Life as an expatriate....the 5 stages of integration.... Life & Style

Thursday, February 11, 2010 by Catherine Hutt United Kingdom

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Have you recently moved to Rome from abroad? Been here a while? Or are you an old-timer? Whatever phase of the expat evolution you are at, you are sure to recognise these feelings....read on, then share your thoughts...!
The Honeymoon (tourist) phase: Everything is exciting and new. You may consider the new culture ideal, even better than the one you left behind. Any problems or frustrations are quickly overcome as you are charmed by the new place in which you find yourself. Everyone is very nice and you feel very positive about your future, making plans to see, do and taste everything. You offer cheery, if somewhat mispronounced, greetings to everyone you pass and wonder why others complain about things that to you are just part of the charm.
The Shock phase: Some time has passed, and suddenly all those little frustrations seem to be growing. You become preoccupied with the strangest of things and take every opportunity to tell others why your countrymen do it better! If you meet someone from your own or a similar culture, you may become dependent on them, which in turn will lead to a depression routed in the fact that you know you should be making an effort to meet the locals. You may take a trip home, where you will of course pretend that your new life abroad is nothing short of perfect.
Adjustment: Eventually you pass through the shock phase and acquire a new-found appreciation for the place that you have tentatively begun to call home. You learn to deal with the differences, and can even laugh about them, though you may be guilty of trying to integrate the new culture with your own beliefs! You double your efforts to learn the language, and it seems to be paying off when you make local friends, who you join wholeheartedly in poking fun at the tourists. Friends or family may visit and you show off your new home with such pride you may as well have built it yourself! You relapse into shock mode just once or twice a week now, and begin to contemplate the possibility of staying forever.
Re-entry shock: This is the shock of returning to your homeland after a long period spent in your new country. Everyone is happy to see you and you are happy to see them, but you are already missing your new home (though use of the phrase 'home' to identify your new country is limited after the outrage it causes the first time you use it in front of friends and family!) You realise how much you have changed, how much everyone else hasn't, and how little they now understand about your life, which makes you a little sad. You feel almost like a stranger in your own culture and are glad to return to your new home.
Acceptance: Whether a natural acceptance or a lack of energy to fight anymore, you finally learn to live with the new culture. Though you feel you may never be fully accepted by it, you develop a bi-cultural identity, blending your favourite parts of the life you have now and the culture you left behind. Rants about how your country does it better are now a rare occurance, and shockingly, you may even concede that the new one does it better! Ultimately, you realise the reasons for your being there, appreciate the positive effects it has had on your life, and look forward to a fun future of meeting new people and broadening your horizons!

Catherine Hutt United Kingdom


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