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24 November, 2015
I was an expat for 14 years in India, and the Director and Supervising Psychotherapist at Expat Counseling and Coaching Online, which I still run in my new home in Oregon in the US.
During that time I counseled literally hundreds of expats about repatriating. I kept abreast of all the studies and literature in the field, and thought I knew something abut the subject. Wrong!
Although I knew about issues such as reverse culture shock, re-adaptation, and folks at home not “getting” you or your experiences abroad, I really didn’t know what it felt like from the inside out.
I was in for a shock! The first week I was here, I would go into a supermarket and wander aimlessly around, even though I had a list. Nothing made sense, and when I’d ask a question, I had the feeling of wanting to appear “normal” and believed I was failing dismally. I mean who can’t figure out where the butter is in the dairy case?
Then there was the issue of trying to explain where I’d been for the last 14 years, both to banks and institutions (why don’t you have past utility statements?) as well as to people I met.
Some people were plainly fascinated and projected all kinds of romantic notions on to me, not realizing that I had been simply living my life. Others wanted to gloss over those facts as quickly as possible to find some safer common ground. I didn’t blame them for this; it was just uncomfortable not to be seen for who I was.
I soon learned some tips that I share with you here:
Tip # 1: Tell the short version.
Truncate your story into a few sentences unless asked for more information.
Tip # 2: Don’t expect people to understand or “get” your experiences.
If you remove this expectation, both you and the people you’re talking to will be relieved of a troublesome burden.
Tip #3: You don’t have to appear normal.
Try pretending that you’re a visitor from an exotic land, fascinated, but a tad confused by what you see.
People really do want to help and are usually glad to be of assistance, but you do have to ask.
Tip # 5: Take it slowly, one very small step at a time.
Be patient with yourself. Remove the pressure to get everything done yesterday. This phase too shall pass.
Visit www.expatcounselingandcoaching.com for a free 30-minute introductory session with Dhyan Summers.
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