The 3-month period

If you have ever attended any culture shock/ live abroad orientation you’ve heard about the “3-month period” or  “the U curve.” This is the time when the honeymoon is over, and you become hostile to the new environment. What was fun before, is now painful, and it almost feels unbearable. That’s when people question their decision to live abroad, when they dislike almost every aspect of it and become reluctant to any kind of assimilation. This is the time they miss their comfort zone the most.

The “3 month period” is a thing. There is nothing more exciting than the arrival. When everything is exciting, amazing, beautiful, exotic… That’s why nothing bothers you: everything is new! But when the fun give space to the routine, everything starts to become annoying and you want to get back to the place you feel most comfortable.

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There is nothing wrong with fully experiencing this phase. It is part of the process. But that’s not the moment of giving up, that’s when you have to take a deep breath and say to yourself “I am here because I want to be” and try your best to see the bright side of it. Nobody said living abroad is easy, so that’s the time to remember that. Remember that:

  • This will be the hardest time – living abroad is hard, and the moment when you hit the bottom of your ‘adaptation period’ it gets much much harder, but once is gone you will be ready to experience the new country at its fullest.
  • You are not weak for “having a hard time”
  • You will miss things about home you’ve never thought you would (like the tiny little things)
  • It is normal! SUPER normal!
  • It will pass…

This time can last 5 hours, 5 days, or 5 months. It depends on each person, how long it will be their experience abroad, what they are doing, how ‘easy’ is the country, and etc. Some people are lucky enough to have a short “what am I doing here period,” other experience it for a long long time. I experienced both – very short moments, and very long process of adaptation that almost made me give up, but I didn’t (and I don’t regret it). Here are a few tips to get pass this phase and adjust:

  • Remember that the ‘feelings’ of anger, sadness, disappointment are temporary
  • Don’t second guess your decision to move
  • Avoid making any generalization about the culture during this time, you don’t want to lose friends and opportunities in the process
  • Take a weekend to visit a new city/area by yourself – explore!
  • Make a list in the things you actually enjoy about the country (it can be a little thing like ‘cheaper ice cream’ or something larger like ‘having my own apartment’)
  • Eat some “what-is-normal-to-you” kind of food
  • Spoil yourself with a nice hotel, a nice dinner, or a new jacket (whatever makes you happier).
  • Remember why are you doing this, remember why you chose to move abroad in the first place, keep that in mind
  • Get off social media!

Assimilation is always a challenge, and this will be the moment of remembering why you are doing this. A lot can be different, and “weird,” and make you upset, annoyed or angry. But you will need to get over it – sooner or later – you are the foreigner, so respect the local culture and habits, and learn what you can with it.  There is always room for learning, never forget that 😉

After this phase is gone, you will adjust and everything will feel normal (and it feels great when it happens!).

This is the joy of exploring and living in a new country. You will have the time and the possibility to explore every detail of the new culture, you might agree or disagree with them, but you will have to respect and assimilate. Remember: focus on the bright side to pass through the hard times, and in the end it will be worth it 🙂

Don’t wait until you move somewhere else to realize the beauties of a certain place. Don’t wait until the experience is over to realize how awesome it was…

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