The day of relocation is just the start of a long journey of external adjustment and internal confusion. Just like your wedding day.
I often compare the act of moving to a new country to the process of getting married. The actual relocation is the start of a long process of adjustment, just like the wedding day is the start of a long journey into couplehood. It is only the beginning of the adventure, not the end. At first you are mainly focussed on the actual move; the finding of the house, the school for the children, etc.
Relocation agencies and wedding planners
The relocation agencies, with the excellent services that they provide, are like the wedding planners, the caterers, the dressmakers and the friendly maiden aunts who murmur things about ‘marriage being quite hard’ but aren’t really sure what they mean by it.
Hopefully most marriages begin with a honeymoon period, and in the same way, your relationship with your new country will hopefully start with rose tinted spectacles. You look for the things that are similar and you ignore what is different, weird, or downright rude. You meet friendly and warm people and you shrug off the concerns of ‘old timers’ about the climate or the dodgy habits of the locals. Your Facebook account is buzzing with pictures of your new life, and these wonderful, amazing, slightly odd ‘foreigners’.
The shock of smelly socks
As an international coach I always notice there comes a moment when the realisation hits that you are alien, an outsider, you don’t feel you belong, or fit, or feel even halfway as capable and resourceful as you did back home. It’s the point in a marriage where you realise your loved one actually prefers to wear his smelly socks to bed, or pees with the toilet door open…. You lose yourself a little, and you enter what the sociologists have called the ‘crisis’ phase, nothing makes sense, everything is a struggle, and the dream seems shattered. Followed close on its heels is the fight/flight stage, the bargaining with yourself and/or others whether to go home or tough it out. This too will pass!!!
And then, slowly but surely, for some after a year, and for others after two… you begin to re-discover your identity, partly integrated in your new culture, be it the host culture, or the international culture, and partly integrated into a sense of knowing that there is an intrinsic part to who you are that remains intact, whole. Like an inner compass, it is able to guide you forward into each new adventure, be it shopping at the local food markets, starting a local job, or using the time abroad to finally run THAT marathon or study THAT course!!
So take it easy, lower your expectations of a perfect integration, enjoy the ride and be gentle on yourself!