Beating the Relocation Blues

Some handy tips to help you get the most out of your new life abroad!

Just what are “Relocation Blues” and how can they affect you and your family? Whether you have moved half way around the world or just to the other end of your home country you are now being  confronted with different ways, different habits, a different language – or at least a different accent - on a regular basis! Food in the supermarkets is not the same, the water tastes different – and if you have relocated away from the UK you may now be driving on the WRONG side of the road!!  These are all major lifestyle changes and once the move itself has been completed and the excitement is over, you can find yourself feeling lethargic, tired, miserable  or just out of sorts – the so-called “Relocation Blues”.

So what steps can you take to reduce
these feelings of confusion and disorientation?

1.       What you are going through is 100% normal!

Consider what you have done – moved to a new home in an unfamiliar community, met new people in every part of your life, started a new job (or are supporting a spouse who has started a new job), sent your children to a new school, tried to communicate in a foreign language – and had to unpack all those boxes in time for the first visitors!

Any one of these experiences alone can be stressful – but all of them together can be simply overwhelming! The initial excitement and feeling of adventure may have disappeared pretty fast and left you asking yourself “What have we done?”.

The initial euphoria has worn off and you are now in a period of transition – a time of adjustment, learning, discovery and exploration. It is normal to feel deflated, tired, and even lonely during the initial stages of re-adjustment - but don’t expect too much of yourself too soon. I’m sure that even Pollyanna had some grey days!

Be patient with yourself – and sooner or later with a few new contacts, a healthy eating plan and a bit of local support, you will soon be enjoying life in your new surroundings!

2.       Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t understand”

Nothing promotes a feeling of isolation in a new community more than not being able to communicate!  Staying positive can be very difficult if you are all on your own at home all day with no company and no one calling.

Language classes at a local school will bring you into contact with other people in exactly the same boat as you and provide you with not only new contacts, new friends and a new intellectual challenge – but also help you to understand what is going on around you!

But above all – let people know if there is something being said that you don’t understand. This isn’t a reflection on your intelligence – it is just a fact! Learn two sentences in the local language as soon as you can – something like “I’ve just moved here from XYZ, do you speak (my language)?” and “Thank you very much for your help”. You’ll be amazed how far you can get with just a little knowledge – and how many people there are in your new area that do speak your language – be it with words or ways.

3.       Keep looking ahead –  not back!

It may be that you “had” to move rather than being asked “would you like” to move. In this situation it is easy to feel resentful and concentrate on what you are missing and have left behind rather than all the new opportunities now available to you.

One way to get round this and keep the whole family focused on their new home rather than hankering after the old one, is to set your children, your self and your spouse regular tasks that involve the new destination – find out the name of its highest mountain, learn a word in the new language, join a gym or meet a neighbour. Then set aside a regular time when the whole family gets together and each person “reports back” on what they have found out or done. In this way everyone focuses on where you are now and not on where you were – and at the same time as looking forward you’ll be collecting lots of additional useful and relevant information about your new home every day!

4.       Be ready for differences

Differences exist between one town and another, between one part of a town and another – and of course between one country and another.  Be ready for these – expect them and embrace them! Try to think of every difference as nothing more than that – just something which is done differently here from the way it is done where you come from. This doesn’t make one way right and the other wrong – simply different!

Make a game out of it and get your children to actively “spot the difference” whether you are in a restaurant, in the park or just walking along the street. Get everyone in the family to try as many of the new ways, new foods, new activities as possible – and encourage your children to tell their friends back home all about their new life - in a positive way!

Just make sure they don’t over do it though – otherwise you’ll be inundated with visitors all eager to explore the great new place you’ve been lucky enough to move to!!

5.       Set realistic expectations – and don’t worry if you have a blue day!

No one can be 100% cheerful, positive and go-getting all the time – especially when they’ve had their long-time support network whipped out from under their feet and can’t even tune in to their favourite day time soaps for a quick fix of “unreality TV” anymore!

Don’t worry – it is perfectly normal to feel despondent and even deflated after all the excitement and chaos of the move itself. Suddenly the house is quiet, the children are off to their new school, your spouse is busy with his or her new job and you are left at home with nothing more than a stack of empty boxes!

Now is the time to dig out your “What I’m looking forward to” list and remind yourself of all the things you are waiting to discover, to do, to find out and to experience. If you haven’t got such a list already – start one now – where would you like to go, what would you like to do? Perhaps try some new sports, explore places of interest, learn the language, visit particular museums and art galleries, take up a new hobby? Once started your list will take on a life of its own as you meet new people and enjoy new experiences and you’ll soon begin to wonder if you’ll be able to stay here long enough to do all you’ve got planned!

6.       Get involved

At last! Your new home is laid out as you want it, your possessions have survived the move and are proudly displayed once again, the children have met some locals down at the swings, your spouse is off on his first business trip with the new company and you’ve sent out your new address cards.  But now what?

Now is the time to get involved in your new community and make some new contacts and friends! If your relocation company hasn’t already given you one, ask for a list of local clubs, associations and societies which are of interest to you and involve the international community. Even if you aren’t a “club” kind of person normally, the activities of the local International Women’s Club or International Men’s Club will bring you into contact with other international families and provide you with some initial contacts in your new area.

You might feel too shy to try to meet some of your immediate neighbours by simply knocking on their doors – but how about having a small “get to know you” cocktail party one evening? You’ll be amazed how people will open up to you if you make the first step and before you know it you will be a part of your new neighbourhood and helping to welcome the next new arrivals!

7.       Make time for yourself – every day!

Superman and Superwoman exist only in the movies – and most likely never had to move an entire family across two continents and settle into a completely new environment anyway!

If you are the primary care-giver in your family, it is very easy to take on everyone else’s settling-in issues – and forget about your own! Set regular amounts of time aside just for you - whether this be time for a weekly massage, a monthly haircut, a daily sit down with a huge cup of red bush tea it doesn’t matter – the important thing is to make sure you always have time to reflect, draw breath, regroup and take care of yourself.!

Don’t know where to go for a decent haircut? A quick call to your relocation agent will certainly point you in the right direction – but what about calling one of the members of the International Women’s group that speaks your language and asking her - make a new contact and get some useful information all in one go!!!

Make sure everyone knows when your “me” time is – and that they respect it. There’s nothing worse that settling down for an hour with a cup of tea and a good book only to find someone banging on your door because their shirt suddenly and urgently needs ironing!

8.       Every thought of hiring a coach?

If not this might be the time to think about it! Working with a coach who specialises in expatriate issues can be a very effective way of reducing the negative impact an international move can often bring with it.

Some relocation companies (such as Le Concierge GmbH) also offer expatriate coaching courses and private coaching alongside their standard relocation packages.

Other Life Coaches (such as Krissy Jackson of Now Women  Life Coaching - Shah-Jackson) include expatriate issues as well as healthy eating and living in their lifestyle programmes.

Ask about the background, training and experience of the coach plus the coaching models used to make sure you hire the best coach for you and/or your family.  Above all make sure that the chemistry is right and you have a good rapport with your chosen coach – remember that this is someone who is going to help you get on track to get the most out of your new life and so really needs to be someone you feel comfortable with!

And finally ….

… extract the maximum enjoyment from every new situation you find yourself in, every new opportunity which comes your way and every new challenge which rises up to meet you. And when the time comes to “go home” try not to be too down-hearted about going back nor focus only on the things you’ll be leaving behind in your foreign home!

This article was written by Nicki Auf der Maur of Le Concierge Expatriate Services GmbH an escapee from British weather and British Rail for XpatXchange.