Expat Guilt and How I’m Trying to Beat It


It’s a beautiful Sunday here in Seoul. People are out and about with their friends and families, but I’m not. I’m sat in a café near my apartment. I’ve been here for three hours, and I’ll probably spend the rest of the afternoon here too. I need to recharge after a busy couple of weeks and waking up sick this morning, but I can’t help but be plagued a little by a feeling of guilt.

I feel guilty every day. I don’t message my family or boyfriend or friends enough. I don’t share enough pictures with them. I don’t tweet enough. I post to Instagram too much. I spend too much money. I eat out too much. Guilt is a familiar feeling; in fact, I wouldn’t really be myself if I didn’t feel a little bit guilty about most things I do. I’m not a person who can live unapologetically, and I’ll readily admit it.

And then there is what I call the expat guilt. It’s the guilt experienced primarily by those who move abroad, but I’ve also felt it living in another city in the UK. The guilt that you’re not out exploring your new area. That you’re not sharing your every move with your family/partner. That you don’t speak the language, nor are you making enough effort to learn it. You’re not going to that must-see museum because you think it’ll be boring. You’re missing that annual festival in favour of laying in bed. You’re eating a McDonald’s burger instead of the local food.

You’re sat in a coffee shop on a sunny Sunday afternoon instead of being outside enjoying the weather before work starts again tomorrow.

I can’t escape it, no matter how much I try. But I’m trying to not feel so bad about it. Today I was invited to go along with fellow Korea-blogger Fii from Little Miss Fii to go to a desserts fair and I was all up for it. That was, until I woke up with a stinking cold this morning and all I wanted to do was bring my laptop to a coffee shop and spend hours on the internet writing, watching stupid videos and getting lost in the depths of social media. So I did, and despite feeling better, I’m also feeling bad about it.

It’s hard to not feel guilty about having a ‘day off’ when there are so many exciting things going on and so many places I have yet explore in Seoul and the wider area. But I think that constantly going, going, going is what has made me sick three times in as many months, so an off day isn’t going to hurt me right now. I have to keep reminding myself that it’s OK to have a day where I’m not doing anything. Seoul is my home now; would I make sure I was doing something all day, every day back in the UK? Definitely not! And I don’t need to do it here.

So here’s to living in a new place, and still being a lazy shit when I want to be! Because I have all the time in the world to be out exploring, but sometimes I need to use that time for myself…and funny cat videos.

Interested about my life in Seoul? Read the Seoul Diaries here.

10 responses to “Expat Guilt and How I’m Trying to Beat It”

  1. Oh Hanhan, I remember that feeling all too well! The thing is, like you said, you’ll be there for more than just a couple of weeks so there’s no need to cram everything in. And you also have a job teaching the adorable children English – that’s bound to take it out of you! Personally I love seeing your Instagram posts, that’s enough of an update for me to see what you’re doing from day to day. It looks fantastic! I love the honesty of this post though and I’m sure a lot of people relate to you 🙂 Enjoy some well deserved down time!

  2. Sam (Aka Mum xxx) says:

    Cat video?!!……you’re no daughter of mine ?xxx Love you chick. Keep doing what you do whether busy or otherwise xxxx

  3. Really enjoyed this one Han! I think because social media and advertising is constantly telling us we should be productive and social all the time it is so easy to feel guilty about having a bit of time to just relax and catch up on a bit of me time!

    Rebecca, libfemblog.com xo

  4. Sarah says:

    You make a really good point here- everyone is entitled to downtime and not to be ‘switched on’ all the time. Try to let go of the guilt a bit by seeing it as self care, because that’s what it is. Today’s online world goes at a million miles an hour! Also, I think when you mention feeling bad for living there and not being out experiencing everything every single day- that’s the difference, you’re not a tourist, you actually live there so I think you’re very entitled to stay inside and chill out once in a while xx

    Sarah | http://www.sarahdeluxe.com

    • hannahinternational says:

      Both those points are exactly what I tell myself every time I do that! And I always ‘make up for it’ because when I do go out I’m always so busy! I don’t need to feel bad, it just happens automatically when you live in an amazing place! Xx

  5. You know I think the whole blogging world suffers from some kind of guilt. You watch videos and read blogs of what other people are doing and then tend to question if you are doing enough. Especially if you are away from home, I know when I go on holiday I always feel guilty that im not seeing enough or doing enough but then I remind myself that actually the purpose of my holidays are to relax and if i spend the whole time worrying I am not relaxing enough!

    Give yourself a break 🙂

    • hannahinternational says:

      Exactly, I totally agree with you. I actually had another super-lazy day today where I just stayed at home all day. It got to about 5pm and I felt like I should message some friends to see if they wanted to grab dinner, but I just couldn’t be bothered so I didn’t. I’m slowly learning to take time for myself.

      H x

  6. Giana says:

    I feel this too! Like sometimes we just get too caught up with life to remember to message people etc. and I guess when you move somewhere you think you have all the time in the world to explore and then just end up doing nothing! x



  7. sirvikalot says:

    I absolutely love this post. I think you will have seen my recent post along the same vain that there’s no such thing as a wasted day. It’s good that you recognise that you don’t need to feel guilty even though you can’t escape the feeling.
    I hope you’ve recovered from your cold.

    V <3

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