Moving internationally is a major step in your life. It is a large project with an enormous impact. A (logistical) project that is accompanied by emotions. What emotions can you expect and how can you best deal with them?
How big the impact of moving abroad is, depends on many different factors.
Motivation for moving or emigration
What is your reason for moving abroad? Have you always wanted to do so and is this finally happening? An enormous enthusiasm provides positive energy and adrenaline. You will receive a lot of attention from friends and family.
Because of your enthusiasm, some relations may not show that it bothers them that you are leaving. Some may feel abandoned. While you are preparing, make sure you pay enough attention to your close friends and beloved family members. Have an open conversation about your choice, don’t avoid emotions.
Emotions such as joy, sadness, and tears go very well together. Brainstorm ideas on how you will keep in touch. There are so many possibilities.
Is it your partner’s career that requires you to move abroad for a few years? An international move can only be a positive experience if every member of the family is behind the decision. The partner plays a very important role here.
Are you moving alone, as a couple, with or without (young) children, teenagers, or empty nesters? Different emotions are to be expected with each composition.
For a couple, where the partner does not have an assignment, loneliness may be lurking. The partner with a job is away all day, has colleagues, might travel: his/her days fly by. The partner without work is suddenly alone at home in a foreign country. It can be difficult to find an instant connection in the expat world.
Take time for each other, listen to each other, respect each other’s emotions and help each other make a good start in your new environment.
(Small) children adapt extremely quickly. It is incredible. In the beginning, it seems like a huge leap of faith. Your stomach will rumble when you drop your child off for the first time in a new school uniform on a square where no one speaks their language. Sometimes your child will not like it and will come home crying from anger and frustration.
Perhaps you will feel guilty: “What have I done?”
You will see: it will be alright. It really will! Before you know it, your child will be speaking English fluently and have friends from all over the world. The first few months are the hardest, hang in there!
Teenagers often find it difficult to leave their familiar surroundings: “Why are you doing this to me?
Many families choose to move with small children before they enter secondary school. Others choose not to move abroad (again) until the children have left home.
Read our article about “Moving abroad with children” here.
The business assignment abroad can be tough. A different (political) environment, a different work culture, social pressure. Not every expat is welcomed with open arms in the new work environment. Days can be intensive and exhausting. You may find yourself asking “What was I doing it for again?”
The partner plays an important role here. Help your partner put things into perspective, support each other, and do fun things in your spare time. Take time to relax, to give your emotions a place, and to seize the opportunity to explore.
Country of destination
Which country will you be moving to? How free can you move around? In a foreign country, you are much more dependent on each other as partners, as a family. This can lead to unexpected frustrations and emotions that you do not know from home.
Whereas in your home country everyone could move about freely, by bicycle or car, this can be very different in other countries. When you are used to the new way of moving and have found your new way as a family in another country, you will notice that you grow together as a family.
Expatriate life is different. The solidarity of “living and working together as foreigners in the same country” creates a bond. Expats seek each other out. You will notice that invitations to visit each other’s homes, to go out for dinner together, to do things together follow much quicker. Friendships can quickly become intense. Expats come and go.
The expat community can differ enormously per country, area, and city. One country/city has a large expat community, in other countries, there are few expats and it is difficult to build up a social life.
Perhaps you don’t fancy other expats at all and mix with locals or nobody.
Who is staying behind
It is not an easy decision to move abroad. Especially for parents, it is a drastic event when their children and especially 😉 grandchildren are going to live at a great distance. Make the distance smaller by calling at set times with the camera. Make use of technology. Capture moments to see each other again. This makes it a lot less emotional and dramatic.
Be prepared to miss out on fun events during your stay abroad:
You will also experience friends or relatives falling ill, passing away, or going through difficult times. It is not always possible to be there for your loved ones in the same way. These are consequences of your choice. Not everyone will understand this.
There may come a time when you too do not want to miss these emotional moments. This will be preceded by difficult moments of grief, frustration, guilt, and pain.
Because of the many practical matters that have to be arranged around the move, there is often less attention for the emotional side. Moving internationally is a radical event that brings with it both positive and negative tensions.
Ups and downs
Living abroad generally has more ups and downs than you are used to. You have to love that! Our tip: focus on the peaks and keep in mind why you have taken this step. Look around you and realize where you are. Keep moving so that you can fully enjoy your stay abroad!
Do you have any tips or advice for your fellow expats regarding moving abroad and emotions? Mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.