Thursday, October 4, 2012

Month 6 - the honeymoon is over

It's been awhile since my last update and I'm sad to say, reality has set in. The honeymoon is over. It has been for awhile and it didn't last for anywhere near as long as I was hoping. And no, I'm not referring to my marriage...

Fellow expats worldwide will know what I'm referring to - the honeymoon phase, the frustration phase, the rejection phase, the understanding phase and finally, acclimation. Yep, the good old phases of integration into life as a foreigner in your new country.

Prior to moving to the USA, I had thought the whole experience would be pretty straightforward. We've previously only ever lived overseas in France & the Netherlands; non English speaking countries - surely living in a country where I can speak my native language is going to make this our easiest transition yet, right?

Wrong.

... people don't always understand my accent.

... it may technically be the same language, but American English seems pretty foreign to me a lot of the time.

... things can sometimes be too easy; sometimes a little stress is good for me keeping me distracted.

Looking back, I can see how naive my views were. Simply speaking the same language (or some similar version thereof) does not equal the same culture. That being said though... Life in California is quite familiar. It's definitely different to all our other experiences, but it's the place that is most similar to Brisbane. I think this is partly why I have found the move the most difficult. I can see so many similarities that make me feel homesick. Living in Europe however - life was SO dramatically different, I was so overwhelmed with all the differences that I didn't have time to think about what I was missing out on (well, except the Vegemite, Milo & Tim Tams of course!).

When we moved to Europe, it was crazy busy. Trying to learn a new language while setting up the day to day things - bank accounts, buying a car, taking out insurances, finding a rental property etc - was nuts. Seriously. We had to either try out our limited new language skills (which really at that point, didn't extend beyond hello, thank you and where's the toilet) OR rely on other people speaking English, which is much easier in Holland then France, and it got pretty stressful at times. We had a million phone calls to make and that just complicates things even further - it's much easier to communicate with someone in person when you don't share the same native language.

When we moved to the states, things were easy. Yes, we were super busy, but being able to speak English without a second thought was bliss, despite not always being understood. Doing all these mundane tasks was no longer such a challenge and I quickly came to realise that a little part of me thrives off stress. It distracts me from feeling homesick. As frustrating as the language barrier could be in Europe, I actually think that it kept me so busy that I didn't have time to sit back and wallow in any feelings of homesickness. I'm someone that loves a challenge and by the time Mitch started work here, we were all set up. We had a car. We had a house. We had a bank account and all our insurances. We had a church. I had a mothers group. I had a playgroup. I had a park to visit regularly. I had my local grocery store, shopping centres & libraries all figured out. And yet, I was still struggling on a daily basis with discontent.

Almost 7 months into our move, and I still struggle with feelings of discontent but my mood and general attitude to living here has greatly improved. Things came to a head during one particularly homesick week early in the summer when I was really questioning our decision to move somewhere new, rather then going back to the familiar. Kind words from a fellow Mum who lives away from her family made me realise that I don't have to feel weak for feeling homesick, and meeting a new friend who I instantly knew would be a friend for life really helped me move forward. Moving to California has been easy when it comes to the practical things. Not everything went smoothly (remembering our visas and the delay upon delay of our shipments) but really, it wasn't difficult. Emotionally however...

I didn't expect to miss Holland as much as what I do. It really is a special place for both Mitch and I - not just because I am half Dutch, but because our precious son was born there. Our little town became home, we made some awesome friends (who I miss dearly - you guys know who you are!) and everything became familiar. Well, almost everything... There were still some elements of culture shock happening regularly! I also didn't expect to miss my family and friends back in Australia as much as what I do. Since 2007, I've only spent 2 years in Australia so when you think about it, we've had a lot of time away - and I thought that missing people was meant to become easier with time, not harder! Having Oliver has definitely played a part in this. Yes, I did miss my family before he was born, but I miss them even more so now, especially as I struggle with mothers guilt that my son isn't growing up surrounded by his extended family. Skype is a wonderful thing though - our boy already recognises his grandparents and gets super excited to chat to them!

I'm taking life as it comes at the moment. California has definitely worked its way into my heart. We have truly been blessed when it comes to meeting people - this blog post would take all day to read if I sat here and typed out all the random ways these new friends have come into my life, but I know that if for some unknown reason I had to pack up and leave tomorrow, I wouldn't be a happy camper.

It's only early days yet (I mean, we haven't even been here a year!) and my feelings do seem to go in circles, but I do love it here. The weather, the people, the lifestyle... I think if I could just transplant my family and international friends over here, I'd be set...


I feel like I've learnt a lot these past 6 months. I'm growing each day and learning new skills & coping mechanisms as a mother and as an expat. I've definitely come to realise that feeling homesick does not make me weak, nor does admitting it and I am not alone. This is an area full of transplants like us and everyone is in the same boat. Whether your family is a 5 hour flight away or a 15 hour flight away, we are still in the same situation.

I wonder how I'll be feeling in another 6 months? Only time will tell. In the meantime, I'm going to sit back, enjoy the sunshine, do some travel, get to know our friends better and live life to the fullest as a family of 3 in one of the most beautiful parts of America :-)

4 comments:

  1. Oh yes, mama, I get it! I haven't moved nearly as often as you, but transition is tough, and culture shock is very very real! It sounds like you've been able to look at the positives, and have a very balanced view on your adjustment process. I really admire you!! xoxo

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  2. We miss you too Lu! Sending lots of love your way. Let's skype soon!
    We had an eventful afternoon with a snake visiting our backyard when a friend and her children were over! Tell you all about it when we chat!
    Lots of love, Martine

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  3. I can imagine missing the country that your precious little boy was born in. I moved about half an hour away when my first baby was about 4 months old and that was hard enough. It's good to know you're settled in, even if the lack of things to stress you out freaks you out a bit.

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  4. @Andrea - I don't think it gets easier with each move either, maybe practically but not emotionally. It's hard work huh! I can't imagine what moving to a non westernised country would be like, now that would be culture shock and half!

    @Martine - Eeek! Ok, maybe I miss Australia a little less now with the thought of a snake in the city ;) Talk to you soon!

    @Karlee - I think any change from what you are used to is hard, if you've always had your parents right on hand, half an hour would seem like a long way when you have to get babies in carseats I reckon!

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Thanks for reading, your comments make my day :-)

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