Your expat adventure has begun. You arrive at your new destination. The past weeks have been a whirlwind of moving boxes, selling belongings, goodbye parties, finding new schools. The To Do list seemed endless.
And now you have arrived.
But you are still in the Twilight Zone- not yet fully arrived. First you need to arrange the visa and driver’s licence, perhaps find a helper/maid/amah/ayi, figure out where you can buy milk powder for babies, non halal meat and a water purifier.
And slowly, the realisation dawns on you.
This is my new home, I’m not going anywhere.
But how can this be home
You might experience some of these thoughts and emotions:
- My extended family is not here.
- I have no friends here.
- I miss my old friends but they are in another time zone, thousands of kilometres away.
- I’m feeling lost in translation when I want to buy fruit at the market.
- I get frustrated with myself when I can’t explain something simple to the handy man.
- It is too hard to learn the language
- My partner is at work all day
- My career has ended
- I feel lonely (sometimes).
One Day At The Time
If there is one thing I have learned from living in China, it is to take it one day at the time. The first days and weeks in a new country seem endless, everything is new. Later on, time seems to go faster, all of a sudden you have passed the 2 year, 3 year mark.
There will be beautiful, fantastic days and there will be days when you wished you’d never moved.
I remember some really challenging days in China, when the air quality was so bad I did not let my baby leave the house. Or the days when it was frustrating to not be able to ask where the diapers were to the shop assistant. The days that I seemed to be stuck in traffic all day long.
And yet, I loved living in China. Because there were also the days where I was able to make a joke with the taxi driver. The glorious blue sky days, when Beijing was one fascinating wonderland. The days we had sumptuous meals with friends.
So, instead of blaming bad days on your new country (or worse, on your partner), take it one day at the time.
- Nothing went as planned- tomorrow will be better.
- Terrible pollution- go to bed early, tomorrow will be better.
- I still haven’t found any friends – tomorrow I will meet a potential friend
Building a new life takes time
It takes time to build a new life abroad. Between 6 to 12 months is normal to feel settled. It takes time to build meaningful friendships (though with the right connection to a person, it could go really quickly too).
In our heads and hearts we know it takes time.
However, finding the patience and having faith that it will all turn out ok can be so hard.
It can be so easy to step on the plane to “This Is Never Going To Work City.” So easy to get stuck in that unhelpful train of thought where you start out with “What should I wear to this newcomers event” to “This posting is never going to work out, I am a terrible mum for bringing my kids here and I’ll never make friends.”
Be kind to yourself
Stop the train of thought.
Give yourself a break.
Give it time, and change strategies if you feel it really isn’t working.
Get out of the house, do fun things, keep meeting people.
Be your own best friend- Take it one day at the time.