I’m Australian, so I don’t need Therapy …. or do I?

The Emotional Transition of moving to New York: AWNY Event Review by Kim Broughton

It had been one of those crazy New York days where your nerves are raw and I really needed to decompress so attending the AWNY event, ‘The Emotional Transition of moving to New York,’ was exactly what I needed. The group of 16 women gathered together to share experiences, offer support and listen.

I thought I understood all about the ‘expats life’, a situation fraught with joy and tears – but I discovered many other compassionate individuals have a unique perspective around the same experience.

The evening event was hosted by the warm and lovely Susie Lang, who facilitated the following discussion;

There is Loss – Definitive and Ambiguous

  • There are times when you need to acknowledge that you are feeling sad or lonely or a little homesick – but take comfort that you are not alone.
  • There is ambiguous loss, where you feel sadness, bereft though not necessarily homesick.
  • Moving causes loss and very real sense of grief
  • There is pain in leaving family, not seeing children grow up, missing significant events
  • On the upside: technology is in our favor
  • Understand that you have chosen your life…now live your life for yourself

The Transition – Cultural Shock

  1. Honeymoon/Euphoric Stage: WAHOO. The NYC buzz!
  2. Crisis Stage: you are caught between two cultures
  3. Gradual Adjustment Stage: find your way, get a job, kids go to school
  4. Adaptation Stage: Sense of belonging with increased confidence in new culture
  5. Re-entry Stage: the shock of returning to Australia – do I slot back in?
  6. Self-Shock: alone with yourself without the reassurance of familiar and validating network of family and friends – am I doing this right? While I find my way in NYC, people are asking “who are you?”  Now that’s confusing since my “mirror” is no longer available to me.

People Move on

  • In New York, everyone comes from somewhere else. It was true during the wave of immigration and remains true today.
  • At home…people are moving and changing. In New York, friends come and go. This creates instability…its hard to settle in.
  • People have tried to keep dual properties in Australia and US but it hasn’t really worked out.

America is not a foreign country”

  • We are primarily English-speaking nations, so it’s a shock to learn that moving to America can be a foreign experience complete with real feelings of culture shock.
  • There are many differences between America and Australia – and this simply needs acknowledgment.
  • Moving to New York is a Hero’s journey with high expectations for change, success and the ultimate triumphant homecoming.
  • But what if you don’t love New York city? What if you don’t have an Amazing time and really struggle?
  • There is an unspoken fear that if you return without the golden egg….that you’ve lost.
  • Be honest, there are bad days and we all have them. We are here for the journey of a lifetime.
  • This is a city of extremes and it’s not a great match for everyone. As one gentle soul commented; “America is great if you love stuff, but if you like security or don’t want to get shot, think twice before moving to New York”.

Where is home?

  • Once you have left it all behind to jump into the melting pot, you rediscover that you are not just simply Australian (or a Kiwi) but a World Citizen residing in a transitional city.
  • The choice; find your own way to settle in.
  • You find your home within yourself
  • There isn’t a definitive time-frame around the moving experience, understand the settling process is ongoing
  • There may always be moments where you experience the waves of emotion, those feelings of sadness and grief – good days and bad days may come and go
  • You can live here, work here for decades, get married, have children, buy a home and yet not feel at home.
  • Its part of the adventure of life and the journey of self
The Pros – I love New York The Cons – I hate New York
Everyone is best in field in their kind of work The job market is aggressively competitive
Those crazy unique ‘New York’ moments are priceless Apartment hunting is a nightmare
The buzz It’s dirty, crazy, and sometimes dangerous
Okay, the retail is Exceptional Its an expensive city
The beautiful holiday season Extreme weather
World Class opportunity It’s not home

 

What’s Next?

Reach out, phone a friend, contact your network, come to events hosted by AWNY – if only to hear a familiar accent and maybe make some new friends (everyone is in the same situation).

It is remarkably common in the expat community to seek professional help, so check your insurance details to see if therapy is covered in your insurance.

The real learning from the evening was:

Friends = Excellent

Family = Excellent

Network = Excellent

Therapy = Excellent

Wine = Excellent

Chocolate = In case of emergency only!

Check out this website for a bit of a read www.globiana.com  The Expatriate Connection – it has some heartwarming pointers that you may be able to connect with.