The expat blues: life in the cultural adjustment cycle

So you know with this blog I always want to tell things the way it is honestly and not sugar coat anything. Lately I’m been struggling with something. It’s life as an expat and adjusting to France for a second time.

This is the cultural adjustment cycle. When I was a study abroad peer advisor we would show this at the pre-departure orientation before students went off to their study abroad locations. We would even dramatize the stages as a play or different monologues.

Learn it. LIVE IT. Life is going to be more challenging now. 

The cultural adjustment cycle

You’ll be in the middle of a stage until you realize what’s going on. Whether you’re in love with everything you see or everything reminds you of home and you just wanna stay in your bed because life is exhausting. So now doing this for the second time and I’m noticing how differently I’m reacting to things.

My first time in France everything was shiny and new and magical. I was also living in a pretty good sized town with 12 other people from my university, a host family and quite a lot of support. This time doing everything on my own, living in a tiny town, being far away from other assistants, friends and family and Europe and not having a lot of support here. Hello reality and goodbye culture shock.

**Not to diss anyone who’s supported me here friends/family abroad or in the US. You’re wonderful but you know it’s hard sometimes. 

It’s feeling a lot more like reality crashing down on my shoulders. That feeling of “why am I here”, that I won’t belong here no matter how I try, that I’ll never be truly 100% fluent with French, letting a class down, feeling alone, feeling like I’m failing. Trying to balance everything in a foreign language in my newly post-grad life sometimes feels completely impossible. Sometimes getting out of bed and functioning is difficult.

There are very good days when things are going great and it kinda feels like this:

Mary Tyler Moore, you're gonna make it after all
“You’re gonna make it after all”

Successfully navigating French administration, traveling, making friends, being told you “speak good French”. This feeling is a blast of happiness that doesn’t last forever but makes up for the bad times sometimes.

Okay post grad blues too, and winter blues and general regular depression all contribute to the dark cloud that’s been surrounding me for the past month or so too. And they’re all valid things that you should not knock yourself for things that are totally natural.

Post grad blues- totally a real thing. When you’re in your undergrad years you’re in this little fuzzy bubble of learning and nurturing. There you can make friends quickly and easily and you stick together through what seems like “it all”. You sometimes forget that life exists outside of this support circle and your college town but it does. It sucks to be thrust out of a place where you know everyone/everything with familiarity to the unknown. And trust me I like getting out of the comfort zone but I’m also a total homebody. Like where are those professors/staff members who told me I’m not a failure “ie amazing” when I need them?! Remember that you can still reach out to these people.

Depression abroad- very difficult to handle at times. I’m an introvert which doesn’t mean I’m shy it means that I get drained from being around lots of people but I’m also a bit of an extrovert, there are times that I need to be around people too. You’re not crazy and your feelings are valid. It can be isolating to not have that social interaction or understanding you’re used to. That’s basically what I’ve been experiencing lately. I’m working on it and pushing myself to get out there and talk to people when I need it and practice self-care when I need it. The fact that you’re a person surviving in a foreign country is amazing in itself. Not everyday will be perfect.

All in all, this is a hard practice. Be easy on yourself when the times get tough.


Bisous,
Liz

Related posts:

0 Comments

  1. tomg1992
    January 30, 2017

    Solidarity! Living in Spain at the moment, China last year. It’s a cliche but it’s a roller coaster ride living abroad.

    Reply
    1. Elisabeth King
      January 31, 2017

      I appreciate it! Sometimes it’s tough but it makes you feel less alone when more people say they’ve had similar experiences.

      Reply
      1. tomg1992
        January 31, 2017

        We’re having a fantastic experience living in different countries, learning languages (or struggling to in my case!), it’s a positive thing to do!

        Reply
  2. theholiad
    January 30, 2017

    I needed this post, thank you.

    3 months in Australia and it’s weird to feel blue and like I’m struggling, but you’ve basically described how I’ve been feeling. I’m glad I’m not alone and I’ll read back on this post the next time I’m in the grip of it. Also realising I’m much more introverted than I realised has taken some adjustment and I’ve had to remind myself to be kind about it. I don’t have to conduct a room here, I can interact with whoever I want, that said I’m finding making real friends a challenge, which feels wrong to say. I guess I haven’t found people who feel like my people for a while, it makes me miss the honeymoon phase of my trip… but I can’t hold myself back. Gotta keep moving forward

    Reply
    1. Elisabeth King
      January 30, 2017

      It’s seriously the hardest part but you’re far from the only one that feels this way! I guess step one is realizing it and then taking steps to address it. I don’t think it’s something a lot of travel/expat blogs adress very often. Bon courage to you!

      Reply
  3. Rebecca
    January 31, 2017

    Definitely can relate to this. Even though this is my second year teaching in France, the expat/winter blues still hit me. The combination of the cold, the teaching, the feeling that you just aren’t good enough at French really resonated with me, and I’m glad that you brought them up. If this makes anything better, things do look up after February vacation, when the weather starts getting warmer and the sense of being recharged from the holidays helps. I’m sure many, if not all, assistants go through this- you’re not alone!

    Reply
    1. Thanks Rebeca <3 I appreciate it a lot. I'm so looking forward to vacances and my students won't stop like jumping in their seats so I can tell they can't either.

      Reply
  4. The Classy Traveler
    February 1, 2017

    It may not seem that way, but I understand. I moved for a small town to Los Angeles and it was the hardest adjustment of my life. Growing up in a tinny town and knowing everyone, to moving to a huge city where you know no one is so hard!

    Reply
    1. Oh I can imagine! Moves are totally harder when the cities are so different. I imagine you’re loving LA though!

      Reply
  5. Camille Voyage
    February 4, 2017

    You read my mind! My next post currently in its’ drafting stage is going to be about tougher times while living abroad…Nice piece!

    Reply
    1. Thank you so much! Yeah it’s something we all experience but I don’t think it’s something a lot of travel bloggers/vloggers talk about it.

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *