I can relate very well with many expat women who are feeling upset when, after arriving in a new country, someone tells them that it is “normal”, it is “just” culture shock, if they don’t fall in love with their new home. For career women who followed their husband to become a housewife abroad, it can feel like being patronized by so-called “expat experts” telling them that they can make it! Of course they do! They were successful executive women able to go through much more complex issues , travelling 70% of their time around the world and making global business deals. Some people assume that all expat wives have happily abandoned their job to follow their husband and embrace such a great experience as an expatriation!
It is not politically correct for an expat spouse to say ” I don’t want to say I am happy because I am not” . Most of those ex-career women are not depressed and they adjust very well. They just claim the right to share what their true feelings are!
In 20 years of expatriation moving every 3 years I had ups and downs but when I am down, usually 6 months after a new move, I feel both fed up and angry because I lost a place I managed to call “home”, friends, clients, support network and traded it for managing unpacked boxes, searching endlessly where my stuff are, setting utilities, school, house, trying to make new friends etc…
It is not fun but those things need to be done. The truth is, after 11 moves I find this phase pretty boring. It does not help to know coping strategies such as managing “tolerations” or taking care of unmet needs. I know what I am talking about because I have been trained to coach people using those tools.
But coaching works only when you are ready and have time to invest in yourself, identifying the gaps between where you are now and where you want to be and then have the energy and intrinsic motivation to take action.
I have developed some personal tactics to cope with resentment, and negative emotions during those first 6 months: I have been using a diary to write my feelings and everything I want to say even that my husband is a ” #!@$%!”. I am using social media to meet other women who also think it is not OK to sacrifice a career or other important things and who do not judge me if I want to vent my frustration.
Then I know I will come up again soon. I look at my dream note-book (this is like a diary but it is about writing dreams you want to achieve before you die even if it is impossible today) and start going to the gym again to lose the “emotional weight” I gained during the transition. Sport also boosts my positive energy
Then I open my eyes on the good things in my new life, meet positive people, other entrepreneurs, look for friends, organize play dates and call my mentor coach to help me identify new opportunities in my new environment and make the most of my expatriation.
Don’t take me wrong, I am a very positive person and I proved to be highly adaptable and resilient. I also believe in what I do when coaching other people. I just wanted to share that it is better to acknowledge your true feelings even if they are negative than pretending everything is great and delay searching for support. Building your local network with like-minded friends is priority #1 even if your house if full of a unpacked cartons.