STAGES OF RELOCATION ADJUSTMENT
The tone of the relocation process is set by how the decision to relocate was made, the reasons behind relocation, and how realistic one’s expectations are.
The 5 Stages:
- Shock & Honeymoon
- Reorganization & Survival
- Bargaining & Doubt
These stages do not always necessarily appear in sequence. Adjustment is a process that ebbs and flows, and eventually settles down. Some individuals have an easier time adjusting than others, but relocation is difficult for many people, and relocation counseling can be quite helpful in the process.
1. Shock & Honeymoon
Relocation can be an overwhelming experience. The need to make multiple changes during a relatively short time can cause a reaction of shock characterized by feelings of confusion and emotional paralysis. Shock can appear immediately upon arrival or after what I define as “honeymoon.” The honeymoon is a time when the excitement and pleasures of the relocation are fully experienced. Both the shock and the honeymoon are extreme reactions that will not last.
2. Reorganization & Survival
Reality kicks in as the daily routine begins to take precedence. The need to make sure that the children are in school, the family is taken care of and you are focusing on your job, forces you to get up rather than surrender to your emotional turmoil. This is the time when we start to make instinctive, positive steps toward adjusting to the new environment—learning the language, getting to know the immediate area, regaining some independence and mobility, getting to know people and trying to return to normal family life. During this period, you don’t have time to feel you just act.
3. Bargaining & Doubt: comparison, idealization and homesickness.
This is the time when we say, “alright, I know where, how and what, so why don’t I feel good and why is it still so hard and not feel like home? During this stage, loss is experienced and amplified. Feelings of anger, hopelessness, homesickness and doubts regarding the decision to move are common. These feelings are often projected onto the “hosts” in the form of harsh criticism and a negative attitude toward their culture.
You leave the bargaining mode and become better prepared to fight for your adjustment. This is the time when efforts to adjust take place: making new friends, finding the right place to live, looking for a community involvement and thinking about career opportunities. Issues related to your relationship with your native country, and you and your children’s cultural identity become more pressing and require your attention.
Adjustment to the new environment occurs when you find a comfortable balance between what you perceive as your gains and your losses. You accept the changes imposed on you by the relocation—appreciating some, while disliking others, and you continue to enjoy your life. Adjustment, however, does not necessarily mean that all your struggles are gone.