Attack of the Moving Blues!
During the first few months, and even up to
the first year, moving overseas can be a delightful experience (barring the
red-tape and many documents that need to be filed). There is so much to see
and do, as well as getting settled—the new home, new school, new social
groups, opportunities to travel (how many castles have you seen?) and more!
But what happens after the “ relocation honeymoon” when you have to settle
down to “ real life”?
Recently, I received a letter from a woman
who was concerned about the changes her son and his fiancé were having after
living overseas for a year. They had moved to a town in eastern Germany
where he works for a company and she attends a local university. They made
friends from both work and school, developed an active social life and
seemed quite happy, but after nearly a year they were feeling isolated and
They may be experiencing any one of a
variety of relocation phenomena: acclamation stress, separation stress, the
holiday blues, or something that I find most of my transitioning clients
experience: the window of Self-Discovery. This includes the need to face
themselves, who they are and what they want. Once the excitement of the move
and the newness pass, and life begins to settle into a routine, many people
find that they simply don’t know what they want to do with themselves, and
consequently feel lost. Often they had sought out fellow expats who speak
the same language, but who might not share the same culture or interests.
And all too often, these groups spend much of their conversations focused on
the woes of living overseas—conflicts between the local culture and their
own, and how things could be done differently. A lot of energy often goes
into the problems, and far less into how wonderful the differences are.
Little attention may be paid to how much the individuals themselves are
changing thanks to living abroad….how much they have learned about
themselves and the choices they have made that have helped them grow,
personally, professionally, and more.
Once expats settle down into their new
“homes”—with light fixtures attached, bathroom cabinets installed, kitchens
functional, language classes attended, etc — the psyche opens up and asks
“now what?” Now that you are no longer quite so busy, you feel the need for
fulfillment. All the old things may not feel satisfying anymore.
For most people, until they moved overseas,
their everyday lives were so busy that they didn’t have time to stop and
explore what they wanted. When you move to a new environment, you are faced
with choices… and before you can make ones that will fulfill you, you need
to understand what you want in your life. This is an opportunity that comes
with the territory of being an expat—a very special, but difficult, gift.
Expats who explore who they are and get to
know themselves better usually find that the overseas experience is a
fantastic, once-in-lifetime chance. Those who skip the self discovery may go
back to where they came from unhappy, bitter, with relationship
difficulties. They will have missed all the opportunities the new
environment had to offer them.
Whether you move to some remote village or
to a city with a large expat community, if you are like most people, the
self discovery phase is sure to open its doors to you.
Here are some questions you might find
helpful in beginning your personal exploration:
What gives you joy?
…..how are you experiencing joy in your new
…..what do you need to feel more alive?
What inner resources do you have that are
…..which ones are you not using?
What excited you about coming to Germany?
….what are you learning about yourself?
What issues are coming up for you?
what lessons have you learned from them?
what have you learned about yourself?
What are your interests?
What do you like to do?
What attracted to you to Germany in the
What would you like to gain from the
experience of living in Germany?
Once you have explored what you want, you
will have a better idea of what to do and where to go, to clarify your
vision, set some goals and take new steps. More importantly, you can give
yourself credit for all you have learned and accomplished since arriving.
Successful relocation is not just about
making friends, but also about learning about yourself and creating the life
you want. Finding connections and friends then comes more easily. No matter
what choices you make, you will feel more fulfilled because those choices
will be made in alignment with who you are.
Sandy Weiner, Master
Certified Coach, Career Management Fellow, is a partner in the firm 1-Focus
International, a coaching and organization enhancement firm. She is an
American living in Berlin, working with clients internationally to help them
be their best. For information regarding coaching contact
with “re:goinglobal” in the subject field.