I have been so focused on creating lists of things to do, reading all I can about the countries I am interested in moving to, and thinking about what to sell and what to keep, that when I read the chapter in “The Expert Expat” about culture shock, otherwise known as transition shock, and the slump, it was very sobering.
The five stages of grief outlined by Kübler-Ross: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance; do not seem to be too different from the stages of culture shock, according to what I have been reading. Experts have labeled the stages of adjustment for expats as first being the honeymoon or vacation period, often times followed by the dreaded slump, and finally the gradual progress towards reconnection. I am wondering if the stages of grief are rolled into the slump. Moving from your mother country to a totally new country, leaving friends and family behind, as well as your daily routine, although perhaps boring; all things in your life that were familiar, are suddenly gone, which is a death.
The first weeks or even months can seem like a vacation, so say the “experts.” But like all vacations, we want to eventually go home to the familiar; this is when the slump can show it’s ugly face. The advice I have read and will pass on to you is to take advantage of the honeymoon or vacation period. Find a support group of other expats, get involved in things that you love to do, discover all you can about your new country. When and if the slump hits. Homesickness can set in for the place and things you left behind, depression, low self-confidence, especially if your are struggling with communicating in the new language.
The advice I will be sure to follow is to make myself get out at least once a day to participate in the new culture and activities I enjoyed during the honeymoon period. This is supposed to help keep up your self-confidence. If you are good at dancing, then be sure to continue taking dance classes or go to a milonga to dance with others. Take music lessons to learn how to play an instrument or art classes to improve your art. Invite guests to your home and go out when invited; this is especially important if your are moving alone like I will be.
The slump doesn’t have to happen. For some it doesn’t, or at least it doesn’t last for very long, if you take precautionary steps and keep tabs on your feelings. Do not deny the way you feel. What I am reading is that all expats have felt the same way at some point. We newbies are not alone and there are people who will support us. Get out there and find them.
Satisfy your cravings for home. Call, Skype, or email friends and family regularly. There is a caution regarding this type of communication however. The experts warn the readers to keep the connections back home but not to depend on them solely for human contact, in place of choosing to make connections in your new country. You must find new connections in the new country in order to successfully make the shift and gradually reconnect. Making the new, familiar is what we need to be ultimately striving for if we want a successful transition into the new country.
This book has been very helpful for me and you might like it too, “The Expert Expat; Your Guide to Successful Relocation Abroad,” by Melissa Brayer Hess and Patricia Linderman. It seems practical and certainly doable. All I need is a list and step-by-step instructions and I am good to go. I have been able to create those lists and satisfy that need thanks to this book.