One of the hardest elements of a move to a new country to cope with is managing expectations. Of your own, your immediate family on the journey with you, your friends and family back home, and new friends.
This is where you need to fill in the gap between reality and fantasy. Any move is fuelled by a buzz of adrenalin which combines excitement for adventures ahead and nervousness about whether it will pan out.
For those you are leaving behind and have never taken the leap it is easy for them to see your move through rose-tinted glasses, which so will you at the start. But these rosy lenses will not help when reality sets in.
As expat life is really just normal life. With added complications. And added excitement. If you are lucky these come in equal measure that keep you on an even keel over the period.
Moving house is one of the top 3 stressors in anyone’s life. Add in a new country and culture then yes, things will be tough. But an amazing side effect of having gone through this is that you begin to really appreciate your life before, and how simple everything was to organise back home.
If more complications arise than you feel you can handle, then it is all too easy to disappear from view and wallow in them. My advice at this point is to reach out and talk to people about your situation and very soon you will see that you are not alone. Of course you need empathy at these moments, not sympathy. Empathy is an active response that helps you move forward, sympathy is a passive feeling but isn’t very helpful. This RSA Short film shows beautifully the difference between these.
If you have no-one in your inner circle to reach out to, look to online forums where you can even take a pseudonym if you want to stay anonymous but ask for advice. As other expats are often the best to reach to and ask the questions to, share your feelings, doubts, regrets, but also the highs and thrills that sit alongside these. In Facebook there are many closed groups that are country or city based for expats to share their ups and downs and help other with logistical problems like finding a new hairdresser as well.
I read a brilliant blog that pinpointed tongue-in-cheek the things that an expatriate employee should do to break a relationship. The very first point is that you must never PROMISE to your spouse that you will be returning home in 2 years. As many a seasoned expat will tell you that personnel who have been moved abroad once for career progression are the most likely to be moved and moved again - often in 2-3 year time frames. And never back home. Holding onto this hope can be disastrous to a relationship. Many expat couples are of equal professional standing before they make the decision to cut the ties on one side and move away for the other as the lure of overseas adventures beckon. I have seen many expatriate employees act quite selfishly in real life - and then watched how the spouses dealt with these actions, often blaming themselves rather than the barrage of change they are having to deal with.
There are many wonderful expat coaches who have lived the life and really understand what you are going through. Reaching out and sharing your story will help make sense of what is happening and will help determine the way forward too. I offer coaching in this area, and can also help you with the simple steps for connecting with others locally to you. Send me a message if you would like help, stating your situation so I can advise the best way forward to suit you.