The Mental Challenges Of Expatriation

Challenges Faced By Expatriates

In Dubai or elsewhere, expatriation can be seen as a radical change that can be the source of many psychological problems. Some people live it well and for others, it can be more difficult but it is, however, a moment of crisis. By crisis, I mean “a temporary balance break before the reconstruction of a new one.

First of all, it is evident that some people adapt better than others. Indeed some people depend more on their environment than others to preserve their balance. Whatever it is, it takes a long time to build a new life, a new balance, and new landmarks.
Our daily life is composed of the sum of all those individuals, places, gestures, movements, routines, which have, contribute together to create what is called a familiar environment. We created this environment and we are somehow created by it.

When we expatriate, our routine, our familiar, fall apart. And the natural tendency to any the human being will be to recreate as soon as possible a new balance.
However, this routine took years to build, to become familiar and to be part of us. We must, therefore, be able to accept that those habits, this familiar will take some time to rebuild in this new environment. At this moment, is, therefore, possible that an identity crisis can arise which will be harder to live for some than for others. Some people are more dependent than others on their external environment who are more solitary.

The identity of the individual is, in social psychology, the recognition of what he is, by himself or by others. This definition seems quite interesting because when we are expatriated, this “other” becomes a foreigner for and does not recognize us anymore and therefore refers us to nothing! For some, this loss of reference can become a real fragility, because family and friends are no longer there to reassure us and to act as a mirror of ourselves.

In addition, there is a whole new environment to tame, finding a home, recreating a home, adapting to a new work for those who do not work, trying to recreate a routine. A new rhythm through new activities. This certainly requires an even greater mobilization of resources!

This may appear trivial to people who have never been expatriated, but my first memory of expatriation that made me waver is the first time I went running errands in a foreign country. I noticed with dread that almost all the familiar products and food, I have been used to during so many years had disappeared from the shelves, and in their place sat other products, food in completely different packages that I had never seen! This day I realized the importance the efforts I will have to do in order to feel at home again, sometimes!

This “crisis of the familiar” as one might call is the way to go to make yours this new environment, to integrate it as part of yourself. On this long road, however, which will not be the same for all of us, some blockages might appear, often in the form of new symptoms, which are the expression of resistances to this new adaptation.

Nostalgia can then begin and invade everything, and even make difficult any attempt to adapt to this new environment. Because yes, before things become natural, the effort to provide at the beginning is immense. But we must keep in mind that we must not try to press things, the familiar takes the time to rebuild, if we try to force things, there is a good chance that the new environment will not recreate a sense of familiar, but a sense of superficiality which will ultimately refer to nothing.

If this nostalgia becomes too important and is not compensated by the moments of joy and discovery of the new environment, it is possible that a blockage, a rejection has settled by the conscious and unconscious mechanism. The process of adaptation might then be blocked and this can lead to depression and its symptoms such as anxiety, bad mood, insomnia or excessive sleep, eating disorders, lethargy, etc.

The individual remains in a crisis situation and is somehow suspended between his lost balance and the new one that is to be rebuilt. There is a failure of the grieving process, which is blocked. The mourning of the old life is impossible, and we start behaving as we have lost someone. One wanders without end, lack of sense in the middle of the house, the city, and suddenly everything can become painful and meaningless.

The sense of identity can become fragile and we do not recognize ourselves, we feel weak and a sense of shame can arise as we thought that we were stronger than that and wondering where this initial enthusiasm has vanished. Where is this new land which was so full of promises?

This impasse and the sense of isolation and misunderstanding that come with it is common among expatriate populations and it is important not to let it lead to a permanent of the new environment.

We have to be able to recognize that this is a transitional situation and to seek help to get through this crisis. The help of a professional such as a psychologist can help you at this crucial stage of your life in order to understand the conscious and unconscious reasons behind the blockage that has taken place. It will greatly help you to overcome this difficult moment, and to, therefore, be able to take full advantage of this new adventure.

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