The Mobile Life Series
This blog series is based on work by writer Diane Lemieux and trainer Anne Parker in their book The Mobile Life: a new approach to moving anywhere.
The way people talk about culture shock, you’d think it was a virus: you step off the plane in a new country and BANG you catch the bug. This virus has the bizarre property of making you feel exhilarated at first and then, after a few weeks, you feel awful. The symptoms slowly pass until one day it is but a memory.
This ‘virus’ approach to adapting to a new place leaves globally mobile people feeling quite helpless: there isn’t much you can do except wait. The culture shock terminology gives us the impression that the emotions we go through – the frustration, confusion and irritation – is all the fault of a little virus called ‘the other culture’.
But it isn’t.
The cause of our discomfort is actually ‘change’. The flu-like symptoms we experience are the result of our immune system trying to make sense of everything new – not just the local culture but the fact that we have to function in an unknown environment, the fact that we have to do everything for the first time, the fact that we are newbies and friendless.
In reality, the timing, type and severity of the symptoms you experience depends on how strong and well prepared your immune system is to dealing with change. If you had a clear vision of the life you wanted and realistic expectations about what would be able achieve before arriving, your symptoms of shock may be quite mild. How proactive you are to dealing with change and the steps you take to establish your life all influence how you will feel during the process of adjustment. There will clearly be setbacks and hurdles to overcome in adjusting to a whole new environment, but the more control you take over the process, the flatter the shock curve will be.
Spending all this time and energy adjusting to a new place changes you. Stay tuned for Part V: You will never be ‘normal’ again
By: Diane Lemieux, 8th May 2015
For more on this topic visit: www.themobilelife.eu/
Diane Lemieux has spent a whole lifetime as an expat and sees moving to live in a new country as a life choice made by an increasing number of people. Those who successfully recreate a full and satisfying life in a new place develop the skills and approaches needed to deal with any change that life presents us.Her new book, The Mobile Life, co-written with Anne Parker, helps those who are undertaking this journey for the first time, and highlights the achievements of those who are experienced resettlers.