Here you have 3 tips from my own experience as a relocation manager, dealing with numerous clients from many different countries and cultures, for how to manage your expectations.
1. DON’T TRUST THE MOVIES
Whether it’s from movies, books or TV, I feel like the image of “moving abroad” has become so idealized and misconstrued in the media that it’s not relevant to the actual experience at all. Don’t let glamorized half-truths and idealized travel experiences make you think it is all going to be a smooth sailing. It is hard. It is challenging. You don’t always find what you are looking for. You don’t understand the language. And the cultural gap between you and Frankfurt feels like an immense abysm you are constantly trying not to fall into. Well, this is all part of the adventure and it is important that you face it from the beginning!
2. DON’T MAKE ASSUMPTIONS
Now that you know all that glitters is not gold… the next step is to do your homework, research, talk to people who live or have lived in the country and get as much information as you can. Information is power and this will allow you to prevent certain unpleasant situations or to be prepared for what may happen. One of the biggest mistakes I see amongst my clients is that they expect things in Frankfurt to be like in their home countries: “Wait, what?! School is over at 11:30am? What do I do with my child in the afternoons?”, “Where are the built-in closets in this apartment? I don’t have any furniture!”, “Nobody speaks to me in English at the official administrations, I thought Germans speak English…”
Assumptions are dangerous and often lead to disappointments so use social media, networking opportunities, friends and colleagues to find out information about your soon-to-be new city.
3. USE SHOCK ABSORBERS
There are multiple sources that talk about the “stages of cultural adjustment”, starting with the honeymoon phase up to the cultural adaptation through the hostile shocking phase in between. It is normal to feel overwhelmed and frustrated at times. This is all part of the cultural learning process! However, throughout the almost two decades I have been living abroad, I have developed 2 “shock absorbers” that allow me to overcome difficult situations much better.
On the one hand, it is all about staying connected to “your people”. Yes, I am not saying you should keep thinking about your home and how the grass was greener there, not at all, but it is part of the process to share your experiences with the people back home, to tell them how you feel and to make them be part of it too. On the other hand, you need to seek out various sources of support in your new city. Of course, you can get support by hiring babysitters and cleaning assistance but not only that. There are also many different ways to make friends who share your interests, find activities with your children and use networking opportunities within the international community.