse with locals more about what’s going on around me. I get to ask questions about the culture, and the nuances. I find most people are more than willing to help a friendly outsider understand how things work – and it can start a conversation with a potential new friend. For example, while walking home in my first weeks in Brisbane, I was confused about the rules for crossing the road to my apartment.

I saw two nearby locals hanging out, and I let my outsider-self strike up a conversation with them about my confusions about road crossing culture in Brisbane. That chat gained me two awesome Aussies friends who brought me to the local Aussie gathering I mentioned earlier.

5. Reflect on the Lessons

As I sit with myself at the end of the day I get to reflect on what I’m learning in my travels about both the different cultures in which I’m immersed as well as myself. Being an outsider abroad is making me stronger and more self-reliant. Being the female nomad that I am, the strength I build by being an outsider is real gold.

5 Ways to Cheer Up When You Feel Like an Outsider photo by Kimberly Worsham.

About Kimberly Worsham

A nomadic heart from New York City, Kimberly Worsham has been passionate about travel once she found a closet in her house she could use as a traveling device when she was four. She has lived all over, including India and Rwanda on short-term projects, as well as a year in Europe for studying abroad. Currently residing in Australia, Kimberly is working on a second masters so she can work in WASH throughout the developing world. She loves getting completely immersed in new cultures, and cannot wait for her next adventure! Read more about Kimberly’s travels on her blog.

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