Ex-pat life is a rollercoaster: How to be ready for the ups and downs of migration

There is a marked difference between going somewhere for a fun holiday and settling there for the medium to long term. This is a fact often lost on people who go away somewhere for a week or two, and come back home with dreams of moving there to live one day. Life as an ex-pat takes some getting used to, and you often don’t appreciate how much that’s the case until you’ve begun your new life. There is so much to like about broadening your horizons that it would be a shame to see people be put off by a negative early experience, so below we’ll explain the four key stages of being an ex-pat, how to recognise them, and give some helpful words to help you deal with them.

The honeymoon stage

You’ll love the early part of moving abroad, as every little difference about your new home will seem charming and even quaint. You will compare it to the place you moved here to get away from, and because you moved away from that place, your new destination will win. Every place you go to eat, every new person you meet and every trip you take will be a discovery, and everything will feel fresh. There’s a reason they call it the honeymoon period.

The frustration stage

This follows on from the honeymoon stage, and you will not be ready for it. It will be triggered by something fairly minor: you can’t get the kind of bread you like, or somewhere you wanted to go was closed at a strange time with no apparent explanation. “This wouldn’t happen at home”, you’ll tell yourself, and you’ll forget the dozens of times you’ve said that recently with a smile on your face. Because now, you’ll miss everything about your “former” home. You’ll even be nostalgic for the hold music at your doctor’s surgery, and you’ll want to give up on this ex-pat life.

The adjustment stage

Because human beings have a little voice in our heads that tells us when we’re being silly, you’ll come to realise that everywhere has positives and negatives. Right about now you’ll have discovered a community of like-minded friends at digitalnomads.world or similar, and may even have had a few international nights out forming connections that will become a support structure. You’ll hear a few words on the news and understand them without needing to translate them in your head first. You may even have visitors from home, and have a great time showing them your new surroundings. (Maybe they’ll even join you here!).

The acceptance stage

The final stage of any acclimatisation process is acceptance. Here is where you’ll realise that you’re not going to hit every new experience out of the park, and neither are you going to shank them all into your own face. You don’t need to love everything about where you are. That new bread you’ve been buying isn’t the best or the worst thing you’ve ever tasted. It’s bread. In the acceptance stage, you’ll recognise that adjusting to a new place isn’t about scoring 100% on the little challenges in life: when did you ever do that back home, anyway? As much as anything, this stage is about realising that this move doesn’t have to be permanent – but it wouldn’t be so bad if it was.