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Expat question: “I’ve heard that the first period of an expat assignment is a very exciting and uplifting one, which is full of enjoyment and fun, but I did not experience any of that. Instead I experienced stress and anxiety, and I felt like I was running from one place to another. Why was that? Is it normal?”
Yes, it is completely normal. Indeed the first phase of expatriation can for many people be quite an uplifting experience. You see everything through a rosy picture, everything is refreshingly new, exciting, there is always something new to explore every day, and you cannot wait to find out what new, inspiring thing the next day will bring you.
The ‘first phase’
Not to mention that the tiresome issues you needed to cope with in your previous country are (seemingly) not there, so you can be free to experience new adventures. This is just like when you are a tourist, or when you are on your honeymoon, and yet to start your new life together with your partner. That is why the first phase of the expat journey is called the ‘tourist phase’ or ‘honeymoon phase’.
But this is not the case for everyone. Sometimes the honeymoon phase is preceded by a very stressful period. This is the time when you need to arrange the practicalities and bureaucratic tasks that go with moving to a new country, and with settling down. From apartment hunting and finding a school for your kids, through getting the proper documents, arranging health insurance and packing, to figuring out what shop chains exist in the new country, etc.
“Your experience is yours alone”
It can be that this settling in phase precedes the honeymoon phase, or it can be that the two are intertwined and you experience both at the same time. It can also occur that the honeymoon phase is very short, or that you skip it entirely. I often see the latter case in those for whom moving abroad was not their choice, or with highly sensitive people, for whom coping with change, even with positive change, is a very difficult, overwhelming experience. In contrast, those people who moved abroad to escape, or for adventure, or for an exciting new project, and who have a quite grounded, level-headed attitude to life, are able to get more fun from the honeymoon period.
So my advice would be to you, to take whatever positives you have experienced from the relocation process and build on that. Do not let yourself be bothered by others’ experiences in the country, your experience is yours alone.
Having further questions? Check Nora’s