The first time I moved abroad to live I was 13. At the most recent move I was 50. Over a period of 37 years I have experienced the emigration progress numerous times and have lived in the UK, South Africa, France, Switzerland, Botswana, Canada and now Australia! I am probably not the most successful expat in the world having ping-ponged all over the place. (Is that even a word???)
One thing I have learned is that I go through the same stages every single time. To anyone thinking of moving abroad the number one thing I have to say is that it is NOT easy. As someone who recently experienced the worst bout of homesickness I have ever had I have realised that you don’t become a “pro” at emigrating either. Its hard whether you do it once, twice or even a hundred times.
So these are MY seven stages of emigrating – I am interested in your experiences. Have you been through the same? Are you in the middle of the process right now or just at the beginning?
1.THE DECISION STAGE
You decide to make the move. For whatever reason or motivation you decide you want to leave your home and make a new home abroad. It may be useful to consider some questions before you decide to move abroad.
If you are one half of a couple it may be that you want to move more than your partner/husband/wife. Or in the case of all the couples seen on Wanted Down Under one of you will definitely NOT want to move!!!
Inevitably though the decision will be made – “Lets move to Australia/New Zealand/Spain/France/Canada” etc etc
Having made the move once as a child, numerous times as a single adult and once with my husband I can confirm it is a lot easier when you are only responsible for yourself (and don’t have kids,own houses, cars or in fact very much stuff at all!)
2. THE LOGISTICAL STAGE
Once the decision has been made the logistics of actually making the move come into play. This stage can take quite some time. Literally years in some cases. This stage may involve securing a visa (if you need one) to start with. This will inevitably cost money and may involve medicals, English language tests (I failed the IELTs test for my Australia visa on my first attempt despite English being my first language and having studied to masters degree level – my tip to get that pass and those vital extra points is to buy a revision guide and study to the test) and numerous other hoops to jump through. (Even if you are moving over on a temporary visa)
Once the visa is secured the planning can planning in earnest…
3. THE PLANNING STAGE
Visa secured, logistics worked through and you KNOW you can actually land at the airport in your chosen destination and be allowed into the country to live and work!
And now it gets complicated. You start thinking about where to live, jobs, schools for the kids, shipping your stuff, selling your stuff, moving the pets, banking, cars, insurance etc. etc. etc.
Writing lists and making endless phone calls may (read will) feature strongly in your life at this stage.
And in between all the madness when you get a chance to think you will inevitably wonder what the hell you are doing. This stage is (for me) a roller coaster of emotions with highs and lows, worries, doubts and excitement (some on the same day)
4. MOVING DAY
So you have survived the planning stage and everything is sold/shipped/packed. And all of a sudden you are at the airport saying your goodbyes and taking photographs to show on Facebook. (I have only done this once as Facebook didn’t actually exist on the previous occasions I moved!)
We made our moving day to Australia a little more exciting by turning it into moving days and spending some weeks holidaying in Asia. Normally I just get on a plane in one country and get off in the next one with or without jet lag.
It is also an emotional time so be prepared for tears.
5. THE FIRST FEW WEEKS
You have made it!!!
And here you go again – another quite manic stage with the need to sort housing, start jobs, buy cars, start the kids in school schools, find a doctor, sort a bank/money/cards, sort mobile phone contracts etc etc etc becoming your main priority.
It doesn’t matter how much you sort before you arrive there will be lots to do in the first few weeks.
If you haven’t been to the place you are actually moving to (as was the case in the majority of my moves) everything will seem new, unfamiliar and exciting/daunting at the same time!
6. THE HONEYMOON STAGE
Once you have sorted all the basics and things start to settle the next stage is the honeymoon stage.
This may last weeks/months (or for some people forever) and for me this is the stage where I start are adjusting to everything new around me. It doesn’t necessarily mean that all is positive – you will inevitably realise that some things may not be quite as you expected them to be.
But this is the time to explore your new home and enjoy the novelty of a new culture, new foods, make new friends and generally look at the world with a slight rose-tinted glow.
This is always my favourite time. Its the same enjoyment and thrill I experience when I travel to anywhere new. Pity it can’t last forever really….
A VIDEO OF OUR FIRST 10 MONTHS IN AUSTRALIA
7. THE DECISION/SETTLING STAGE
Then after a few weeks or more likely months you wake up one morning and the reality hits – this place is now your home. The new has become the norm. The same familiar routines are there. It can be a positive feeling – you evaluate what you had versus what you now have and things can be good. And this is how it is for lots of people and soon you settle into your new life.
Because this is not everyone’s experience. Homesickness will mean different things to different people. I think everyone experiences it to some degree. How much it effects you will depend on so many factors – your own resilience, your family situation, your home, job, finances. If any one of more of these factors is perhaps not as you had hoped it can make a decision to move back to your country of origin a lot easier.
There have been many reasons why I have moved on and not settled and to be honest every time the reason has been different. For me growing up between 2 different continents left me feeling that no-where was actually home. For you it may be that being far away from your family is too difficult (for others this may be a plus!) or the things you miss from home (for me Christmas in the cold, cheap flights in Europe, Marks and Spencers) may make you crave a return trip.
One thing I believe about moving abroad is that it is important to be realistic – some things may be not be better than you had in your old life they will just be different and for some people those differences can prove to be too much.
TIPS TO HELP COPE WITH HOMESICKNESS
- Give yourself time – it can take years to feel totally settled.
- Don’t be hard on yourself – homesickness is perfectly normal.
- Keep in contact with loved ones back home – FaceTime/Skype/ call them regularly.
- Join expat groups and go along and meet people from your home country.
- Join clubs in your area and get out and meet people.
- If you have kids invite their friends for play dates – great way to get to know other parents.
- Remind yourself why you made the move in the first place.
Although I have described 7 stages of emigrating I think there is actually another that I will add as a part of stage 7 and that is limbo. I have spoken to many people who have arrived at stage 7 and decided in their hearts that they want to return home but due to family/financial or other reasons can’t. I can only advise that at stage 1 when you make that first decision make sure you have a plan B for stage 7 if you want to return home. Do not be stuck in a place you don’t want to be. I know there are people out there who will perceive this advise as negative but I am including it based on my own experiences.
WHAT HAVE BEEN YOUR EXPERIENCES?
So do my experiences replicate yours? How long did it take you to settle in and make your new country home? Or did it never feel like home and you moved back?
What tips would you suggest to help those going through the 7 stages of emigrating right now?
READ MORE OF MY POSTS DETAILING OUR EMIGRATION EXPERIENCE TO AUSTRALIA
PIN FOR LATER – THE 7 STAGES OF EMIGRATING
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Tracy is your expert expat!
She has lived and worked in 7 countries on 4 continents and travelled to over 50 more. A qualified school teacher with an interest in history, reading, photography, nature and wildlife she is always planning her next trip (preferably by train)
With a lifetime of travel experience, and a network of friends all over the world, she is also able to share genuine insider guides, recommended best book lists and train journey inspiration to help you travel authentically to some of the most beautiful places on earth.
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