Stress in exile: the 4 stages of adapting to a new country

Adaptation process The joy and the feeling that happiness has no boundaries — it is usually only the first and one of the shortest stages goes through after moving to a new country. Once the euphoria subsides, there are many problems — from everyday issues in a series of "how to pay for the electricity? and where to fix the bike?"to more pressing "how to find friends and not be outcast?".

The author of popular science books about exile: "How to move to another country and not to die of homesickness» Oksana Korzun studied what scientific studies have been conducted on this subject over the last 50 years, and talked with immigrants from different countries.

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Chapter from the book about the difficulties of adapting in a new place:

At the end of XX century, scientists were particularly interested in the processes of adaptation of immigrants to new living conditions and culture shock, as migration has become an ordinary part of life in almost every country. We developed several theories that can describe the mechanism of habituation to a new country and adaptation. The most famous and most controversial theory was the U-curve of adaptation, presented by Kalervo Oberg in 1954, and later repeatedly study and modify by other researchers.

This theory has been repeatedly criticized for being too universal in nature, indicating that it may not be the entire variety of human experience. But over the last 50 years we developed another theory, which would become more appropriate than a U-curve. Despite its shortcomings and too conditional, it was confirmed fully or partially multiple studies by other authors.

The stages and steps of adaptation, according to U-curve does not always require mandatory and full passage of all immigrants. Some skip some stages, someone gets stuck on one and then not moving. There are many factors that affect the completion of the fixtures and stages, which may take a person to fully adapt — for example, level of education, expectations from the new country, cultural difference, and many others.

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The first phase of adaptation — the tourist, the person feels the euphoria from the move, "I'm here, I could, for me there are no barriers». This stage involves a reduction of critical thinking to reality, immigrant focused on the pleasant sensations, new places, variety in stores, new flavors, environment, entertainment. Often emigration was preceded by a nerve transfer and the document collection period in this phase, the person relaxes and exhales.

This stage usually lasts for a short time. Kalervo Oberg says about a few days and up to 6 weeks. It is worth noting here that it is more of a household feeling of novelty by changing the environment, and less about the relief of leaving the place of residence, which was not pleasant.

"Joy was just what finally managed to move, because about 5 years before I build a plan to move the family out of the city, where we lived, so everyone was happy. Other feelings soon so you can see how friendly interest in what is around. The joy of moving has yet to cease, as in Russia, from our point of view, the situation is only getting worse, interest in what is around, settled down at a relatively low level". Arina, Canada, 1.5 years in another country

In the second phase, a phase of gradual disillusionment, the problems slowly increase. Emigrant still has fresh memories of the old country and inevitably begins to compare and usually not in favor of the new country.

This occurs most often through the stereotypes, with whom he lived in the country-out — now these can be encountered in reality, and often this raises the need to reconsider their views.

Against this background, there is a gradual decline in mood as the need to integrate into the environment implies a clash with the life and life of another country and can cause negative feelings as the skill of communication in this cultural system has not been developed or brought to perfection. At this stage, there is a strong sense of foreignness and a lack of a sense of "home".

Some people may experience thoughts of worthlessness, discomfort from intercourse with the outside world because of the inability to understand people in a new country, alienation. Often this results in a conscious attempt to reduce the communication with other people, to isolate themselves, there is disappointment in the choice of the country in General in the move.The man begins to ask himself questions about the correctness of his choice.

"I very quickly realized that the Belgians mostly I don't like. First of all, they had great difficulty letting people in from other foreigners. It's not about having a drink anywhere the beer, but about finding those with whom you can talk heart to heart. Irritated still more, for example, I remember them kind of narrow-mindedness, perhaps, isolation on their own little world, something like the English narrow-minded. Someone's family, someone- the city, the country (or just its Northern part, where they speak Dutch). It did not match my perception of the world, where I is a small point in a large and very diverse world. And it slowed down a talk, and very irritated me in itself". Anna, Antwerp, 2 years in another country

At this point, the migrant can begin to communicate more with former compatriots, and personally and online, sometimes expressing their emerging aggression and irritation due to the inability to Express it to those people who were the cause of the anger. Communication with compatriots helps to feel for a short time in a safe environment, to relax from a foreign language, from stress due to learning a new social environment, but may cause bouts of longing for his old life.

"The anger and irritation — not felt. For the most part, when they leave to run to different places to collect documents and papers, find loneliness, longing and nostalgia. But experienced peristalsis knows what to do. For me the most difficult thing was the lack of cars and people that can help settle. In the first week or two you are in constant stress: finding an apartment, buying all the needed, to establish payments for electricity, water, etc." Tamara, UK, 5 years in another country

A new country may seem immigrant is wrong, illogical, aggressive, stereotypical, and the country of departure, on the contrary, is pleasant and seems reasonable, right, safe. It feels like you're a stranger, you will never be able to understand them, you grew up on other models, books, don't know how they react to certain things.

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At this stage, sometimes it even seems that the local people do not consciously want to communicate and more difficult life (sometimes this makes sense — many intuitively feel the hostile attitude of the immigrant and say the same thing).

"I felt a lot of stress about entrance exams and visa, which was still in production. A lot had to match itself to emerge from me not directly depend on, the feeling was unpleasant. Otherwise, nostalgia was not the sense that I'm a stranger — not so much (I mean, obviously I'm not local, but there was a feeling of friendliness surrounding to me). The feeling of loneliness was especially in the first week, and then it became easier. I was just trying not to cheat myself that I have one." Kira, Vienna, 1.4 years in another country

At this stage it may be reluctance to learn a new language and use it in everyday life, the frustration and anger that all have to learn it — so the person is trying to protect itself because it protects itself from feelings of failure and fear that will laugh at you, for example, when communication does not work, or made mistakes in speech, hear the accent and you constantly ask again.

Often this can be due to the fact that the person does not accept a new life, afraid of communication with the local population, attributing to him the hostile quality — alienation, arrogance, secrecy. The lack of language skills acts as a protective barrier — I don't understand, so I must hurt you I can't.

"I was faced with a giant psychological language barrier. It turned out that firmly hammered in childhood "don't you dare make a mistake" gives no ability to speak English — scary, embarrassing, painfully difficult. Still the language I know pretty bad from my point of view, although there are a lot of immigrants who know him far better than me and feel completely free. Sometimes this barrier is overcome, continue language lessons with the teachers." Arina, Canada, 1.5 years in another country

Sometimes in this situation a person can see themselves as open, friendly, sometimes with sincere bewilderment why the people around do not try to communicate with him. If the situation changes and the person begins to notice a traits of hostility towards the local population, and from them openness and friendliness, this can cause aggression, attempts of self-affirmation at their expense, defensive behavior, not to admit their mistakes, because at this stage it is particularly difficult.

The issue of aggression and irritation of the immigrants is in itself a big topic to explore. The adaptation process requires a serious revision of views on life, changes people from the inside as a person. Many immigrants in the first months may react very sensitively to the change of role models — in Russia we were all someone, but in a new country all have to start from the beginning. Learning a new inevitably accompanied by mistakes in practice, but for some people, especially prone to perfectionism, this situation can cause frustration and anger.

Immigrants, experiencing unpleasant emotions, often unable to Express them to the source of the problem — another country and the lives of others, and hoarding them to yourself. Often the only source to facilitate emotions is other emigrants or strangers on the Internet.

Other immigrants trying to cope with growing shaft of suppressed emotions on the contrary say only very positive things in my life, sometimes exaggerating, not wanting to admit to themselves the problems.

In the process of adapting immigrants are often faced with a sense of loss of role — now everything will have to start over with a clean slate, some people may experience a feeling of inferiority. For many this is the stage that takes the longest time compared to all the others, because if the new role is not, many are beginning to reconsider its attitude to move or locked in denial.

Especially long and difficult it can be for people who turn in Russian-speaking environment — interact closely with other migrants, read Russian Internet, Russian books and watching Russian television, deliberately cutting communication with the local population to have the opportunity to return to the comfort zone, closer to the nation, to relieve the pressure. It helps to quickly boost your self-esteem and relax from the stress, but seriously slows down the process of adaptation, which is impossible without studying the life of the local population.

"Rarely communicate with 2-3 Russian. The biggest part of Russian is the so — called "Russian Germans" — born in Russia, the descendants of German immigrants, with rare exceptions, uninteresting people. The man who has achieved something in the country where I grew up, a lot of times think why he will drop everything and get out with the whole family in an unfamiliar country. Who did not achieve anything there, coming here, really not learning German, Russian palusalue, the result speaks to the wild mix, living on financial aid or working in jobs that do not require education, of watching Russian television instead of German and becomes an ardent admirer of the Kremlin. They communicate typically among themselves, dealing with the Germans "Ref". Another group of Russian is "Russian woman". It is often more interesting people, but they are not adjacent to any Russian communities. Russian representatives of culture and science in here that I never, unfortunately, not met." Elena, Hamburg, 14 years in another country

In the worst time of this stage it can be experienced as a period of strong crisis and to suggest serious problems with a realistic perception of the world. The surrounding people may seem hostile, immigrant feels a strong sense of loneliness, of rejection by that world.

He experiences doubts about self-worth, a strong dissatisfaction with oneself and the surrounding world, completely lost sense of their role in the new country. A natural reaction to a situation becomes aggression, denial, irritation. Homesickness can become unbearable and many are thinking about returning, just to not miss you so much.

This condition is really serious and dangerous, it can drive people to rash acts, even suicide, is so difficult it can be experienced.

"The first thing I felt — the misery of the capitalist system — it seemed to me all around petty, greedy, residecny. I don't miss the country but I missed Russian culture and St. Petersburg intelligentsia. Since I moved recently, these feelings, though to a lesser extent, my daily companions. So far I only unsuccessfully struggle with them". Anna, Heidelberg, 3 months in another country

At this stage there are often psychosomatic disorders, depression, various neurological problems. Can occur disease without apparent reason, changing the sleep mode, sometimes it seems that no strength even to get out of bed. Increases aggression against not only the local population but also to the immediate environment, family, this deceptively allows you to protect your self-esteem in the short term, to increase self-esteem.

"I felt a little hostility towards the local population. They seemed to disapprove of my poor English and my shyness is perceived as arrogance". Tatiana, 5 months in another country

Often being in serious tension because of the attempts to adapt, the immigrant may feel a sense of anger and severe irritation to the local customs and people, their behavior, he denies the culture of the new country, feel resentment because of cultural differences.

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At this stage there is a burning and irresistible desire to return to familiar surroundings and people who could not stand the strain, back in the old country. Many people forget why they left home, the situation seems an island of calm and comfort, a place where you can finally relax, unwind and be yourself.

Harry Triandis American psychologist, here allocates a single stage — the "bottom" of the crisis, the aggravation of all negative feelings and, in his opinion, here is a choice to overcome themselves and start to adapt, even if nothing happens, or disappointed in yourself and a new country and go back.

"I experienced unpleasant feelings. The first month prior to the study remembered as something terrible. Annoyed very much. For example, aroused the sympathy of the Belgians; it was lonely at first; I was tired to solve the endless questions and difficulties (where to get the bike where to fix something, where to buy something, the stores closing at 6 PM, and on Sundays generally a don't work; how difficult the process documents and payments; it was hard mostly because there were no residence permit, no local Bank account; language! the Belgians speak a special variant of Dutch, and it was very hard to get used to at first, on the phone to say it was torture). In General, the reconnaissance of the situation I have somehow caused only disgust and not happy. I wish that everything was familiar and understandable." Anna, Antwerp, 2 years in another country

In the next stage of adaptation, stage adaptation, slowly and gradually begin to resolve the accumulated problems, the first close friends among the local population, relationships with colleagues improve. Personal challenges no longer cause such difficulties, there is an opportunity to try something new and not just a morbid desire to stay only for the familiar and habitual.

Someone is manifested in a sense of humor — have the strength to make fun of themselves, laugh at the situation, given that previously, it caused pain and negative feelings. Others gain the ability to start conversations with strangers without fear, to be in the city events, one night out on the town, if it was carried out only in case of emergency.

"The feeling of nostalgia is not lost ever, like a feeling or fear that you will not accept, or rather fear, that is not so react, how "we" would have reacted. At work (I have) colleagues, I have the feeling that I'm afraid to talk to me sometimes. Usually start the conversation first I am." Nina, Gent, 5 years in another country

The emigrant is gradually finding new possibilities for realization of the world around no longer seems so hopeless and confusing. The new country gradually begins to seem more understandable and accessible, the country of departure and compatriots are moving away, you can feel safe without it.

Someone in this stage is able to help others, for example, new immigrants. It seems that already have the power to comfort and to support not only themselves but also others.

"The discomfort came after 6 months of stay in the country and is still going on (decreasing) as the fighting and forcibly dragging himself into the society of the Americans and trying to find friends. I try to adapt your style of clothing. In Moscow people are more decorative dress up here — more sports. Trying to learn how to keep the conversation going at any cost". Irina, United States, 11 months in another country

At last, the fourth stage of adaptation, phase of biculturalism, the migrant is already fully adapted to the world, it is easy to interact with people, situations no longer cause discomfort. People feel that the new country he likes, but he can critically assess its positive and negative sides, comparing the country of departure, the situation is completely stable, negative emotions do not appear or appear very rarely.

The immigrant is able to assess a new country and the local population as other, different, not bad or good, despite the fact that earlier they could have affixed the labels, sometimes negative, for ease of understanding and determining their own role. Even if there is some misunderstanding when communicating with people in a new country, it no longer causes fear and irritation, it is possible even to laugh.

The identity of the man is enriched, it becomes stronger and stronger emotionally, able to quickly navigate in stressful situations. In fact, people have absorbed the two cultures, thus enhancing their self-esteem, he develops the strength to move on and do more.

"Adaptation in Canada lasted two years. Basically, I feel completely adapted after signed up for the volunteer programme of assistance to the newcomers, and speak all that is necessary from the tutor. She could immediately record". Stas, Canada, 6 years in another country

"It took about 10 years to overcome the language and everyday difficulties and feel completely comfortable and not in need of Russian food, culture, etc. I used to visit family every six months, but a year did not come. The first arrival was a completely new way to see the architecture of the city, to draw attention to rare beauty. The fact that the city is a large village that previously irritated me, suddenly became to bring comfort. At the same time, as time was short, overestimated, which for me is really important. A close relationship gradually disintegrated". Maria, new York, 22 years in another country

The described scheme can be relevant for many people, but not always in this form — many can skip over certain stages or stay at one and not finish the process of adaptation in General. For some it may take a couple of months, while others several years. The choice of development path based on individual personality factors as specific people, as well as on the peculiarities of the country in which moved such people and cultural distance.

Some researchers allocate a separate stage of the pretreatment. We are talking about the period when the emigrants prior to departure studying the society, culture and history of a new country, learn the language to the time of relocation, thus beginning its process of adaptation long before crossed the borders of the new country. published 


@ Oksana Korzun, Chapter from the book "How to move to another country and not to die of homesickness»

P. S. And remember, just changing your mind — together we change the world! ©

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