With so many people hopping from one country to the next, there seems to be the general misapprehension that immigration is a doddle. While moving abroad is most definitely an enriching experience, the psychological, emotional and sometimes financial aftermath is anything but a walk in the park. The stress of moving alone accounts for more than enough mental discombobulation and when coupled with the emotional aspects of adjusting to a new lifestyle, many expats feel completely overwhelmed.There is, of course, comfort in knowing that the adjustment period is only temporary and that fulfillment is around the corner. Once the physical moving process is done – and Monarch Relocations can take this stress completely off of your shoulders – the real adjustment period begins. Being forewarned is always equated with being forearmed, and it may help to know what you are in for when you reach the other side.Mental Health: Preserving Inner Calm and BalanceGood mental health is about more than feeling physically and mentally “okay”. True mental health stems from feelings of positivity and satisfaction across the board. In order to achieve this, an expat needs to feel in control of his or her new environment. While feelings of general discomfort towards a new culture may arise, and are absolutely normal, expats must find a way to eliminate feelings of distress.The adjustment period in a new country takes time. The key to adjusting successfully lies in not allowing oneself to get frustrated by new hurdles. Expats need to view the upcoming challenge as exciting rather than daunting. In time, people adjust to new ways of living, perhaps even noticing that certain methods of doing things are better in the new location than they were back home. Noticing the small beauties in new surroundings will often build up, bit by bit, to an overwhelming positive feeling.
Language Barrier: Wildly Gesticulating is not Universally Acknowledged, Unfortunately
While many immigrants are lucky enough to speak the language of their new country, others face a seriously steep learning curve. Chances are you have acquired some of the basics but this is not always enough. Simple tasks like going to the shops or making a doctor’s appointment can become daunting, leading people to feel isolated from those around them. Intermediate language training is an absolute must; you really can’t start soon enough.The best way to absorb a new language is to completely immerse yourself in it. Go to the cinema, catch a show, and find ways to interact with your neighbours and colleagues. If you are worried about that first visit to a new doctor or therapist, make an appointment as soon as you can. You will probably find that a helpful medical professional will be able to assist you in bridging the gap.
Culture Shock: Exploration, Rather than Panic, is the Order of the Day
Most expats feel as though they really stick out in a crowd. While we all assume that global shift eliminates cultural boundaries, the fact of the matter is that each country maintains its own identity amidst the constant barrage of external influences. Clothing, religion, music, and celebrations are just the tip of the iceberg. Learning to appreciate new cultures is probably the best way to move forward. You might not be able to adopt them wholly as your own but you can learn to enjoy them.Often, an expat’s first instinct is to move within familiar circles. While seeking comfort like this is absolutely natural, it means that your circle of friends will remain small. Eventually it may start to feel as though stagnation is setting in, which can lead to even more distress. Dip your toes into the cultural water and slowly start to expand your horizons – this grants access to wider circles and large support networks.
Children and Schools: Stop Worrying, they Probably Adjust Better than Adults
One thing is absolutely certain; children are remarkable in terms of adapting to unfamiliar surroundings. At first, they may deal with feelings that are vaguely akin to grief. After all, the loss of a home and friends is not easily dealt with. However, if they are gently nudged towards feelings of anticipation, they will eagerly approach their new environment. As a parent, the absolute worst thing you can do is allow them to sense your worry. If you are concerned you have no choice but to fake it ‘til you make it – pretend that you are excited until you actually start to feel it. Your children will be able to adapt to their new environment without a problem if they feel that the change is something to look forward to.
It’s all About Attitude: Alan Cornes on Expat Insecurity
In his book, “Culture from Inside Out”, Alan Cornes outlines three distinct personality profiles:
The World-Weary: Terse and apathetic. “Been there, done that.”
The Adviser: Paternal and bossy. “Let me show you how things are done back home”.
The Sardonic Old Hand: Derisive and all-knowing. “Let me tell you what’s what.”
It is only too easy to fall into one of these three roles. As part of the human condition, we constantly look for ways to cleave to what is familiar and comfortable. Unfortunately, this attitude is entirely unhelpful in the face of life-changing situations. Moving abroad is, for all intents and purposes, a big deal and we therefore need to adopt a more pro-active stance. Cornes believes that one should adopt the role of a “Respectful and Curious Guest” in order to make any significant progress.