The emotions of emigrating

Moving to a new country and coming face to face with new ways of doing things can be challenging for many people and their families.

Some people settle in quickly and adapt fairly easily. For others, getting used to a new way of life may take some time.

Settling into a new country, a new way of life, is an experience which can be exciting, frustrating, terrifying, fulfilling and extremely happy. There are times when it will seem to be all those things almost all at the same time. It is at this time, this stage of establishing your new life, that it is very important to understand what is happening to you and that it is all part of a natural process of adjustment.

The process of moving to a new country will inevitably bring with it new sounds, smells, vocabulary and a change to your daily rhythm. At first it is all part of the exciting newness of your surroundings and then it seems as if someone has thrown a switch and what was intriguing and fun suddenly becomes anything but. Relax! You’ve simply moved on to the next phase of settling into your new life.

Settling in is a process and it is not necessarily tied to getting all your stuff unpacked and making your house feel like home. The process will in all likelihood follow a well-established pattern and understanding how it works is important to maintaining a positive frame of mind.

Most people when they settle in a new country go through six distinct stages. This is what is known as the Settlement Curve:

Forethought: This is a positive time as you plan the move to New Zealand. It is important though to have realistic expectations about your new home country.

Fun: The excitement of new people and new places means those who arrive feel very positively about their new home. In many articles this is referred to as the ‘honeymoon’ phase.

Fright: At some point, something will happen. It might be a big thing or a small thing, but it will make you feel frustrated and/or unhappy. This is also referred to as the ‘honeymoon is over’ or the ‘rejection’ phase. Suddenly it seems as if all the people, who have been so helpful so far, have just moved on and no longer understand your problem. Welcome to the next phase.

Flight: If something happens and newcomers don’t have a network of friends or family to call on, they may look at moving on or returning to their country of origin at this point. Time to take out your ‘wish list’ and remind yourself of all the expectations and dreams that were fulfilled by moving to New Zealand. Don’t withdraw! Continue to experience the new culture. Travel within the country, and visit cultural events and locations, such as museums or historic sites. Build new friendships and associate with positive people. Keep active, eat well and get plenty of sleep.

Fight: This is the turning point, when people become realistic about what it’s like to live here and consciously decide to stay and make their life here. This has also been called the ‘recovery phase’ when things start to become more comfortable, you have become more comfortable and the very things, which a short while ago were unsettling, now are just a part of life.

Fit: By this stage, the challenges are more about the usual things that people think about every day, not about being in a new country. People have decided to stay and contribute and this leads to a sense of ‘fit’ .This means they believe they have made the right decision and New Zealand is where they want to be.

Almost every person who arrives in New Zealand goes through this ‘curve’ of emotions over their first 18 months to two years.

It is important that you, and your employer, understand this process and that it is perfectly normal. It is important too that you feel you have support and that you can ask your local Settlement Support New Zealand contact about anything you need to know to help you settle into your local area.