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Feeling at Home Abroad – How Long Does it Take?

Feeling at Home Abroad – How Long Does it Take?

Newly arrived expats are often on a high – buoyed up by the excitement and euphoria they feel having successfully fulfilled their dreams of starting a new life abroad.  However, as every expat also knows, this initial feeling of exhilaration soon wanes when the realities of every day life kick in, and the real challenges of making a new home overseas present themselves.

Newly arrived expats are often on a high – buoyed up by the excitement and euphoria they feel having successfully fulfilled their dreams of starting a new life abroad.  However, as every expat also knows, this initial feeling of exhilaration soon wanes when the realities of every day life kick in, and the real challenges of making a new home overseas present themselves.

There usually follows a period of anything from disappointment to depression as the period of adjustment is lived through, and as expatriates struggle to come to terms with their new life.

So, how long does it take for an expat to feel fully at home abroad, and are the challenges associated with starting a brand new life really worth it?  Is the length of time it takes to adjust dictated by external issues such as housing or employment, or is it dependent on the internal, psychological transition that expatriates need to go through to feel fully settled in their new environment?

Well, a survey conducted by a UK-based research consultancy in association with Lloyds International has revealed that on average, it takes expatriates up to 2 years to feel fully at home abroad.

If you’ve recently made the transition overseas and you’re struggling to fully come to terms with the life choices you’ve made, 2 years may seem like an incredibly long time.  However, the very positive news that this research also revealed is that once expatriates have made the commitment to live overseas, the absolute vast majority would never then return “˜home’ to their former lives.

It would therefore appear that whilst the transition process may be protracted, it is worth it”¦but this doesn’t answer why it takes up to 2 years for people living abroad to stop feeling like foreigners in a foreign land.

The main factor that affects the length of time it takes the average expatriate to feel at home abroad is a psychological one.  Finding accommodation, getting a job, even establishing friends can happen quite quickly – and these essentials are critical for any expat to being the adjustment to feel at home overseas.  However, it takes a much longer time for our brains to feel fully familiar with our new home environment, and it takes even longer for us to feel fully comfortable on a non-tangible yet critical psychological level – and that’s why most expats report that they don’t feel fully settled abroad for up to 2 years.

However, this should not be cause for concern because it’s a fact that most expatriates quickly get beyond the initial frustrations that turn their euphoric arrival abroad into a challenge.  They learn the way “˜things are done’ in their new nation, they begin to take on any new language and familiarise themselves with the geography of their new location, and as a result they can feel comfortable overseas and get on with living the dream quite quickly – even if their inner psyche takes a while to settle down and settle in!

If you’re planning to move abroad or you’ve recently arrived overseas, it’s important to keep in mind the positive reasons that inspired your move in the first place.  Then, when you inevitably face a challenging day or a situation where you feel lost or confused, you will find you get beyond any issues much more easily and quickly.  You’ll be much more focused on the positive aspects of your new life and your new nation than any bureaucratic hold-up for example, and the 2 years it takes your psyche to feel at home abroad will fly by as you enjoy the adventures and opportunities that your new life gives you.

By Rhiannon Davies, editor of ҬShelter Offshore: for people seeking a better life abroad.

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