(My) Expat Guide to a Happy Transition (beta v 1.2)
Part five of 10 ( + 2) bits of advice on how to survive the transition to life abroad without going postal.
Here’s a short but important one: Sure, you’re aware of the fact that by moving abroad you’re leaving behind a country, a culture and a language. But if you’re part of an international couple moving from one’s familiar turf to the natural habitat of the other half, there may be something else lost in the transition that you haven’t considered yet, but should be prepared for…
5. Be aware of the shift in power.
For international couples, where one is a native and one is the non-fluent foreigner, the latter is going to feel the pinch of some lost independence. If you’re the native, calling the electric company is going to be a hell of a lot easier and quicker for you and a huge undertaking for them. You’ll understand the menu immediately at the restaurant, while for them it’s an incomprehensible jumble they have to ask you to translate. Sometimes it will feel like you have all the answers and they have only questions. They may have to lean on you a bit more than they’re used to at the beginning (or a lot). This can mean some unbalanced responsibilities between you and a lot of frustration on both sides if you’re not aware of it and agree beforehand on how you’re going to deal with it. I’d recommend getting that topic out in the open and dealt with before you’re right in the middle of it.
And not only are you not able to swiftly take the phone company to task for a mistake on the bill without having your partner step in as interpreter, your witty cocktail conversational skills seem to have taken a huge hit as well. Before you start asking yourself: What’s wrong with me? Why am I having such a hard time connecting to the Germans? Consider this important cultural difference… (coming next.)