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The emotional yo-yo of expatriation

Have you ever heard about the expatriation’s emotional U curve? It deals with 4 phases an expatriate goes through, from the honey moon period to finally getting integrated (eventually).

Emotional yoyo - CrossRoads Intelligence

1. The Honey moon

What is it?

It feels like holidays! You are relaxed and you discover all the treasures you new environment has to offer. Differences amuse you. You are still a tourist in your host country.

The problem?

It is hard lo live a honey moon if you didn’t want to move abroad or to this specific country! You think you had no choice or you cannot get along with several elements in the host country.

What to do?

Get prepared before the departure. When you plan to go on vacation, you read guide books and/or surf the internet to identity which places you will visit, activities you will do, money you will have to use… You may even talk to people who went there. Why should it be different with expatriation matters? Discuss with people who know the country well. Very few will refuse to offer their help and share their experiences.
If you think that you had no choice, question yourself about this no choice. This answer is often more complex that just the choice of a country as it implies work, personal development, family… Now that you are where you are, how could you balance the costs and the benefits?
Yes, you can live a honey moon as well! Have you ever thought or said « Wow, that’s cool / great! » since you are in your new country?


2. When everything feel wrong: the shock!

What is it?

The romance becomes your day-today life but you do not share the same routine. What made you laugh or get emotional is now getting to your nerves.

The problem?

You lose your landmarks; your former routine doesn’t work anymore and you may feel lost. Sadness, irritation or even anger may make you act and react in a way that surprises everyone around you including you and make you withdraw into yourself. What is dangerous is the feeling of loneliness and the actions it provokes may lock you in this phase of shock.

What to do?

Every single emotion is good to take. There is neither good nor bad emotions. Their purpose is to make you react and move on, survive. The behaviors you adopt and actions you take are the ones that may be constructive or destructive.
To step back, let’s play the bottle game (not literally!)

1. Draw a bottle and put in this bottle everything that irritates, stresses and worries you, from the most tinny thing to what kills you the most.

Once it is done, take a step back and circle the elements you have a total control on. Write down what it would bring to you not to suffer from them anymore. If the benefits to make it disappear are higher than the cost to live with them, build a plan and act concretely not to meet them again.

2. Some elements are still in the bottle waiting for your attention? Maybe you are not totally in control. They may depend from other persons. If you can’t make them disappear totally, work to diminish their negative impact on your life.

3. Change means effort. What if the stress you feel was somehow a good thing? Can’t you find something in this bottle that makes you move on?

Yoyos expatriation - CrossRoads Intelligence


3. Adaptation or when you start to breathe again

What is it?

You start to put things into perspective. You understand the codes now. A new routine is in place with new landmarks and new habits.

The problem?

The first 2 phases are emotional ones. You cannot control them. This third phase deals with a choice of yours: to deal with your new environment or not to deal with it. It means that YOU do choose to adapt your behaviors or not and have to deal with the consequences of this choice, may they be positive or negative.

Another problem would be to try to adapt what ever the cost could be and thus to lose your own identity in the process. This is called to over-adapt. An example could be a feisty person who tries not to get impulsive because here in Sweden, you have to control your emotions and keep quiet. As a result, this person could become a true time bomb.

What to do?

To adapt is a matter of choice as well as having an open state of mind
The new values you want or have to follow need to be aligned to the sentence « Know yourself » by Socrate.


4. The Grail: to feel integrated

What is it?

You feel at home in your new country and you are totally accepted in and by your new environment as an member of this country.

The problem?

To exist and feel integrated, you need to feel that you are someone in the eye of your counterparts, local or international ones. You need to belong to a community, which is not 100% under your control.

What to do?

1. What means « be integrated » to you?
2. Give the benefit of the doubt to the people you interact with. A Swede may answer you in English without meaning that you are not welcome in Sweden. He or she may try to recognize the fact that it is hard to interact in a foreign language and thus want to interact with an equal difficulty. Furthermore, he may not be a stranger in Sweden but he also needs to learn how to live in his environment that is changing.
3. Give you and them some time to process! Even in your own country you may need one or several generations before being totally adopted as a local in a new region.


This curve deals with emotions and, as a consequence, is not linear. It makes me think of an emotional yoyo which make you go in a back and forth motion from one phase to another several times a day.

If the game is exhausting, practice will allow you to execute figures more and more complex and let you become a virtuoso es expatriation.