My honeymoon is here to stay

Culture shock is the personal disorientation a person may feel when
experiencing an unfamiliar way of life due to immigration or a visit to a new
country, or to a move between social environments also a simple travel to
another type of life.
Honeymoon phase: During this period, the differences between the old and
new culture are seen in a romantic light. For example, in moving to a new
country, an individual might love the new food, the pace of life, and the
locals’ habits. During the first few weeks, most people are fascinated by the
new culture. They associate with nationals who speak their language, and who
are polite to the foreigners. This period is full of observations and new
discoveries. Like most honeymoon periods, this stage eventually ends.
I always saw the
honeymoon phase as a romantic, but not entirely realistic way to describe the first
stage of cross-cultural adjustment. Perhaps I was biased by my own experiences,
which rarely started with such a phase. Some of my friends who read last week’s
post commented on how positive I sound about Zurich, so soon after the move.
One of them, who has lived in Zurich for several years, felt compelled to bring
me down to earth: “This is just the honeymoon; wait until the winter comes.” He
proceeded by laying out the upcoming stages I could look forward to: “It will all
look positive the first few weeks, then you will sink into depression for at
least six months, and then you will start to feel better again.”
I beg to differ. I think
that this honeymoon is here to stay.
To begin with, I believe
that seeing things positively can be more a function of expectations vs. the
reality “on the ground,” rather than just a generic reaction rooted in human
psychology. My expectations – on how easily I would adjust or how much I would
like living here – were remarkably easy to exceed. I anticipated the
differences and the initial language barrier. I knew that it would take a while
to feel at home. Then things turned out better than I anticipated. Therefore, the honeymoon.
Another major factor,
for me, is attitude. I was not wild about the idea of moving, mostly because I was
nervous about uprooting my children for the first time. Once I made the decision,
however, I committed myself to make it work. I notice now what a difference
that commitment makes, because it was not there in my previous move and the
contrast is stark. I “married” this move; therefore, the honeymoon.
One’s stage in life also
matters. Because of where I am in my life right now, I have a clear idea of
what I want the basic parameters of that life to be and what I want for my family.
From my experiences so far, I know what homesickness feels like (it does not
get any better, but I know what to expect). I am more pragmatic. I don’t idealize. I am more appreciative. Therefore, the honeymoon.
It does not hurt that
the circumstances and general parameters of this transition are favourable. The
language barrier is relatively easy to overcome, not just because of the
language itself, but also because of the attitude of the people around us. The
cultural differences – at least with our previous place of residence – are
relatively mild. The culture here is still starkly different from my home
culture, but I am used to the contrast. If anything, I find elements here that
fit better with my personality. As for the winter, I have already been through
the weather shock more than once.
Finally, there is an
element of luck. We have had an exceptionally good beginning, but despite all
the favourable circumstances, things could still have gone wrong – they still
can, in fact. The schools could have not worked out; my children could have
felt unhappy, homesick, frustrated, lonely. That would have made for a very
different experience. So far, so good.

4 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    I believe that there is one more dimension to this. Your life stage plays a big element in the adaptation process. I dont think that you would have this feeling had you moved there straight from Greece or as a teenager. You would have been totally shocked at living out of the city. I am sure that I would have reacted much more positively to Zurich if I moved there now as opposed to when I was a newly wed fresh out of London.. AM not being a downer but I believe that you are at a time in your life where a nice lake, a garden give you satisfaction . For example: I lived in an 11sqm flat in Zurich and I was so happy that I didnt care. Now I think I will have a heart attack! I guess it is sign of age! Please keep the positiveness there as it makes everybody glow

    1. Absolutely – stage in life makes a huge difference!

  2. Way to go. Zurich is a great city. I had to leave this lovely place in order to appreciate all the lovely things about it. Attitude is key and a smile takes you a long way. Your new follower, Expat with Kids

  3. Thank you! And I totally agree about the smile 🙂

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