(My) Expat Guide to a Happy Transition (beta v 1.2)
Part two of 10 ( + 2) bits of advice on how to survive the transition to expat (and attain true happiness*).
When I first moved over to be with Oliver, I was excited but often so very tired. Sleep would creep up on me and just demand attention. I would get tired and that was it, I had to go to bed. I was a bit embarrassed. Why was I feeling cashed out all the time?
Then Oliver happened to mention to me that when he would work as a volunteer preparing kids for their year abroad, one of the first things that he would tell them is:
2. You’re going to be dead tired. That’s ok!
At the beginning it is sensory overload to be in a foreign country. Everything is unfamiliar, forcing your eyes and mind to take in much more information than normal. And you’re looking at everything differently than when you’re on vacation. Unlike being a tourist, everything you see and experience in a new ‘home’ country is being processed and saved for future reference. This is exhausting. You will likely find yourself nodding off all over the place, at dinner, in class, everywhere.
It helps to know that it isn’t monster jetlag; it’s your brain asking for downtime. Go with it and allow yourself to relax more than usual. You need the sleep! Also, be sensitive to when you or your partner are done for the day and retreat to a familiar, ‘safe zone’ like the hotel or apartment. When we were checking out China, with the intention of moving there, we reached this point at least once every day. Sitting down in a restaurant isn’t usually enough. The best thing is to retreat to familiar territory, regroup, rest and then go out again. If you push yourself too hard, you’re going to find the first few weeks to be a lot tougher than they need to be. Slow down, relax and take it a step at a time.
(*sarcasm implied here, although I’m not alone in wishing it was that easy.)
Next Up: It’s all gonna get harder before it gets easier again, and this applies to (what used to be) even the simplest of things.