Last update on July 18, 2019

We write about the challenges and benefits of moving abroad and making new friends with a shy personality.

I’ve always been a rather shy person. Shy to the point where I would avoid some shops because I am afraid they would laugh at me. I’ve read articles and books on shyness (including Zimbardo’s famous work). He mentions that shy people have fewer friends, are socially awkward, or just don’t like themselves. He seems to be treating shyness like an illness to be cured. The stereotypes about shy people are pretty much the same, and while people often feel that their shyness stands in the way of realizing their dreams and passions, for many of us, these stereotypes are neither true nor fair.

The positives of shyness

I found that being shy can have many positive sides. First, it is a very normal thing. In fact, almost everybody has felt shy at some point in life. I kept asking myself: Is it the shyness itself that causes the problem, or maybe societal pressures to behave a certain way and not being at ease with shyness? Also, shy people take more time to think about their decisions and are more likely to have deep meaningful relationships.

So maybe you are shy, too. And with all the ups and downs of being shy, you are moving abroad. You are getting out of your comfort zone and into a unknown, strange world. What are you to do?

Being shy in a foreign country: what to expect

You may find to your surprise that you will thrive in the new environment, even if you’ve moved abroad for the first time ever. This has definitely happened to me. When I came here, I made new friends, started a blog, and never have I felt so creative and full of ideas. I think it was partially the fact that I had to do it in order to survive, but also moving abroad gave me the opportunity of a fresh start.

Remember that even though you have to reach out a lot and meet new people, you will not turn into a party animal. I go to a lot of events and parties, but mostly prefer one-on-one meetings. That is fine for me. It works, and it doesn’t exhaust me in a way public events do (especially if you live in a place with complex greeting customs). So I don’t go to all events and prefer to be picky. You don’t even have to go places to meet new people; maybe try dating online. Expats have a lot of events happening, and I can’t make it to all of them. But also remember not to get too isolated.

How to deal with shyness abroad

The way you deal with shyness could be a cultural thing. For example, I have just read this article where Finns see themselves as socially shy because they weren’t making small talk with other people. Guess what? They weren’t shy. They just didn’t talk so much. Instead, they observed the conversations around them and listened rather than talked. Also, some cultures tend to be shyer than others, with kibbutz-raised Jews being generally not shy and Asians being on the other part of the spectrum.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help! This may mean telling friends: “I am shy, can you help me with this?”, or it could mean asking for professional help if you feel that your shyness is really getting in the way of normal life.

Find the time for activities that are fun. After all, in your country you had hobbies and interests and passions, and you also had things you liked doing to relax and take your mind off being shy. With luck, you can do them in your new country! Do whatever works for you – read, relax, watch a movie, or have a coffee…whatever makes you happy! Have fun! Who said shy people can’t have fun? In some cases, you’ll have so much fun that you’ll forget all about your shyness…

This has been my experience. How about yours? If you’re shy, how did moving abroad affect your shyness?