Home » Where Are You in the Expatriate Journey? A Roadmap of Expat Acculturation

Where Are You in the Expatriate Journey? A Roadmap of Expat Acculturation

You made it happen. You are now living abroad. You have deftly completed the tasks on a long checklist from having a garage sale back home to figuring out how to open an electricity account in your new home country. You maintained a brave face so far, as the journey that has been paved with twists, turns and the occasional bump in the road. Some you anticipated; others, not so much. Or… maybe you dream of living abroad some day, or just arrived to your new country, or perhaps a few years into your new reality. No matter where you are in the expatriate journey, an understanding of the stages of the expatriate integration process will help to serve as guide throughout your experience.Pre-departure: I am really doing this?
As you prepare for departure date, you are mixed with feelings of excitement, sadness, and a fair bit of exhaustion as you try to tie up the innumerable loose ends. Bittersweet conversations with friends who are so excited for you, the awkward feeling of goodbyes and your internal realization- this chapter of life is coming to and end. You are surprised by the strength of the occasional wave of emotions you feel, but you put your game face on, board the plane and jump into a new reality.

Honeymoon: Vacations never felt like this
Your expatriate journey begins with the honeymoon stage where you constantly stimulated by a barrage of new experiences: sights, sounds and smells that feed your insatiable curiosity. Your excitement is palpable as you explore your new environs and carry out everyday tasks. You are left with the same thought over and over, “Wow, this is where I live!” You are truly impressed with yourself and how you have handled this momentous shift; however, the initial elation ebbs after the first month or so as uncertainty shows itself from under your adrenaline-filled armor.

Culture Shock: Is this really happening?
The “newness” of your transplant home is wearing off, and some of the same things you found so intriguing a few weeks ago now grate on your nerves. It starts slow, but builds as you increasingly can’t help but question the seemingly illogical way things are done comparing them to the “way they do it back home”. You feel fatigued trying to communicate in a new language and successfully navigate the cultural labyrinth without offending the locals. Minor frustrations build inside you until you feel anger boiling beneath your trying-to-be-calm exterior. You probably thought it would not happen to you, but you have entered the second phase- you are in “culture shock.” Don’t be discouraged, everyone has these feelings to different degrees, but the way you cope in the face of these challenges will define your expatriate experience.

Transformation: Finding your groove
The transformation stage is longer than the culture shock stage, but with some time, frustration and longing for something familiar are replaced with a true appreciation of the lifestyle and culture of your new country…you are becoming an expat. To make this transition much easier, there are important coping activities and tools that you can practice and utilize. For example, you should establish new routines, introduce yourself to your neighbors, make new friends (not just other expats!), and participate in local activities (clubs, events, celebrations, sporting events, etc). This transformative stage will be an incredibly rewarding process as you learn and experience the cultural richness of your new home empowering you with a deeper understanding of your own cultural identity.

Integration: A whole new reality
You have accepted and embraced your new lifestyle by successfully bridging the cultural chasm that once existed. While you will never be a native, you have transformed yourself into an expatriate, a citizen of the world. There will be the occasional frustration, but all in all, you are generally happy and at ease in your new life. Some expats will never reach the final stage as they remain stuck in the transformative stage, isolated and unwilling to accept and embrace the cultural nuances of their host country. Others take it to the other extreme rejecting their own culture which can be equally divisive to long-term happiness. For expats on short-term assignments, achieving full-integration poses to be a challenge since often they leave while in the Culture Shock, or Transformation stage.

Each person’s experience is unique, and there are no hard and fast timetables to adjusting to your new life, but there are tools and strategies that make this process quicker and easier. This incredible experience is as much personal as it is geographic; your journey will be defined by how you react to the more challenging moments. I was fortunate to reach Integration during my most recent expatriate experience in Latin America and honestly did not want to leave. On the other hand, I experienced instances when I was living in Europe where I left the country prior to full-integration. I find myself often asking, “what if I had stayed longer?”


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Community is an essential resource throughout the expatriate journey, and the Expat Focus community would love for you to share your experiences as you’ve moved through the different phases of integration.

Michelle Sullivan is a Leadership Development & Cross-Cultural Coach with Sullivan Global Consulting and Envision Global Leadership as well as a COO with Reppify.

She has her MS in Global Leadership and guest lectures at the University of San Diego on the topic of working in cross-cultural teams and abroad. She’s had corporate roles in global environments for over 20 years and lived, worked, and studied in Mexico, Argentina, Ireland, and France – living in five countries in six years with her husband who is a dual US/Irish citizen. When not partaking in outdoor activities, she enjoys traveling around the world with her husband, taking in the marvels and cultures it has to offer.

Michelle blogs at Sullivan Global Coaching or follow Michelle’s adventures and experiences on Facebook.


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In this short video, we dive into the significant health care updates and changes happening globally in 2024. From Germany's insurance cost adjustments to Cyprus's renewed COVID-19 precautions, we cover the essential news you need to know.  Germany's Health Insurance Update:  Starting in 2024, residents in Germany will see a slight increase in their health insurance costs, with a 0.1% rise to a maximum of 1.7%. This adjustment aims to expand coverage for medical care not currently included in statutory health insurance, such as select dental treatments, IVF, and early cancer screenings.  COVID-19 Measures Reintroduced in Cyprus:  With over 3000 new COVID-19 cases, Cyprus is stepping up its game by reintroducing health measures. Requirements now include proof of a negative COVID-19 test for entry into various facilities, emphasizing the importance of vaccination, especially for the elderly, to combat the evolving virus strains.  Free Health Trials in Trieste, Italy:  Trieste launches an initiative for free health screenings, including echocardiograms and blood tests, focusing on preventive care against non-communicable diseases. This move underscores the city's commitment to improving public health through early detection and prevention.  Spain's New Health Advice App:  Madrid introduces a groundbreaking app offering reliable health advice to counteract the widespread misinformation online. This app, part of the 'Madrid Te Cuida' initiative, will guide users to accurate information, from diet tips to medical queries, ensuring the advice is vetted by health professionals.  Expat Satisfaction with Healthcare in Mexico:  A study reveals that expat retirees in Mexico are largely content with the healthcare quality and costs, with many citing significant savings compared to the United States without compromising on care quality. This insight sheds light on the growing trend of healthcare tourism and relocation for medical reasons.  Stay tuned as we unpack these updates, providing you with the insights and implications of these healthcare changes. Whether it's the impact on your wallet or the quality of care you can expect, we've got you covered in this comprehensive overview of health care in 2024. Don't forget to like, share, and subscribe for more health news around the globe!

In this short video, we dive into the significant health care updates and changes happening globally in 2024. From Germany's insurance cost adjustments to Cyprus's renewed COVID-19 precautions, we cover the essential news you need to know.

Germany's Health Insurance Update:

Starting in 2024, residents in Germany will see a slight increase in their health insurance costs, with a 0.1% rise to a maximum of 1.7%. This adjustment aims to expand coverage for medical care not currently included in statutory health insurance, such as select dental treatments, IVF, and early cancer screenings.

COVID-19 Measures Reintroduced in Cyprus:

With over 3000 new COVID-19 cases, Cyprus is stepping up its game by reintroducing health measures. Requirements now include proof of a negative COVID-19 test for entry into various facilities, emphasizing the importance of vaccination, especially for the elderly, to combat the evolving virus strains.

Free Health Trials in Trieste, Italy:

Trieste launches an initiative for free health screenings, including echocardiograms and blood tests, focusing on preventive care against non-communicable diseases. This move underscores the city's commitment to improving public health through early detection and prevention.

Spain's New Health Advice App:

Madrid introduces a groundbreaking app offering reliable health advice to counteract the widespread misinformation online. This app, part of the 'Madrid Te Cuida' initiative, will guide users to accurate information, from diet tips to medical queries, ensuring the advice is vetted by health professionals.

Expat Satisfaction with Healthcare in Mexico:

A study reveals that expat retirees in Mexico are largely content with the healthcare quality and costs, with many citing significant savings compared to the United States without compromising on care quality. This insight sheds light on the growing trend of healthcare tourism and relocation for medical reasons.

Stay tuned as we unpack these updates, providing you with the insights and implications of these healthcare changes. Whether it's the impact on your wallet or the quality of care you can expect, we've got you covered in this comprehensive overview of health care in 2024. Don't forget to like, share, and subscribe for more health news around the globe!

YouTube Video UCB21b-C4O2aXm7H18_GsXMQ_nC_Fs6gU22U

Expat Focus International Healthcare Update January 2024

Expat Focus 31 January 2024 10:36 am

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