Laura Llonch, a family psychologist-psychotherapist specialized in expat processes, tells us how in the globalized world in which we live, many people leave their native country searching new experiences; professional, academic, vital… whatever duration.
In this post, Laura tells us how becoming expat can be a process of growth and improvement. It is also challenging and can be accompanied by conflicting emotions. Let’s see her article!
“When a plant is plucked from the earth, some residue of soil always remains attached to the roots. Good gardeners know that when replanting in the new soil, they must not wash away this residue of the old soil because it will minimize the shock and foster success of the transplantation”
More and more people are leaving their home country looking for new experiences. With this increase in global mobility, we are witness to the emergence of a new family model, the transnational family or commonly expatfamily, characterized by its members live literally from one place to another and families are often fragmented.
These movements that represent a change in the political-administrative, social and / or cultural environment for the individual, or any permanent change of residence that involves the interruption of activities in one place and their organization in another, are considered a migration.
On the one hand, migration in most cases implies economic improvement, training opportunities, new political, economic and social freedoms. But on the other hand, being expat means leaving your own country of origin, family, loved friends, and loved places. Therefore, it is a process that generates contradictory emotions in the person; joy and excitement vs. sadness, personal growth vs. loss or distance, presence vs. absence.
It is natural that an expat has conflicting feelings during this process.
Migration can be very different depending on the type of conditions in which the process is lived. Those that have been well planned, with well-developed projects, carried out with the agreement and participation of all family members, will be experienced with a lower level of stress than poorly planned, hasty and non-voluntary expatriations.
One must take into account there are factors that can help to live the experience in a positive and less stressful way as the knowledge of the language of the host country, having realistic information about the host country or city; the existence of an organized community in the country of origin in the host country: having an open attitude towards the host society; be able to count on the support of trusted people in the new country; maintain a good relationship with people who left behind in the country / city of origin…
The more the language and culture of the host country are known, the easier expat adaptation will be.
Also, professionals such as psychologists, psychotherapists and in some cases mediators, can help reduce stress, anxiety or depressive episodes that may appear at some stage and in some family member during this process.
It should be noted that the experience can be very different depending on the evolutionary stage. For example, it is not the same having an experience of this sort when you are young, in student age, than for a family with children.
Expats can live the experience in a very different way depending on their evolutionary stage.
Young people have a greater capacity to adapt to new situations, but the cultural shock may be greater since they are still in the process of developing their cultural identity.
Young people, despite having greater adaptability, should not forget that they are still developing their cultural identity.
For children, the most important thing that parents can do to help them is spending time preparing and explaining (age-appropriate) the reasons for the migration. Explaining the characteristics of the destination country and future family plans, provide security and helps them reduce the “vacuum” they have to face, in addition to making them participants in the project. If we do not take them into account, they will experience an involuntary and forced expatriation with added repercussions of unrest.
Children must also participate in the process as a future expat, so that the experience become positive and enriching.
For adults, change may be more difficult as they have had more time to create roots in their home country. They usually have more stable job positions, more structured families, more consolidated friends… Factors that makes it painful to “cut” and start from scratch in another city / country.
For adults, on an emotional level, expatriation may be more difficult since they have established more roots in the country of origin.
As the metaphor that we quoted at the beginning relates, in the expatriation processes, it is very helpful not to lose contact and maintain the traditions and customs of the country of origin. It is important to continue speaking in the language that was spoken in the country of origin, preparing typical dishes, maintaining contact with the family and friends who have left… as a way to create bridges of physical and psychological presence that can help fill absences.
The ability to adapt to change, but also to maintain enough continuity with the culture of origin, the ability to live in “two worlds”, alternating language, customs and accepting bi-nationalism and dual identity, is what we understand as living this migratory process in a resilient way.
In short, leaving one country and / or city of origin to go to another and become an expatcan mean personal and job growth, but that sometimes, and especially at the beginning, will not always be easy. Neither is living between two countries.
Depending on the abilities, the way of being of each one and the circumstances and the support that one has, it will be more or less difficult.
In short, taking into account what Laura tells us, the experience will be more satisfactory and the contradictory feelings may be compensated, the greater it is:
Swap Family can help you prepare to move to a new city or country.
Therefore, for those who are thinking or planning become expats, whether you are alone or if you are planning to do it as a family, our community can help you preparing this whole process.
At Swap Family you can meet and establish contact with native people. The Swap Family community can help you to plan your adventure, either by providing first-hand information, establishing contact with other families, being able to involve your children, and helping them make their first friends.
Through Swap Family members you can learn about the culture, customs and language of the country where you are going to move.