5 moves, 4 schools & 3 cultural integrations
A: Does that sound stressful and as a lot?
B: Does it sound amazing, interesting and easily managed in practicality?
We will come back to the different perceptions, who they are (likely) coming from and why they matter.
Over the years I have found that the perception of all our moves and changes are different depending on who I talk to.
I´ve learned that the idea and outlook of the expat life tends to be very glamourous when you speak to someone who is not an expat themselves as opposed to speaking to someone who is themselves an expatriate.
I do understand how the expat life can look and sound like one long holiday full of excitement, experiences and laughable funny quirks when discovering differences, tasting numerous new and exciting dishes and the list goes on.
And this is indeed true, because I do find it to be very very rewarding, educational, exciting and a privilege to live this lifestyle.
I acknowledge that Instagram has an overload of the exciting, fun and intriguing photos as opposed to the worn out and exhausted ones –
- I also acknowledge that it is hard, exhausting, frustrating and from time to time very lonely to go through all the moves, changes, and integrations –
That said, and with the experience I mention, my key take away to you in this blog post, is to make sure that you understand and navigate the different feedback you may get when you vent about yet another 350 moving boxes staring at you, waiting to be packed.
The feedback when expressing your tiredness and frustration about – again – living in limbo for a while, varies a lot depending on who you talk to.
For someone who looks at your way of life with no own expat experience you may get remarks like:
“That is part of the life you lead”
“Just 6 more weeks and you are installed in your new home and this is all forgotten”
“You are so lucky. I am happy to come and pack them if it means I get to go instead”
“You´ve done this so many times already”
All well-meaning and surely said out of a desire to help you through the process. However, and this is for you to make a mental note, the feedback is also colored by “perception B” and lacks insight and can therefore be hard to hear when you just want a pad on your shoulder and a breath of fresh energy to get you back in gear.
So. To vent and refuel call an expat friend. The feedback you will get from another expatriate is stemming from experience and “Perception A” which is exactly what you need.
It is not rocket science, but old habits die hard and if you are used to calling friends and family at home, this is something to be conscious about.
Had you performed the same moves, school changes, job changes and “integrations” at home (in your own country) the perception from your network would be that it is hard.
Thus, the supportive and concerning remarks would complement this perception and knowledge.
They would probably be something like:
“I understand you are exhausted. It IS a lot you have gone through over the last 8 years”
“You must feel incredibly stressed, having to start over again. How can I help?”
“I don´t know how you do this, you are amazing”
“Moving, job changing, and other major life changes are among the top stressors. Are you ok?”
I am sure you see the difference in all three examples and can connect the dots to how things are perceived.
So. Bottom line:
Talk to a fellow expat when you find yourself in moving and changing chaos and do not think, just because you have a pool in the garden, have someone to clean your home or have more sunny photos on your Instagram than your family and friends, that you are supposed to just cope with it all smiling and dancing.