Newbie expats need to work at assimilation

Published:  7 Apr at 6 PM
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A recent survey highlights the efforts needed before newbie expats are assimilated into the established community.
Moving abroad may have been a lifelong ambition, but the reality is that, just like other worthwhile projects, getting it right requires a good amount of hard work, self-examination and adjustment. The study, commissioned by AXA International, highlights the pleasant surprises awaiting expats at their dream destination as well as the difficulties they may face.

Around 75 per cent of those surveyed were amazed at the initial culture shock they experienced when they first arrived, and those emigrating to take on a new job had problems with the local workplace culture. Struggling to communicate in an unfamiliar language was one of the worst problems, along with an obsession to prove oneself.

According to a psychiatrist quoted in the survey, the experience of moving abroad can be compared with that of starting a new personal relationship. The initial honeymoon period is heaven until irritation and frustration sets in when small problems or disappointments occur. Cultural misunderstandings create the same stress as communication misunderstandings early in a new relationship, leading often to annoyance or even conflict.

One of the most common sources of frustration occurs if the culture you’ve come into is less direct than the one you’ve just left. Examples include not saying ‘no’ but just not doing what you’ve requested, and driving in a country where most residents have never heard of the rules of the road can spoil newbie expats’ perception of their new life.

Newbie expats finding themselves facing the conundrum of being where they always wanted to be whilst coping with the unexpected difference and diversity they’re experiencing should take steps to counter the negativity and get back to enjoying life. Reading as much as possible about the new country and accepting that you, not the locals, must make changes is a good way to start, along with enjoying a wonderful climate, delicious food and the good company provided by local people as well as fellow expats.

You’ll have good days and bad days just like you did in your home country, and you’ll need space, an occasional sympathetic ear and a few tips on how to adjust. At that point, you’ll realise you made the right decision of a lifetime.
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