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 #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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Discussion Topics

Summer Shopping: What products do you stock up on in your home country?

July 11, 2022


“How many suitcases should I bring home???” thinks an international school teacher who is traveling home for summer vacation.  Inside though this teacher knows what they will end up doing during their trip back home. Even though it might cost them in the end when they pay for the extra weight of one or more of their suitcases or when they pay the extra fee for an additional suitcase on the airline they are flying on.  It’s a pity that many airlines are now only allowing one free suitcase for an economy ticket, even on international flights!

The allure of home products is too strong though.  When living abroad as an expat, it is almost vitally important to have some things around you that are familiar in your home abroad.  Sometimes I open up one of my kitchen cabinets and because of the many home products that I see, it could be me opening a cupboard in my old home in my home country.  Surely the first and second year abroad you might do this, stocking your cupboards full of home products, but doing this in your third or fourth (or tenth or more) year…. is it time to “let go?”

I heard one international teacher say that after eight years of living abroad she now refuses to buy products at home when she can find the exact same thing or something comparable in her host country.  That would most likely save her in the long run on baggage fees, even if the product is a little bit more expensive than in her home country.  However, sometimes we just want to have our favorite brand that we were using all the time when we lived in our home country, even if we can find something exactly the same (minus the brand name that we have “grown to trust”) in our current country.  This is the dilemma then, to buy or not to buy??!

This year I personally decided to only take one suitcase back home for the summer.  Well if I am being completely honest, I still did bring a carry-on travel backpack…in the hopes that I could squeeze in a few more of my favorite things to take with me on my flight back home. It was very difficult to limit myself.  The mantra that I kept repeating in my head “Can I get this where I live now?” If the answer was yes, I reluctantly didn’t buy it.

It is fun to shop in other countries.  Exploring grocery stores in other countries is one of my most favorite things to do actually (though I find it equally enjoyable to shop in my old grocery stores at home, too)!  You never know what you will find.  Well actually you do end up seeing some products from your home country in foreign grocery stores, but countries obviously have many of their own products as well.  As you try new products, you are bound to find new favorites.

Sometimes if you see products that look familiar, they have a different language on the packages.  Some even try and display messages in English that seem a bit funny to you.  I’m not for sure the Lays company would put the same phrase “best with cold drinks” on their United States packages…maybe though.  Also, foreign countries have people with different tastes, so you might find potato chip flavors like Chili Chinese with Schezwan Sauce and Seaweed Pringles….probably wouldn’t be popular flavors in United States.  One thing that is hard to find living abroad is proper potato or tortilla chips; that aisle in a United States grocery store is a long one with many different brands and options!

Another factor to consider when buying foreign products is when you are trying to read the ingredients; this is where many international school teachers draw the line.  Many, many people nowadays need to know exactly each ingredient that is in a product. And when you have to do this in a second language (in which you likely only know a few words in total), you might find yourself being drawn to bring back more of your home country’s products.  Knowing the ingredients is very important.  Sometimes even on imported products in your host country, the country itself covers up the English ingredients list by putting a sticker over it listing the ingredients in the host language. It is can be frustrating for sure!

Interesting story….I just witnessed an international school teacher lug up three boxes of home country goods to her apartment.  When I asked her where did she get these boxes, she said that she got them from somebody who works at the embassy of her home country.  After living abroad for a while and meeting embassy workers, we maybe don’t all know one of the perks they get.  They can order home country products in bulk and the embassy will ship them over to you.  I guess this embassy worker had extra and enough to share with an international teacher friend!  I didn’t see all the different kinds of products that were in the boxes, but I do know that I saw some boxes of Duncan Hines cake boxes from the USA!  You might be able to find easy-to-bake cake mixes in your host country, but this just might be one of those products that are only available at grocery stores in the United States.

Go ahead…continue to go home and stock up on all your favorite things.  However, don’t forget to keep your eye out in the local grocery stores where you are living.  Try a few new things every 1-2 weeks.  There are most likely some amazing products that you didn’t know about.  Some things though you just might want to pass on, like whatever kind of meat this is in the display case and what ever kind of product that is on a certain shelf.  Sometime the risk is too great on your wallet to try out new (and strange) products and foods!

If you are an international school teacher, please share what you stock up on when you return to your home country!  How many suitcases do you bring home?

If you’d like to share your story and earn free premium membership to ISC, please send us a message here.

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Highlighted Articles

Going home for the summer: No one cares about your international life!

June 27, 2022


I always hope that somebody will care every year I go home, but every year most of them don’t. (Ha ha!)

It is not because they really don’t care though, it is mostly because they just don’t fully understand or connect to the international/expat life you are living.  When visiting family and friends in my home country, very rarely do the conversations relate to my life living abroad.  Hardly do we even talk about the amazing trips that I have been on the past year! (Oh, the things I have seen!)  It is hard to talk about your trips without giving an impression of bragging though.

International school teachers indeed live a life that is a foreign world to our old friends, so different from where we were born and raised.  Additionally, so many people in this world still just stay living close to where they were raised.  When I look at my home-country friends and relatives, most are living in the same city they grew up in or in the city just next to that one. (Side note: Why do we feel the need to escape our hometowns?)

And of course, quite a large percentage of people in the United States are without a passport (is that true for the Americans YOU know??).  Being that these friends and family that you know maybe haven’t had so much experience living abroad or even traveling abroad, you would think that would make them even more interested in your international life…but that isn’t always the case.

I guess when you go home, you spend most of your time just reminiscing about the good times of the past, of when you used to live there maybe. Most of the conversations you have also are just normal ones, talking about day-to-day things (e.g. the weather, etc.).

Sometimes your friends and family dominate the conversation with updates from their life, which of course you are curious about as well.  You want to get the lowdown on their lives being that you are only there visiting with them for typically such a short time.  I mean they haven’t seen you in a while as well, and they are excited to see you and catch you up on their lives.

Though it is truly so nice to go back home and catch up with everyone, little do your friends and family realize or understand the reverse culture shock you may be experiencing when you go back home, even if it is the 8th time you have come home in 10 years (let’s say) that you’ve been abroad.

International school teachers live a dual life basically.  The fact is…that we live most of the year in our host country; eating our host country food, hanging out with our host country friends, being surrounded by a foreign language and culture, living in our host country apartment, using and thinking in a foreign currency, etc.  When you visit your home country, you really want to tell people in your host country about those things!  Some will listen though when it comes up naturally in the conversation, but it is usually a fleeting moment…not giving you enough time to share as much as you would like.

This article is not meant to make fun of or hate on our home country friends and family, but it is meant to express our feelings about how an expat teacher might feel and how they might think in their head as they go home for the summer. When you are living abroad for so long, it is so nice (and important) to see and catch up with your family and old friends.

How do you feel when you go home to your host country? Are you able to have conversations with your friends and family about your life living abroad?

This article was submitted anonymously by an ISC member.

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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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