I have had this post in my mind for a while but didn’t know where to start. I want to talk about immigration from the emotional and personal point of view. Yet I want to stay away from complaining. Hard one, but I’ll try.
Why do people move? For many reasons. Some think that the grass is greener on the other side, some find the dream job or simply fall in love. Reasons can be different, but the result is the same: moving to another country is stressful. Even for those who call themselves ‘citizens of the world’, even for those who have experienced different cultures and travelled the world. I was one of them, the fearless traveller who thought that the moving was an organic and logical next step.
Moving to another country is emotionally difficult. Full stop.
Funny thing, I have never properly thought about it until last spring, when I moved to another country (already from another country). I had some harsh times in Germany but thought it was just something personal, some inner worries and troubles. Then the same happened in Scotland and only then I started talking to my ex-pat friends and found out a surprising, almost identical pattern. Almost everyone told me that they were crying once in a while, feeling helpless and sometimes emotionally collapsing in the most awkward situations. Everybody, of course, was playing cool, nobody wanted to share the fears and admit the defeat. Me personally, when I moved to Germany, I silenced myself down to the deepest darkest depression. Even though I was social, I was afraid to talk about the fears. I took a number of massively wrong, bad decisions. I felt constantly lost and had no idea what was it that was going so badly wrong. All the bloody time.
And only after moving to the U.K. and opening up more I realised that first of all the immigration traumatised me, and secondly I was not the only one.
When I tried a little bit to explain to visiting friends what was it that made me feel so uncomfortable in Berlin, they would just shake their head and tell me that I was making up problems. They were visiting, they were on a constant happy carousel with unicorns and butterflies. Travelling to the place and living there is not the same. Seems obvious, right? But you can only properly experience it when you actually move. I can say now that Berlin is not my place. I badly wanted it to be, I definitely had great times there, it polished my personality in a great way but it never was my place. I had warning signs all the time, I wanted to move elsewhere but then I pushed myself to stay.
So what is it that makes immigration so mentally exhausting? Language? Not so much, you kind of expect it when you move to another country. The so-called mentality differences? Yes, much more than I expected but the realisation of it comes much later. The hardest part is the little things. Details. Daily basic things that you have no idea how to deal with and this you don’t notice when visiting.
It’s not knowing how the transportation system works, where to buy the tickets, what is the fine if you don’t have one and how much is the taxi (and do you have to order it or can you find one on the street?). Not knowing how the bureaucratic machine works. How to make an appointment at the doctor? How does it work? How to sign up for the gym and how to cancel your contract. Where does your package arrive if you’re not at home? How to pay your electricity bill? To tip or not to tip in a bar? Card or cash? Insurance? Where to print a pile of documents? Where to buy a sewing thread? How to weight veggies in the supermarket? Can you cycle on the pavement or shall you be on the road? Can you sit on the grass? When do the shops close? …
I mean, those are just a few random examples, but the fact is: you can not google daily life. You can not google new habits. You can not predict people’s reactions, sense of humour (or its absence). Yes, of course, bit by bit you get used to everything, you learn things, you get assimilated. But it takes time.
I have no regrets, all these weird new things made me stronger, made me a better me. Now I am going through another immigration acclimatisation but the second time it is much easier. And now I am not on my own and I get a massive support at home. But it is still different. It is now different from the previous different. And all the same questions are raising again. And the learning continues every day.
I personally think that people should move more, should experience more, engage with ‘different’ more. These experiences create a very open-minded character, prepare you to always expect the unexpected. If you want to move to another country but you have fears, I can tell you that most certainly most of them are true. But don’t let the fears to stop you from the experiences! Being foreigner is hard, being an immigrant is challenging and it takes time to accustom to the new life. But if you really want it, do it. The grass might not be greener, there is no such thing as a perfect place, there’s always something you would love to change. But if you feel like trying, do it!
Best of luck!
xx, love, Liza