It is not uncommon for people to experience homesickness during their first few months in a new country. However, with the right mindset and preparation, adapting to living in a new country as an expat can be a rewarding and life-changing experience. Expatriates usually experience three phases while adjusting to their new country, including the honeymoon phase, negotiation phase and adjustment phase.
Expat Adjustment Phases
During the honeymoon phase, newly arrived expatriates are excited about their new surroundings and are eager to explore. They are very positive about their relocation.
After a few weeks in their new country, expatriates usually experience homesickness. Simple day-to-day tasks, such as taking transportation, going shopping, or attending school meetings can become a challenge in a different environment. This is sometimes exacerbated by language barriers. These are challenges that locals may not be able to understand, and they may be seen by expatriates as being insensitive or unsympathetic people.
The negotiation phase is the stage in which expatriates are most likely to create stereotypes. Stereotyping may help the ego of someone suffering from severe culture shock, but it won’t help you adapt.
Attitude – a factor of success:
A good attitude is essential for a good expatriation experience. Frustration leads to aggressiveness and roughness towards others. Locals, in turn, behave the same way or ignore the expatriate, further increasing stereotypes and frustration. Expatriates who overcome this step are usually successful in their expatriation, those who do not, may leave the host country earlier than expected.
Three types of reactions:
- Rejecters: Some expatriates find adapting to a new country and its culture to be particularly difficult. They tend to isolate themselves from the host country, which they perceive as hostile, and believe that returning home is the only way for them to be comfortable with their surroundings again.
- Adopters: These are expatriates who embrace their host culture and country completely and lose their original identity. They usually choose to stay in the host country forever.
- Cosmopolitans: They see their host country and culture positively and manage to adapt while keeping their original identity. They create a life that contains enjoyable elements from each culture and usually have no problem returning to their home country or relocating elsewhere.
Six to twelve months after arriving in their host country, expatriates usually begin to grow accustomed to their new home and know what to expect from their surroundings. Daily activities become routine, and the customs of the host country are accepted as an alternative way of life.
At this stage, expatriates can communicate more freely with the locals. The previously hostile country has now become a place they can learn from and enrich their lives. Once expatriates have reached this stage, the longer they remain in the host country, the more unique their experience will be.
7 Ways to Make the Move Easier
There are certain steps you can take to minimise culture shock and homesickness, and to ensure a smooth and successful relocation.
1. Do your Research
The first step in adapting to a new country is to research and learn about the culture, customs, and language. This will help you better understand the way of life in your new home and avoid any cultural misunderstandings. Before moving, take time to read about the country’s history, traditions and norms, as well as the legal requirements, such as visas and work permits. You can also join expat forums and connect with locals to get a better understanding of the culture.
2. Learn the Language
Learning the local language can also make a huge difference in your ability to adapt. Take language classes or immerse yourself in the language by listening to music, watching TV shows, and speaking with locals. Even if you only learn the basics, locals will appreciate your efforts and it can go a long way in building relationships. Consider learning phrases that you will need to communicate with people you are likely to meet on a day-to-basis. For example, transport staff (taxi or bus drivers), shopkeepers, bank tellers, rental agents, and health practitioners.
Language apps, like Duolingo and Babbel are a convenient way to master the essentials before you even arrive. The Mondly app is great for learning specific phrases.
3. Build a support system
Joining local groups and clubs, attending cultural events, and making an effort to connect with other expats will help you to build a social network. This can help you feel more at home and ease any feelings of loneliness or isolation.
4. Stay connected with family and friends
Regular contact with loved ones back home can help ease the transition and reduce feelings of homesickness. With technology, it is easier than ever to keep in touch through video calls and social media. However, it is important to also make an effort to connect with people in your new country and to build some local relationships.
5. Explore your new surroundings
Getting out and about is a great way to get to know your new country and build a sense of familiarity. Take time to explore your new city or town, visit local landmarks, and try new foods. This can be a fun and exciting way to adapt to your new surroundings.
6. Be gentle with yourself
It is important to remember that adapting to a new country takes time. Don’t expect to feel at home right away. Give yourself time to adjust and don’t be too hard on yourself if you experience culture shock or homesickness. With patience, an open mind, and a willingness to learn and adapt, you can build a new life and make the most of your expat experience.
7. Use a Reputable Removal Company
When moving long distance, a reputable removal company can help make the process smoother and more efficient. Removal companies have access to specialised equipment and tools that can make the moving process much easier. They can also save you time by packing and unpacking your items, as well as transporting them to your new home. Additionally, most reputable removal companies offer insurance to protect your belongings during the move. This can provide you with peace of mind and ensure that you are financially protected in the event of damage or loss.
For a seamless and stress-free transition to your new home abroad, contact AGS Movers for your free quote today!
• “Expert expatriate: Your guide to successful relocation abroad, moving, living, thriving” by Melissa Brayer and Patricia Linderman
• “Breaking through culture shock: What you need to succeed in international business” by Elisabeth Marx