The 3 Month Slump
So you’ve made the leap and moved abroad. You’ve got the dream job, relationship or placement that you’ve been working so hard for and everything is fantastic.
But all of a sudden you have this strange feeling that won’t budge. You like living abroad and making great memories but everything is so difficult and draining. It’s a story I’ve heard over and over again from almost every expat I know (myself included).
About 3 months into your new life abroad, a slump occurs. The dream of living abroad on a full time holiday has well and truly worn off, and you are left flustered, struggling to ask for bread in the supermarket. This is the point where everything feels difficult. You have put in so much effort to adapt to the local way of life and learn the language and it feels like you have gotten nowhere.
At this point you’ve tried all the new foods in the supermarket and seen most of the local bars. You have no idea what that woman is shouting at you for, you can’t find your favourite chocolate in the supermarket and why do I feel like random people keep telling me off!!????
You may have experienced this slump first hand, recognise it happening to friends or you may still have it all to come. The truth is, the slump is just the strong grip of reality, dragging you back to earth. You are not on holiday. You are not abroad to wander around and enjoy yourself. You are there for a purpose and this reality is just sinking in.
The slump that is now hitting you in the face is the pain of personal growth. It may not make sense until you have lived through those feelings of unfamiliarity and not belonging that come with being ‘foreign’. This is the key point in your new life where you are gaining the skills that will stay with you forever. This is the beginning of true cultural understanding. You now know how difficult it is to adapt to a new place where you don’t naturally belong which will give you a lasting sense of empathy when you encounter others struggling with their language skills or looking confused in a supermarket.
The good new is, it doesn’t last. Soon you will begin to thrive in your new environment, but until then there’s plenty you can do to make yourself feel better about your new home.
The first thing is giving yourself some credit. Remember where you were on your first day and where you are now. You’ve figured out how to get the right ticket for public transport, you got your new apartment all set up, you figured out how to order food or what the city looks like on a map or you made new friends and they may even have invited you out with them. You’re doing great and you got this.
It may take a few weeks or even months for those feelings to fade so speak to your friends and family back home, dig into that stash of home snacks you’ve been holding onto and watch your favourite film in your native language.
You are not expected to adapt to your new life overnight. Take on each challenge as it comes and give yourself time. Moving abroad is a big change but you definitely are capable.