Arrival within a new country: Strategies to face the unknown and stay ZEN

Arriving in a new working and living environment is not always easy, especially if you do not fluently speak the language: A new country, a different environment, new customs and people. Altogether this might cause uncertainty and give us the feeling to being lost after the initial excitement of being in a new place has waned off. Far away from our familiar surroundings we suddenly feel clumsy, helpless, not fitting and our morale goes down. Many aspects of life are either unknown, surprising, or just different from usual. We would like to actively participate and integrate to our new work and living environment. Nevertheless, we feel there is a kind of blockage and don’t not know how to tackle it. Even simple things become an insurmountable challenge to us as attests Lucian Visan, a Romanian/Canadian who relocated from Toronto to France.

Lucian: “When I arrived in Lyon I wanted to go the farmers’ market because this is what you do in France. And I also like cooking and buying fresh vegetables and fruits. So I went, but I do not know exactly why, something stopped me and deter me to go there again. I did not really know which merchant to buy from; I could not make my choice and there was no way I could ask help from the farmer. My lack of French was indeed a huge barrier. When I heard about ZenExpat’ I asked Julia Noyel, if she could help me out and she kindly did. It was a fun and pleasant experience to go to the market with her. She explained me how she chose her vegetables and fruits; she showed me her favorite farmers and how to spot the real farmer from the ones who just buy produce and then resell for a quicker profit”
Julia Noyel: “I was not surprised when Lucian contacted me and asked me if I could help him with the farmer’s market. It is inevitable when arriving to a new country to face unfamiliar situations. We regularly have requests from expats who are not used to French habits. Our role is to help them to feel comfortable within the new environment. What the expat perceived as an exotic life at the beginning might now induce a kind of fear and withdrawal, which is quite a common phenomenon interfering even when it comes to daily things like going to the market. I was very happy to introduce Lucian to some French customs and also gave me the opportunity to learn a lot about his culture. ”
Sometimes we are afraid of a new environment or situation and do not really know why. If we do not try to get out of it, the fear can lead to us to a very restricted lifestyle, devoid of the various essences in life. Not confronting this fear can lead to a feeling of dissatisfaction and stress.

Some strategies you can use to help overcome your fear while expatriation:

1.     Identify what creates the fear: have you already been in a similar situation?
2.     Imagine the worth that could happen by facing a particular situation (going to the boulanger or engaging the local people, etc.)
3.     Accept the fear
4.     Do not hesitate to ask colleagues or seek professional help
5.     Face it by setting small objectives (for example: go to market and talk to one farmer, eat out, etc. )
Lucian: “I was very happy to share this moment with Julia at the farmer’s market. In my opinion, although avoidance of situations like this is not that critical to an individual, it will clearly prevent him/her to swiftly adapt to the new surroundings and enjoy a full life. Going to the market with Julia, allowed me first of all to recognize my fear and non-comfort zone and to finally turn the unfamiliar into familiar.
© ZenExpat’ Julia Noyel, Crédits photos: Julia Noyel, © Mimi PotterFotolia; Lucian Visan

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