As an intercultural psychologist, expat & culture transition coach and observer of human behavior I have heard a lot of people’s experience about moving abroad.
From my experience and observation, I have narrowed down to 3 myths of cultural adjustment; I also give some suggestions to deal with the issues.
Leave comments and tell me what you think!
Myth #1 - “I’ve lived abroad before; I’m used to it and it’s going to be easy”
You’ve traveled a lot and even have lived abroad, and believe that with that you are immune to all the emotional upheaval of cultural adjustment. You might be one of the few that does adjust very well no matter where and when. But if you’re like most of us, throughout your life things change, priorities are different, resistances are bigger or smaller.
Ultimately, we’re not the same throughout the years. What does that mean? Well, that when we lived abroad as a single person our challenges are different than as a couple moving internationally. And if you have children, there are other different challenges altogether. If you’re an empty nester, there are no longer children around and priorities shift yet again.
Besides all these changes in life phases, your financial or professional situation might be different, the country you’re moving to is possibly one where you have never lived before.
Yes, having lived abroad before certainly gives you experience and can be an advantage. However, previous experiences can create biases and preconceptions and prevent you to live fully the present moment in this new country.
My suggestion is to make a point of learning from your experience. Take stock of the mistakes and how to avoid them and the good decisions and how to replicate them, having in mind your current priorities.
Myth#2 - “This is my chance to start fresh and leave all the problems behind”
This one might even be unconscious and take a while for you to acknowledge it. The thing about this myth is where we focus our attention: when we position ourselves as fleeing or avoiding something we are, unconsciously, putting our attention on exactly what we want to avoid.
Many times, the issues we face in life – regardless of where we are – are all about how we deal with the challenges we are presented with.
Also, in many instances, the problems are within us and moving countries doesn’t change anything – might even make them worse because we’re so out of our comfort zone.
My suggestion here is access with brutal honesty what you are trying to avoid and reframe it into a positive view. Be realistic about your motives for moving.
Myth #3 - “The most important thing is to find a place to live and deal with the logistics”
Having a roof over your head and the papers in order are crucial. No doubt about that. But preparing emotionally also crucial and frequently overlooked when preparing for an international period abroad. Understanding your objectives, what you gain and what you lose with your move is crucial for a smooth transition. Knowing your biases and reasons why you decided to move are important because they will determine how your mindset is, and your mindset can set you up for failure or success. It all depends on how conscious you are of it.
I suggest you be very clear about your objectives stemming from the move. Know what you gain and lose from the move. Why do you want to move? Knowing what you want with crystal clear clarity is the first step to knowing what success looks like for you.
WAS THIS CONTENT RELEVANT? Culture transition coaching can help you and your family identify and deal with the challenges of international assignments.
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