I specialize in international career and expat coaching. I am a certified coach / counselor at Dutch...
ABC of expat woman's life: A - Adventure / Accept29 November 2010, by Dorota Klop-Sowinska
Yes, moving abroad is an adventure! New home, new people, new culture, new food, new climate, new language. Everything is new.
The definition of adventure already says it all: "an unusual and exciting, typically hazardous, experience or activity," "the exploration of unknown territory" and my personal favourite "daring and exciting activity calling for enterprise and enthusiasm."
Whatever reaction it triggers you at first - positive or negative - it is almost certain that in the beginning, it can be a cause of stress. Small doses of stress can motivate us positively to act but after reaching a certain stress level it can be also a source of anxiety. Stress is a natural reaction of our body to new experiences and reality that is not yet (fully) known to us.
When I moved to the Netherlands
I remember my experience when I moved to the Netherlands six years ago. Wow, everything was new to me. Even though my old home was only 1,5 hours away by plane, it seemed very far away.
I moved to a new apartment in a new city. I was about to start a new job. I was going to make new friends. It was thrilling and scary at the same time. I saw thousands of new possibilities in front of me. But also new risks.
What if I am not going to succeed in my new job, what if I will not easily make find new friends. This reaction is only natural. It can be also explained by our nature and is also known as a "fight or flight reaction," a natural reaction of our brain to a stressful situation.
It is a heritage from ages ago when we were still in the woods and survival was crucial to our existence. Survival meaning fighting the enemy or running away.
Accept & Embrace the change
Although we are not in the caves or fight for survival anymore, it is good that we understand how our body is reacting to new stressful situations. Moving abroad is a big change in our lives and has a huge impact on us. So, what can we do to feel better and more in control of our lives?
First of all, I would say "accept" is a key word here. Accepting means not fighting or running away, but taking a deep breath and just going with the flow.
Embrace the change; accept the fact that being in the new country will be stressful in the beginning. Simple daily activities can even be a challenge just because you need to discover everything from scratch, starting from where to buy a loaf of bread ending up at choosing an international school for your children.
So, accept that you are going through a transition phase in your life. It will get better!
Good news is that as days pass by, you will learn new things about your new home country, which will give you a feeling of security. There are also many things you can do yourself to restore the feeling of order in your life.
How to manage your own reactions
One of the first things I want to mention is trying to manage your own stress reactions.
Here are a few tips how to do it:
- First, you need to be aware of what types of situations are making you feeling stressed out (i.e. meeting new people, not knowing things, getting lost in the city, etc.)
- The second step is to find out how do you behave when feeling stressed. Does your heart rhythm change? Does your voice, or posture alter?
- The third step is to discover what soothes you down and makes your stress level drop down (taking a deep breath, telling a joke, going for a walk etc.)
Everyone has his / her own unique coping style. Understanding your own allows you to manage your stress reactions and gives you a better feeling of control of yourself and the situation.
- Lastly, I would like to go back to the definition of the word "adventure." I particularly liked the "daring and exciting activity calling for enterprise and enthusiasm."
So, let us not forget that living abroad is an exciting adventure and (can be) a wonderful source of knowledge as well as an unforgettable experience. One of the best remedies against stress is enthusiasm and having a good laugh.
ABC of Expat Woman's Life
In the series of articles "ABC of expat woman’s life" I will share with you my own experience as an expat woman and as an expat coach, I will try to give handy tips how to have a happy and meaningful expat life.
With every letter of alphabet comes a new story or advice!