Helping Expats Relocate
It was the end of a great day. My daughter and her husband had taken the boys out strawberry picking. To their parents amazement, the boys hadn't (really) eaten any until their fruit boxes were full. I smiled when I heard this. I certainly hadn't raised a child who waited until the end of the day to eat the berries!
It's been a hot summer in southern England, in case you haven't heard. Very hot. After berry picking the boys climbed into their car seats and they headed home to baths and bed. They headed home to the familiar, with a great family memory to savour in their bedtime talk and dreams.
To those of us who have had memorable times in lands far, far from home and are heading "home" or on to another location that also might become home for a season or two; we know the trip will require more than just finding our airline seats and hoping for a little rest.
This month, I want to give a hard won tip for what in Relocation Speak is called "Re- entry" for one group of people in particular. One of my clients, several years ago, said to me "When I did all the work to settle into a new culture and began to enjoy this life, I did not believe you when you said going home might be a challenge for me. But it's true. Going home feels like the party is over."
If this is you, I can't stress enough how important it is to Know Your Level of Relocation. If you aren't sure what I mean by Relocation Level, please do get my book "Parents on the Move!" on the Shop Page; whether you are single, part of a couple or relocating with family. Today I focus on those awkward level Fours- like me! We are great at multi-cultural life, but not so great at going home or even living anywhere one culture dominates.
Level Four's love to be surrounded by people of many cultures. We do not like cultural dominancy in any shape or form. Dinner parties are a true test. If you were to look in on one of our "perfect to us" Level Four dinner parties, you would see a variety of people speaking a variety of languages, with a great international mix of food. Most everyone at this dinner would have experience of living overseas and we consider it the spice of life. Being with mixed cultures and races is our happy place.
What we don't do well is live in a place or work in a situation where there is one culture that dominates all decisions regarding how life is lived. Those of us returning to London or New York might slip back in and just attract others who have lived overseas or originally derive from another nation. Level fours who return home to a single culture do not fare as well. We start becoming homesick for an international accent or even an awkward (to the locals) point of view. Friends and family begin to worry about us. We are not really coming home. Bodies present. Mind elsewhere.
So, what can you do?
What can you if are living in a multicultural environment and you are heading back or heading to a mono-cultural community? Number One priority is to pray. Ask Father God, the Creator King who made all people to give you a friend or two. He doesn't waste an experience and He isn't going to waste your time overseas. Make this time count. You will lose if you consider time home in a mono-culture as just biding time until you head overseas again you will miss what God has for you to learn in this time. Journal the struggle. And then consider how you can draw even a small Level Four dinner Party together right where you are.
I am living in a fairly mono-culture at the moment. It isn't always easy to live as a lone American in a very English section of the world. It is beautiful and I have a wonderful church and am blessed with friends. When I get tired of adapting, the signs are obvious. I go slightly over the top in celebrating American holidays. I skype my American friends daily. All good self care, but the best solution for me is to get on the train and head to London. That city is like oxygen to me!
And then I come back to my beautiful part of the world and know that I've made the inside of my home a place that both of us, my English husband and I, his American wife, enjoy. Home needs to reflect the heart.