top of page

Discovering Your Comfort Zone Abroad: Extroverts and Introverts

Updated: Mar 27


Discovering Your Comfort Zone Abroad

The journey of self-discovery often begins when we address the question, ‘Who am I?’ This moment can occur when you're faced with an examiner asking about your hobbies in a foreign language, explaining your desire to study abroad to your grandmother, or even during your first university party when you're unsure of how to present yourself to new classmates. It's that moment when you wonder if you're more of an extrovert or introvert.

Even if you already identify as one or the other, you may wonder whether you should adapt your personality to fit in. Should you tone down your enthusiasm and chattiness to avoid being perceived as annoying, or should you open up more to be seen as a delightful companion?


Understanding Introversion and Extroversion

I consider myself rather introverted.

  1. I feel most comfortable when I can spend time alone, and I gain energy from solitude.

  2. My best performance occurs when I can concentrate on one task at a time. I tend to analyze situations thoroughly before taking action.

  3. My daily life involves a few close friends, infrequent outings, keeping my emotions private, and avoiding being the center of attention.

I am rather extroverted.

  1. I recharge my batteries by being with others and seek social adventures because that's when I'm in my element.

  2. Verbal expression and interacting with unfamiliar people inspire rather than intimidate me.

  3. I enjoy having a large friend group, actively seeking opportunities to engage in social settings, and the occasional popularity that comes with it.

Understanding Introversion and Extroversion

Personality Continuum Scale, from https://www.simplypsychology.org/ambivert.html


As shown in this graphic, there's a middle ground known as being an ambivert. Ambivert individuals exhibit attributes from both extroverts and introverts. Furthermore, our personalities are not set in stone. It may sound clichéd, but it's true: we are constantly evolving. Some days we accept social arrangements happily, while other times we simply retreat to our room with a cup of tea, with no desire to engage with anyone.

Countries also have their cultural personalities. One aspect of culture is where a population tends to fall on the personality continuum. According to data from NERIS Analytics, Albania, Montenegro, and Switzerland rank as the three most extroverted countries in Europe, while Lithuania, the Faroe Islands, and Poland are home to some of the most introverted citizens. But of course, you can’t predict whether someone is an introvert, an extrovert or in between solely by their nationality.


Denmark is a special case in this regard because the difference between introverts and extroverts within the population is not particularly significant. So, what should you expect in Denmark? Well, Danes are known for being open-minded and friendly. They’ll often exchange smiles with you when passing on the street, and initiating casual small talk with them is straightforward. However, forming close-knit circles of friends may be a bit challenging. In my experience in Denmark, many people already have established friendships and may not actively seek new ones.

Nevertheless, there's one universal rule for making adult friendships:


Show up in the same places as often as you can.

This means that if you have a favorite coffee shop or library in your new neighborhood, visit it regularly. Soon, you'll start to see familiar faces, and these regular encounters can lead to connections. Don't forget that you already share a bond through the place you both visited already three times this week.

For example, consider the Friday bar at your school or workplace. It offers a relaxed environment where you can enjoy a beer, discuss the week's challenges, hang out, listen to music, or even play beer pong. While it may not result in deep friendships, it's an excellent opportunity to socialize with classmates or colleagues, especially after a tiring week.

Show up in the same places as often as you can

Fridaybar, created by DALL.E


Challenges and Solutions

Whether you're naturally outgoing and easily make friends or prefer the comfort of familiar surroundings and close-knit friendships, challenges that push you out of your comfort zone can arise. But fear not, I have some advice for you!


Are you feeling socially overwhelmed sometimes?

Take small steps when immersing yourself in social situations! Join your first party with the goal of talking to only two strangers at the time.

Or when you buy a vegetable you don’t know how to prepare, ask one of your roommates if they know any tasty recipes with bok choy.


Do you ever feel frustrated when someone approaches you in a foreign language (like Danish) and you have to respond with "I'm sorry, could you repeat that in English?"

Consider joining a language course. Particularly in Denmark, there are numerous affordable (technically free of charge) options available, and many language schools offer online lessons which might be more comfortable for you.


Why does no one talk to me between two lectures? Am I not interesting enough? How can I be more social while the last thing I want to do is to talk to strangers?

There's nothing wrong with spending breaks alone while others are moving around and chatting. If you feel a bit self-conscious about being alone, remember that everyone is likely busy with their own concerns and won't perceive you as a loner. Whenever you feel like having some company, approach someone else who is also alone and ask if you can join them. Then, start a conversation by asking how they found the previous lecture and there you go, you’re already making connections!


Do you feel isolated and struggle to find the same level of social engagement you’re used to in your home country?

Facebook groups can be a great first step toward finding a solution for your problem. There are several online communities where you can connect with people who share your interests and hobbies. Especially in Denmark, when winter raises its head and people are stuck between the four walls they like to organize events where they can enjoy each other's company. For instance, let’s say you like to run. Last time I checked there are Facebook running clubs in Odense, Aarhus and even in Aalborg. Just type in the name of your city and your hobby and nine times out of ten, you will find a group in your neighborhood that you can join immediately.


If you live in a dormitory or share an apartment with others, you can also socialize with your roommates. You can start with basic activities like watching a movie together or having lunch, but you can also organize a feast where everyone brings a dish from their culture, or even cook or bake together. If you play a musical instrument and enjoy improvisation, consider jamming with someone else. If you can't find the perfect candidate among your dorm mates, you can create a post in a Facebook group with titles like 'Foreigners in Randers' or 'Internationals in Denmark.'


Are you having trouble with people not speaking to you in English?

I know many internationals in Denmark who have faced the challenge of people only speaking Danish during social events. A good solution could be to use their own weapon against the problem: enroll in a language school and start learning Danish. Understanding the language being spoken can make your life easier. If you can comprehend the language and respond in English, I'm sure you will feel more involved and build a stronger connection with locals. And don't forget that attending Danish classes is also a great way to meet people from different nationalities.


The Possibility of Changing Personality

You know that feeling when the voice in your head whispers to you:

  1. 'You aren't good enough for these people.’

  2. ‘You should change to fit in.’

  3. 'If you want to be a part of this, you have to be more like the others.’


Well, this toxic inner voice, the little devil on your shoulder, is only trying to convince you that you need to change your personality to fit in. But is it really possible? And is it really the solution?


Not really. Several studies show that personality is built upon various factors that you cannot change, not even with force. Your current personality is influenced by your genetics, upbringing, environment, and even by what you had for breakfast this morning. Did you have a protein-rich meal, did you drink coffee on an empty stomach, did you skip breakfast, or did you have a ginger shot and take a handful of vitamins, and so on? As you can see, there are variables that can differ from day to day, and there are components, like your DNA, that you cannot change. So there's no point in listening to the little devil and blaming yourself for the way you behave and feel in social settings.


However, there is room for adaptation through experiences and self-reflection. In any difficult situation you find yourself in, simply take a deep breath and give yourself two minutes to reflect on your behavior. You can do this on a piece of paper, in your journal, or just in your head. Try to answer these questions:

  1. ‘What am I feeling exactly?’

  2. ‘What initiated this feeling?’

  3. ‘Why do I react like this in this situation? Is it a pattern? Do I do this all the time?’

  4. ‘Do I want to change this? What's the smallest step I can take to achieve my goal?’


Now, let's consider an example for both an introvert and an extrovert:

Introverted example:

  1. You find yourself at a social gathering feeling uncomfortable, and you just want to disappear.

  2. You take a deep breath and identify your feelings as anxiety because you're comparing yourself to your more extroverted friends.

  3. You acknowledge that this feeling arises due to self-comparison triggering your insecurity.

  4. You recognize that you experience this in every social event where you have to interact with new people.

  5. You decide that you want to better manage your anxiety in future social settings.

  6. You start slowly; first, you look for people around you who are playing some kind of game (board game, beer pong), and you ask if you can join in the next round. Now, you have a few minutes to adapt to your new environment and the people around you.


Extroverted example:

  1. You find yourself in a situation that's quite different from your usual setting – a quiet, intimate gathering.

  2. As you take a deep breath, you recognize a sense of restlessness and frustration. This is because you're accustomed to lively, energetic interactions.

  3. You acknowledge that this feeling stems from your extroverted nature, where you naturally seek social stimulation.

  4. You acknowledge that this experience is common; you often feel uncomfortable in quieter settings.

  5. You remind yourself that it's an opportunity to connect with others on a deeper level, even if it's outside your typical comfort zone.

  6. You begin by initiating a fun activity to boost the energy level of the gathering and seek out people who share your personality. Afterward, engage in one-on-one conversations.

The health aspect of this phenomenon is also worth mentioning. Suppressing one's natural personality traits can lead to increased stress, anxiety, and depression. Constantly trying to be someone you’re not requires a lot of energy and focus, which can cause burnout and feeling tired all the time. A potential outcome of going against yourself is emotional distress, including feelings of emptiness, frustration, and disconnection from your true self.

stress, anxiety, and depression

Stress, created by DALL.E



And for what purpose exactly are you trying to change? To fit into a group where you've never felt comfortable? To be friends with people who make you doubt yourself? To claim that you have close friendships abroad, even if no one expects this from you?


There is a difference between adapting when necessary and changing one's authentic self. Try to find a balance between not sacrificing yourself and accepting who you are, and developing yourself while adapting. There are therapeutic approaches, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and mindfulness techniques, that can help you understand your personality and promote self-growth. Additionally, you can reach out to your support network: friends from your home country, parents, siblings, or even professionals like psychologists or coaches.


Whether you're the quiet type or the life of the party, what truly matters for long-lasting happiness and a fulfilling life is embracing who you are and feeling comfortable in your own skin. This is something that no one else can give you, and no one else can take it away from you.

cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and mindfulness techniques

Self-acceptance, created by DALL.E


Sources

Z. Y., & K. P. (2023, February 28). Do We Inherit or Create Our Personalities? A Review and Analysis of the Evidence. Journal of Student Research. https://www.jsr.org/hs/index.php/path/article/view/3982

Sanchez‐Roige, S., Gray, J. C., MacKillop, J., Chen, C., & Palmer, A. A. (2017). The genetics of human personality. Genes, Brain and Behavior, 17(3), e12439. https://doi.org/10.1111/gbb.12439

287 views0 comments

Comments


Related

Don't forget it, subscribe

Thanks for subscribing!