Ten Commandments of Relocating Overseas

Ten Commandments of Relocating Overseas #4: Develop tolerance for ambiguity and frustration

November 6, 2022


Develop tolerance for ambiguity and frustration by being flexible and open toward the new culture.

Effects of Culture Shock

• A sense of uprootedness
• Feeling of disorientation
• Not knowing what is going on
• Behaviors and attitudes which were necessary for obtaining goals in the culture we learned are no longer useful
• Familiar behaviors which marked a well-adjusted person in one’s own culture are now seen as bad manners
• So many adjustments to be made that one becomes overwhelmed, frustrated, and angry

All these things can lead to you not being the most open-minded toward your host culture and country.  Do we need to go through certain steps until we get to the tolerance that we seek?

Typical Pattern of Culture Shock

1. At first we think it is charming
2. Then we think it is evil
3. Then we think it is different

Almost everyone who studies, lives or works abroad experiences some degree of culture shock. This period of cultural adjustment involves everything from getting used to the food and language to learning how to use the telephone. No matter how patient and flexible you are, adjusting to a new culture can, at times, be difficult and frustrating. It is easy to get lost, depressed and homesick. You may even want to go back home!

Don’t panic…these are all totally normal reactions and you are not alone. Sometimes it is hard to remember why you decided to leave home. You are on an adventure – a wonderful opportunity to grow and learn – but it does not always seem that way.  Staring you straight in the eye, you cannot avoid culture shock entirely.

Adjusting to a new culture can be difficult and frustrating, but it can also be a wonderful, thought-provoking time of your life during which you will grow as a person. Living in a foreign country will open new doors, introduce you to new ways of thinking, and give you the opportunity to make life-long friends. The most effective way to combat culture shock is to step back from a given event that has bothered you, assess it, and search for an appropriate explanation and response. Try the following:

• Observe how others are acting in the same situation
• Describe the situation, what it means to you, and your response to it
• Ask a local resident or someone with extensive experience how they would have handled the situation
and what it means in the host culture
• Plan how you might act in this or similar situations in the future
• Test the new behavior and evaluate how well it works
• Decide how you can apply what you have learned the next time you find yourself in a similar situation

Throughout the period of cultural adaptation, take good care of yourself. Read a book or rent a video in your home language, take a short trip if possible, exercise and get plenty of rest, write a letter or telephone home, eat good food, and do things you enjoy with friends. Take special notice of things you enjoy about living in the host culture.

Although it can be disconcerting and a little scary, the “shock” gradually eases as you begin to understand the new culture. It is useful to realize that often the reactions and perceptions of others toward you–and you toward them–are not personal evaluations but are based on a clash of cultural values. The more skilled you become in recognizing how and when cultural values and behaviors are likely to come into conflict, the easier it becomes to make adjustments that can help you avoid serious difficulties.

* Information and excerpts were taken from Julia Ferguson’s website.

This article was submitted by a guest author and ISC member.

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Ten Commandments of Relocating Overseas

Ten Commandments of Relocating Overseas #3: Do not expect to replicate your current lifestyle…

October 9, 2022


Do not expect to replicate your current lifestyle. Look for what is there, not for what isnʼt.

“Wherever you go, there you are.”  A psychologist friend of mine told me that one time, and I think it is 100% true. 

I’m not for sure international school teachers are moving from school to school and country to country to replicate their current lifestyle, many times they are trying to flee it!  But again and again, you typically find yourself just settling back into the same routine and actions that you have always been doing…no matter where you are living.  You do change some small things in each placement, but many routines take time to change and are hard to break.

I think what this commandment is referring to is the situation when a person is coming directly from their life in their home country.  Then for sure, you should not expect to replicate your current lifestyle.  It is easier than it sounds though. 

It happens to be a bit human nature to want to surround yourself with familiar things.  Many smart entrepreneurs and importers are keen on this aspect and cash in on selling us those things in many of the cities around the world where there are international schools (e.g. brownie mix, soft brown sugar, satellite TV, chocolate chips, etc…).  These familiar things are going for a high price because those stores know that many of us international educators want them.  This is done all in an attempt to replicate our past lifestyle.

After a while, though, you find things in the local stores and shops that start to create your CURRENT lifestyle in your new host country.  Many of those new aspects can become an even better addition to your lifestyle than the old ones!  I definitely miss things that were part of my lifestyle in my last placement, but certain things are just not replicable outside of that placement (cleaning lady, having a driver, going out to eat every day, etc…).  With that being said, you will certainly find other things in your new placement that will become a part of your new lifestyle.

Successful international school educators are good at being open-minded to trying new things in the host country.  It means taking chances and taking opportunities to try new things and to do things in a new way.  It also means leaving some old routines of yours behind, or at least “on hold” for a while.

One thing I enjoy about my new lifestyle abroad is going grocery shopping almost every day, versus going 1-2 times a week in the United States for example.  I also enjoy walking to the grocery store versus taking a car.  There are many other aspects of an international school teacher’s new lifestyle abroad that would be hard to leave behind if we were all to move back to our home countries!

This article was submitted by a guest author and ISC member.

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Ten Commandments of Relocating Overseas

Ten Commandments of Relocating Overseas #2: Anticipate a challenging adjustment period of…

September 4, 2022


Anticipate a challenging adjustment period of at least SIX months. Do not decide if you like it until these six months have passed.

How important is this time frame when you first move to a new country, from the first month to the sixth?  It is VERY important.  Some international school teachers tend to experience different levels of culture shock and can pass through the stages quite quickly, but I still think for those people that you need to give yourself six full months to decide whether you like your new country or not.  Also, it is important to give your new school six months as well before you decide whether or not you think you are a good fit for the position and school.

I have international school teacher friends that seem to be able to just move anywhere and be in any culture and be just fine.  They don’t get stressed out too much about how things are different from their previous placement.  According to LaRay Barna – “There are no fixed symptoms ascribed to culture shock as each person is affected differently.”  And I would have to agree to that.  Unfortunately, there are other international school teachers that are very sensitive to basically all the stages of culture shock.  Let’s go through some of the stages of culture shock that are on Wikipedia.

1. Honeymoon phase:

Everyone’s favorite stage.  It is definitely the most fun one.  I love just getting to a new country.  Your new apartment, your new school, your new friends, the new culture, the new stores, your new favorite restaurants, etc…  You post on Facebook how cool things are going so far to all of your friends and family.  It is truly a great time to really enjoy why you got into the field of international school teaching in the first place; exploring the world and experiencing different cultures firsthand.

2. Negotiation phase:

The anxiety sets in about your new school and host country and how it is different from the one in which you were previously.  “How could they do things this way?” I hear some international school teachers say many times.  You must be careful during this phase to not offend your coworkers, bosses, and the people of the host country either directly or inadvertently.   The anxiety you are feeling can become stronger too if you don’t know the host country’s language (e.g. the language barriers start to become very apparent).  It is important to note that some schools employ many people from the host country to work in the administration offices, the cleaning staff, and even in teaching and teaching assistant positions.  Their level of English is most likely not 100% native-like, so there are bound to be times when they are just not getting what you are trying to communicate to them; and sometimes you might be trying to communicate some really important matters (e.g. getting your work visa all situated, etc.)

3. Adjustment phase:

Wikipedia says that this stage starts around after six months.  So, it is in agreement with Nexus’s 10 commandments of relocating overseas. Finally, things start getting back to “normal”.  You have now found how you fit in at your current school (hopefully).  By this time you will have made the necessary changes and adjustments so that now it does seem like you are indeed a better fit for your position at your new school.  Also, the host country most likely feels more like “home” and when you arrive back at the host country/city airport, you indeed feel like you are back home.  Sometimes that might surprise you, having these new positive feelings after having gone through the anxiety phase!

4. Mastery phase:

Well, I’m not for sure I have gotten to this phase ever.  I would guess that most teachers never fully master being considered an equal member to the locals of a community in another culture/country.  I have worked at schools where there have been expat teachers working at the school for over 25 years, and I got the impression that they still experience a sense of not fully belonging, even if they are fluent in the host country’s language and have a spouse who is a local.  I would love to hear what other international school teachers think about this mastery phase.  It is probably an achievable one, but many factors would come into play and the stars would have to be aligned for it to happen I would imagine.

Go ahead and check out our current members and send them a private message.  According to some member profiles, we have some very experienced international school educators on International School Community.  Also, check out the stages of culture shock here on wikipedia.

This article was submitted by a guest author and ISC member.

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Ten Commandments of Relocating Overseas

Ten Commandments of Relocating Overseas #1: Learn as much as possible about…

August 14, 2022


Learn as much as possible about the host country in order to have realistic expectations.

How much can you learn about a host country before you arrive? Yes, thank goodness for the internet and its endless (and sometimes tiresome) list of websites that try and shed light on the many facets of the host country’s culture and language.

A type of website that might be the most informative: personal blogs of expats that live in the host country.  Certainly, they are the best type of website to gather information about the host country.  The blogger typically is very explicit and candid about their day-to-day experiences living there.  Personal blogs of international teachers are even better.  I love reading from their entries even before they arrive in their new country to when they have been there three years later.  Some of the international teacher blogs that we have highlighted on International School Community so far:

• Education Rickshaw (China)

• Expat Heather (South Korea)

• Josefino Rivera (Bulgaria)

But I must say that I knew close to nothing about the country I am currently in, and the people from where I am from knew even less.  Sometimes you just got to go there yourself to see about the culture and language of the host country’s people.  When I go home now, I am inundated with questions about what life is like there…and some of the questions are really unbelievable (but I was once in their shoes I’m sure). 

I think it is hard to get away from the stereotypes that we have about each culture group in the world.  The issue is, as we all know, that the stereotype might actually be true for the majority of the people in the host country.  However, it is NOT true for EVERYONE in the country.  You cannot group everyone in one culture group together.  I just read recently that due to the Danish cultural norms Danes don’t try and make good friends with people that they work with.  I’m sure that there are a few Danes that hang out with their co-workers outside of work and call them their best friends.

Realistic expectations? This will take some good research I think.  Every time I go to a new location, one of the things I do is buy the latest Lonely Planet for that country/city.  For sure after reading a bit of that travel book I can have my expectations be a tiny be more realistic, if not even make them a bit more exciting.  I don’t know about you though, but I am quite sensitive to culture shock.  So, even if I have realistic expectations and am ready to expect the unexpected, I am still subjected to embarrassing mood swings about the things that in theory I had already expected.  One of the joys of living abroad I suppose.  By the way, I subscribe to the idea of cherishing all emotions: the good and the not-so-good.

Last thing that I know about how to find out the most I can about my future host country: talk to people that currently work at the school.  Not the administrator, the human resources department, etc…the real people that work there who will really tell you how it is.  I’ve always received a few contact email addresses of some teachers that I can contact during the summer.  I have even had a Skype call with one of them which really helped I think get my expectations to be a little more realistic.  It is key to talk to people and gather as much information as possible. 

This article was submitted by a guest author and ISC member.

Right now on International School Community you can get in contact with a number of our members who know about more than 1300+ international schools, and the list of schools our members know about is growing!

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Ten Commandments of Relocating Overseas

The New 11 Commandments of Relocating Overseas

July 1, 2018


It’s never easy to move to a new country, especially one where the culture is vastly different than what you are used to. Concepts such as immigration and international relocation have become increasingly common in the modern age, with developed nations such as the United States a popular destination for citizens across the globe.

Still, between 2.2 million and 6.8 million U.S. citizens are known to have themselves according to 2017 figures, as some look for new pastures during retirement, some relocate for the purpose of work, and others decide to travel for school or self-fulfilment.

Relocated

Whatever the reasons behind your move, relocating overseas can be extremely challenging, particularly from a financial and emotional perspective. In the post below, we’ll consider the 11 commandments of moving abroad, as you look to embrace new opportunities and immerse yourself in a new and unfamiliar culture.

1.    Make Positivity Your Watchword 

As we’ve already said, issues such as international relocation and economic migration are extremely relevant in the current political climate, particularly since the election of U.S. President Donald Trump and the UK’s decision to leave the European Union.

This means that some will continue to talk about international relocation in negative terms, which in turn may dampen your enthusiasm for the move and discourage you from taking the plunge.

However, if you’ve made a strategic decision to relocate abroad and determined that the benefits outweigh the potential issues (whatever your motivation may be), it’s important that you do not allow such negativity to undermine your best-laid plans.

In this respect, positivity and clarity of thought must be your key watchwords when relocating abroad, as you look to maintain your focus, do not allow negative comments or attitudes to shift your outlook. Surrounding yourself with positive people in the first place is central to this, as while you always want to hear a diversity of thoughts and opinions you must engage with individuals whose minds are progressive and open to new opportunities.

2.    Remain Flexible in your Attitudes

On the subject of your mindset, there’s also a pressing need for you to remain flexible and agile when relocating abroad.

This applies to both your preparation and the transition period that takes place when you arrive at your chosen destination, as these experiences will vary considerably depending on your reasons for moving and your choice of international location.

When it comes to the former, an agile mindset will enable you to adapt to the setbacks that occur while planning your relocation, from organizing the logistics of your move to securing accommodation in time for your arrival. Remember, even the best plans can go awry, so you’ll need to manage your expectations and adapt positively to any changes that you encounter.

The same principle applies when adapting to a new culture and way of life, as this takes time, patience, and a willingness to learn quickly from your mistakes. Even in an increasingly multicultural world, there are subtle nuances that separate global cultures, and a flexible outlook will ensure that you learn and adapt to these quickly.

Relocated

3.    Gain a Real Understanding of your New Host Country

Prior to your move, you’ll also need to gain a deep and realistic insight into your new host country.

Like we say, multiculturalism may have helped to blur the lines between independent cultures, but each country will have its own unique heritage and prevailing way of life. This will have a direct impact on every conceivable aspect of everyday life, from the clothes that you wear to the way in which you interact with locals.

The key to this is conducted detailed and informed research, which charts a country’s history and its standing in the current world order. This prevents you from forming an impression of your new home based on outdated perceptions and clumsy notions of nationality, which can lead to significant issues when you initially move abroad.

Instead, you can relocate with a clear understanding of your new host country, and one that is based on knowledge, insight and relevant, real-world observations.

4.    Expect to Encounter Different Attitudes and a Diminished Sense of Urgency

In the western world, the pace of technological advancement has made patience an increasingly sparse commodity. This is reflected by the demands that we place on others and the devices that we use, as we’re increasingly accustomed our creature comforts and things being done almost as soon as we’ve requested them.

When relocating east to a less developed economy, however, you may find that these things can no longer be taken for granted. More specifically, the locals may have a diminished sense of urgency that compels them to complete tasks at a slower pace, while the amenities and the facilities that you use may fall below the standards that you expect.

And there’s nothing wrong with feeling that way.

Remember, we are creatures of habit and we only know what we know until we expand our outlook.

It’s crucial that you prepare for this before completing your move, and manage your expectations as you look to grow accustomed to your new surroundings.

This will help with the challenging transition period, while hopefully preventing you from enduring any strained or unpleasant interactions with the locals!

5.    Maintain a Strong Sense of Humor

As we’ve already said, relocating abroad can be extremely challenging both from a financial and an emotional perspective.

This sense of difficulty can be compounded further in instances when things go awry, and it’s easy for feelings of doubt and anxiety to build in a relatively short period of time.

However, a strong and omnipresent sense of humor can help with this, as it prevents you from taking yourself or the process too seriously and makes it possible to seek out positivity even during challenging periods.

The same principle applies when you first arrive abroad, as you’ll need to prepare for the fact that making social faux-pas and linguistic mistakes are part and parcel of adapting to a new culture. By laughing with others and seeing the funny side of these instances, you’ll feel empowered and ultimately transform a potentially negative cultural experience into a positive one.

Relocated

6.    Try to Understand the Host Country Perspective in any Given Scenario 

The issue of social and cultural interaction is an important consideration, as this will dictate your day-to-day experience when you first move abroad.

In order to facilitate positive experiences, you’ll need to make a concerted effort to understand the host country perspective in any given scenario. After all, you’ll be talking to individuals that are likely to have enjoyed entirely different upbringings to your own, and this will leave with an alternative view on a host of potential issues.

By comprehending these viewpoints and taking them on-board when you first engage with locals, you can participate in open and positive conversations that hopefully serve as an entry point into new and exciting relationships.

Otherwise, you’ll run the risk of clashing regularly with locals without every really understanding and allowing for your differences.

7.    Plan for a Difficult Adjustment Period of Around Six Months

While you may well know that you’re in for a challenging period of adjustment when you first move overseas, this alone is not enough to ensure that you negate this. In fact, you’ll need to plan strategically for this transition, by considering the various stages of your adjustment and expecting it to last for at least six months or so.

We’ve broken down these phases below, so you can prepare for them and develop viable coping mechanisms.

  • The Honeymoon Phase: This phase applies to any type of new experience or relationship, and it tends to inspire an innate sense of excitement and adventure. From your new home and office to the people that you meet, your mind is open to a host of exciting possibilities and far more willing to embrace change. You should definitely make the most of this phase as it unfolds, while recognizing that it cannot be sustained indefinitely. 
  • The Negotiation Phase: The second phase usually triggers a period of anxiety, as the excitement of your international adventure fades and the realities of everyday life in a foreign country take hold. Linguistic and cultural differences can take root here, creating a sense of uncertainty and alienation that is difficult to overcome. It’s important at this stage that you focus on your work and developing relationships with locals, as this will help to settle your mind and encourage a far greater work-life balance.
  • The Adjustment Phase: If you’re able to maintain your focus and overcome the issues posed by the negotiation phase, you’ll enter a more settled period of adjustment after six months or so. At this stage, your new surroundings become normal, while you’ll have learned the cultural and linguistic nuances that can prove so problematic. It’s important at this stage that you maintain the positive behaviors in terms of work and social interaction, as you must not become complacent even as you begin to settle.

8.    Look for Ways of Strengthening and Maintaining your Enthusiasm 

When attempting to cope during the formative phases of your relocation, it’s absolutely imperative that you identify viable ways of maintaining your enthusiasm.

This is particularly important from a social perspective, as there may be times where you’re alone in your new apartment and develop a tremendous sense of isolation from your fellow man.

To overcome these feelings, you’ll need a robust and fortified mindset, and one that is constantly striving to maintain a keen sense of optimism. Socialising with your new colleagues is an excellent way to achieve this, as this helps to maintain contact with the outside world while also building positive and long-standing relationships.

Joining a local meetup.com group in your new city is also a worthwhile measure, as this exposes you to new experiences and relationships while providing a crucial learning experience.

Socialising

9.    Use Home Comforts to Manage Your Transition

In order to make a successful transition to a new culture, you’ll need to commit to your new surroundings and ensure that you maintain an open mind.

However, this does mean that you cannot ease the transition period by leveraging home comforts where possible, as this can have a decidedly positive impact on your mindset during the adjustment period.

You could make sure that you access some of your favorite TV shows and box-sets online, for example, enabling you to access a slice of home whenever the mood takes you.

Similarly, try to combine an appreciation of new cuisine and dishes with some of your old dietary staples. Consuming your favorite food and drink from home can provide genuine comfort during times of transition, reminding you of your loved ones in the process.

10.Look Out for the Signs of Culture Shock

While you may well struggle with various issues when transitioning to a new culture, this is part and parcel of relocating abroad and can generally be overcome with a number of relatively simple measures.

In more serious instances, however, you may find yourself struggling with the effects of culture shock. This is a far more debilitating condition, and one that can close your mind to new experiences and ultimately force you to return home.

The symptoms or effects of culture shock are numerous, and include a sense of feeling uprooted and a sustained feeling of disorientation. These can be compounded by the sensation of being overwhelmed by the need to make significant changes, and this can cause you to become intolerant of the very culture that you seek to integrate into.

It’s important to address these effects as early as possible, before such feelings take root and completely alter your mindset. You may want to seek out professional guidance and counselling to deal with these issues, or at least share your feelings with a trusted friend or loved one.

11.Negate the Emotional Side of Relocation by Partnering with Professionals

On a final note, it’s crucial that you manage the emotional aspect of relocating internationally before you complete the move.

This is particularly true if you have a family, as younger children may be overwhelmed by the prospect of leaving their family home and leaving their friends behind.

To focus on this, you should ensure that you partner with a skilled and reputable removals firm, particularly one that has experience or organizing international moves. This will enable you to delegate the practical and logistical requirements of your move to an industry expert, so that you can spend your time attending to the needs of your loved ones.

This is an important consideration and one that can aid the transition process, while also helping you to make the most of your time.

Bio: At A1 Auto Transport, we have a wealth of experience when dealing with domestic and international locations, and can effectively manage your relocation overseas. This type of service is worth its weight in gold, particularly when moving to a brand new country and an unfamiliar culture.
* pictures are from pixabay.com

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