Coping with Change – the No. 1 challenge to expat life!
(If you dropped by today to read about some of the options open to you if you really feel that you need to get out of the job you are in or are just looking for other ways to make a living, then please accept my apologies. I will bring you this post next week so be sure to subscribe so as not to miss out).
On the whole I consider myself very lucky living in The Netherlands (ok so perhaps the lack of mountains is sometimes an issue!). However, today I faced what I believe to be the number 1 challenge to living an expat life – good friends that I have made over the few years that I have been living here telling me that they are moving on; not only is this a difficult time for them but it also means a period of adjustment for those left behind.
As a trailing spouse, you will often go very suddenly from a sense of living a fairly permanent life; planning for the week, month and even the year ahead; to a position where everything you do is accompanied by the realisation that you are only here for a few more weeks or at best months. Suddenly your future becomes vague while your time is spent with farewells, logistics and trying to visit all those places you’d meant to go toover the past few years but never made the time.
For those returning to their home country, there can also be a lot of mixed emotions; sadness, excitement, and trepidation – even when you think that moving back will be easy because you know the ropes and speak the language. In fact, research has shown that returning to your culture of origin can be more stressful than moving to a new country because while you’ve been away, things have changed and relationships moved on.
It seems to be a time when everyone puts up their own protective defence system rather than working together to support each other. Children in particular may become very self centred by only looking at how the move will affect them and generally it is the trailing spouse who is left to deal with any tears and tantrums as the working partner gets busier at work in the run up to the move. I think that it is exactly at this time that family and friends should be pulling together to strengthen relationships so that they can better deal with the emotions that may arise instead of becoming withdrawn and focussing only on their own concerns.
So how do you deal with this challenge? I have been thinking about this a lot today and this quote expresses my way of dealing with it:
“It’s not what happens to you, it’s how you navigate and respond to turbulent times”.
In other words,
I believe that in order to thrive in life, we must be able to deal with change and you can do this by:
- taking time to recognise the change rather than burying your head in the sand.
- keeping your thoughts on what you can control. If you continue to focus on what has happened, you won’t be able to deal with it and move forward.
- having a positive attitude that embraces change rather than resists it, this way you can deal with almost anything that comes your way.
- getting out there and finding the good that is to come from this change – when a change happens to you it will bring something good if you look for it.
- looking at each day with fresh eyes and be willing to let each day be different.
- thinking about what you can learn from change.
- trusting in yourself and your abilities.
“Before I was paralyzed, there were 10,000 things I could do. Now there are 9,000. I can either dwell on the 1,000 I lost, or focus on the 9,000 I have left.” – W. Mitchell
Your relationship to change is one of personal choice and I recommend that you welcome change and look at ways to use it to create the life you want to lead.
How do you deal with change?
I really recognise what you are talking about here, Anne, and its often the “trailing spouse” who is the main organiser of the physical move, as the working partner is involved in his/her new responsibilities within his company.
It helps take care of yourself by connecting with someone experienced in expat life to help you through the change. supporting you as you leave one country, and keeping in touch (by SKYPE or email) for a time as you arrive in the new country.