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Expat Survival Guide – Part 3 – A Bit About Transitions

posted by saltybug.com 28/07/2016 0 comments
Expat Survival Guide

Keep tabs on your emotional state. Moving countries is massive. There is enormous upheaval, you have to manage your transition and that of your family. Not to mention how the attitudes and behaviour of friends and family back home can affect you. Culture shock is real and affects everybody to some degree. When you feel vulnerable, small things become bigger and you read into stuff you really don’t need to do. You might focus too much time on a situation when really it is old news. You will be surprised how a move like this can affect you, so just be aware and be kind with yourself. 

I found it difficult to get back into things I loved like cooking and baking. I felt resentful that the goals I set before we moved were unreasonable to achieve because of this new way of life. I felt so alone before I established friendships and I would cry most days. I found the language barrier so frustrating and we had horrendous noise issues where we live because of construction. There were days I did not see how we could keep going. I thought I had felt helpless and as low as I could go before, but this was a whole other level of sadness I would experience in-between the exciting, fun new experiences. 

Throughout this all I kept focused on what I wanted to achieve and I focused on what matters to me. I am all about attitude and when I got down about something I would turn around my mindset by focusing on the positives. Believe me, there are plenty of those, sometimes you just have to look a little harder for them. I am proactive and I am into goal setting to keep moving forwards and that was my focus. That and my children because I had to find ways to move my sadness to the side to help my children transition. 

The first six months are the hardest. That is what I was told and I was not sure about this until I got through that first stage and realised it was true. After that you know more, have your routine sorted and have figured out some workarounds that help you feel more settled. You see, there is always a way around a challenge. You just need to think it through. Hang in there, it will get easier. 

Here are some tips I found helpful:

If new friends offer support such as loaning you their car, items to use, even cash to help you out if you are stuck – take it. It is what the expat community does and it is normal that this happens. It took me a while to get it but after a few firm talking’s to by dear friends here I finally got it. Get on board and save yourself a lot of headaches.

I wrote a list of what I needed to sort out to help me feel better. Then I chunked those down and started working on a few small goals each week. 

I remembered what I used to do back home to help me feel better and I slowly started doing them again. For example, I started reading fiction again, a few pages a night. I love to bake and it is what I do when I am stressed. I forced myself back into the kitchen with the children and that really made us smile again. We started to entertain again, starting slowly with a small group from our home town, up here for work. Our home was filled with happy noise, lots of food, dishes to do and empty bottles and it was so great. My last achievement was setting up my study, properly. Just a simple trestle table in our spare room, but I look out the window into my yard, the children are close by so I can supervise yet I have my small space where I can sit and write.

I started to write when we decided to move, so after a few months I reviewed my goals and started being more focused on how to be better at it. That is clearly still a major work in progress…

I made sure to schedule time for Skyping back home with friends and family and made sure I did not focus too much on the hard stuff. That makes people feel sorry for you and that is depressing. I was honest about the hard stuff but focused mostly on the new stuff going on. The fun stuff. It helped remind me of why we are here, and of this opportunity we have been given.

Now I am settled in I look for interesting things that I can do, that are affordable. There are craft workshops all over the place which are so much fun for a few hours. There are weekly painting sessions and I started a bookclub

At the end of the day if your new life is just too much to cope with, it is important that you seek help. You will find counselling services available and in countries with expat communities you will often find counselors who specialize in expat life. They can help you through the transition. 

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