Press/Media items

The life cycle of an expat: The one year slump

Press/Media: Public Engagement ActivitiesPopular

27/11/2018

The life cycle of an expat: The one year slump
https://www.ukrant.nl/magazine/the-one-year-slump/?lang=en

Waarom het expat-leven soms zo ellendig is: De expat-blues
https://www.ukrant.nl/magazine/expat-blues/

 

Wobbly stuff
Canadian psychologist Jeremy Burman, on the other hand, thought he was well prepared for life abroad. When he arrived in Groningen months ahead of his wife, he already knew the drill. ‘I had lived in Geneva for two years – and that experience was really hard. I thought of it as training wheels for Groningen: all of that wobbly stuff that happens when you’re first learning a new life, I’d been through it.’

He knew the first step to long-term well-being was making friends. He wanted to pave the way for his wife by providing a built-in community for her when she arrived. ‘So I started collecting people who sounded like home. I went out looking for people with Canadian accents.’

It was good he had done the work to find friends. He was going to need them a year later, when he returned to Toronto to fetch his wife and she told him their marriage was over.

Support
Burman thinks trailing spouses probably get the worst of the slump. ‘You know that saying – “it takes a village to raise a child?” – well, it takes a faculty to raise an international hire. We have been the subject of great investment by a department that has a continued interest in making us feel at home. Spouses don’t get nearly so much support.’

Every part of his life collapsed except for work, he says. ‘I did have the ideal job – in that respect, I won the lottery. But the cost was my life.’

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Un-slumping yourself

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3. Get a pet
Burman’s slump ended when he moved his cat from Toronto to Groningen. Suddenly his empty apartment became a home. ‘I’m not saying everyone should rush out and get a cat, but it worked for me. Having someone who is unconditionally happy to see you when you get home is really nice. We just had a great summer together.’

4. Don’t give up
A lot of expats get discouraged when they realise learning Dutch is going to take way longer than they thought. ‘After two years, I can order coffee’, laughs Burman.

References

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