Today I’m offering my newspaper column’s entry for the week. It is something that any expat can probably relate to. If you’re an expat and you agree or disagree, let me know. I enjoy hearing your thoughts more than you probably know.
Vantage Points: Teaching Abroad
Normalcy is defined by freedictionary.com as “being within certain limits that define normal functioning.” So, in terms of living our lives, normalcy is what we’re used to. Our routines, our home, our friends, and so forth, all contribute to our sense of having a nice, normal life. And all that is quite definitely abandoned when you move overseas. How long does it take to achieve normalcy when you move to a new country? Well, you go through a few marked stages before any kind of new normal can be established. Experts say you go through a state of euphoria when you first arrive in the new place. That’s when most everything is lovely and you’re all excited about being in a new country, a new culture, and having new experiences. Then you swing to the other extreme, and basically hate everything about the new place. Everything that isn’t like it is at home drives you mad. Then, finally, you end up back in the middle, more or less, and living in this foreign country becomes normal. Based on my own time here in the UAE, I’d say that’s entirely correct. I went through each of those stages. And now I’m more or less back to feeling normal. I recognize that this country is vastly different from home, but generally I feel comfortable. The other night I was hanging out with a friend who has traveled extensively. He and his wife taught English in Japan and Korea before coming here. Anyway, he commented that it takes about 3 or 4 months to get financially comfortable in a new country. He’s completely right. The first month is consumed by running about doing paperwork and errands concerned with residency. The next month is more or less burned up with adjusting to everything else, making sure your apartment is furnished, and all that sort of thing; the third month, finally, is when you might just be able to put some money back into savings. That’s when things start to balance out. That’s when you start to have some expendable income for a change, and when you can think about things that make life more normal—getting a used car, purchasing a guitar, whatever. I’ll tell you what: I never really appreciated how nice it is to just have things good and normal until I left my own country to come here. And now that I’ve adjusted to life here, I’m glad to have normalcy return.