Tips to cope with the cycle of change


In our previous blog you could learn about the cycle of change, which describes the emotional rollercoaster of an expat’s journey to adaptation to living abroad. Even though the manifestation of the different phases will differ per person, almost everyone who moves to another country will encounter every one of these stages.

But what to do with this knowledge? First of all: knowing that these changes and feelings will occur when you move to a different country is the first step. But how can you still make the most of your first year(s) and take good care of yourself during this rocky time?

- Think about what makes you happy. What kind of hobbies did you have back home? What is your usual pick-me-up when you feel down? Try to think of five activities that bring you joy and make a plan on how to do them in your new environment. In some cases you need to be creative, because your past hobbies might not be easily accessible in your new environment.  But keep in mind: doing things you love, even in times of sorrow, will lighten up your overall mood.

-  Make sure your days remain structured: get up early and make sure you have a combination of fun, meaningful and useful activities to do during the day. If you are a joining partner and not have to work it might feel like a vacation, but this is not a holiday – it’s your life.

-   Engage in new activities. Now that you are in a new environment, you can also think of skills that you always wanted to learn (such as language) or take on new hobbies (yoga, cooking class, creative course). Sometimes, being in a new place also gives you more time because you don’t have the same obligations to friends and family. Using this time for your own personal development can give you a great sense of accomplishment.

-  Find out how you can meet new people, maybe even looking for people who are in the same boat. Make sure you surround yourself with positive people: complaining might feel good for an hour, but meeting people with a positive energy will be more likely to pick up your spirits as well.

-   Even if you and your partner are not on the same page, make sure you have an open and honest communication about how you are feeling. Even more so because being a working expat and joining spouse can create tension in a relationship, it is very important that you keep each other informed about the stage you’re in and what he/she can do to support you.


If you feel you could use some professional help to cope with adjusting to living abroad, please contact us so that we can help you get proper treatment:



Cycle of change

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Living abroad has many different charms and challenges. Being confronted with a new culture, new people and possibly new languages can both be exciting and overwhelming. No matter how near or far you have moved away from your previous home, you will most likely notice a difference between your old and your new life.

Some people find it easy to adjust to their new environment, whereas others struggle with adjusting and finding a sense of home. Some expats face problems related to moving, such as homesickness and finding new meaningful daily activities. Other expats are confronted with problems they have had for a long time, such as dealing with depression, anxiety or self-esteem issues.

Even though everyone handles the adjustment to a new country in their own ways, there is a cycle of change that almost all expats go through before really settling in and feeling grounded. According to the U-Curve Theory of Adjustment (Lysgaard, 1955) all expats go through four stages of adjustment:

1. Honeymoon
The first stage is the honeymoon phase, where expats see their new country through rose-tinted glasses. The mindset they adopt is like that of a tourist: everything is new and exciting and people are keen to explore their new environment. 

2. Culture shock
When the newcomers have to deal with real conditions on a daily basis (setting up house, possibly finding a job, building a social network, language problems), the second stage kicks in: culture shock. This stage is characterized by feelings of isolation and frustration and can also trigger physical (stress) symptoms. In some cases, the feelings expats experience are similar to symptoms of depression.

3. Adjustment
The third stage is the adjustment stage, in which the expat is gradually adapting to the new country and is able to act more appropriately. For some people during this stage there is a tendency to ‘compare to complain’: while settling in there is a constant tendency to compare the new environment to the life they had before.

4. Mastery
In the last stage, which is called the stage of mastery, the expat is able to function effectively in the new culture.

The duration of the cycles most expats go through differ greatly from person to person. The average time to adjust to a new culture (and go through all of the stages) is thought to be around nine months. It is very common for the joining spouse to experience more difficulties in adjusting than the working expat, since the working expat is more likely to be engaged in work while the spouse has to deal with more of the daily troubles of running a household.

Want to learn how to cope with this cycle of change? Read our next blog!





On my way to work, which is a 15-minute bike ride, I’m confronted with a non-stop flow of images, sounds and impressions. Traffic lights, cars, parents on cargo bikes hurrying to drop their kids off to school. Nonetheless, every morning I manage to make it to work without even consciously noticing all those things. Instead, my mind takes me to places that are completely irrelevant at the time: a conversation I had with a friend last week, phone calls that I need to make, a recipe that I want to try soon…

By the time I get to work, my mind has been filled with a number of irrelevant thoughts, worries and images. And on top of that, I had to juggle traffic in order to get to work safely and on time. It’s no wonder that, even though my day has just begun, I feel a level of stress as if I have been working, running and talking simultaneously for 24 hours straight.

Can you relate? You’re not alone. Many people struggle with this phenomenon, where they are engaged in an activity, but their minds wander off to completely different places. A lot of the times, we are not even aware of what we are thinking: our minds just race from one place to the next, one image after another, one worry at a time. This process of not being aware of the present and not being connected to what you do, feel and think can be stopped by a very helpful skill: mindfulness.

Mindfulness means: to be completely aware of your current experience. To be mindful means to be able to focus on the present and open to whatever is there at that moment. By improving your mindfulness skills, you will notice signs of stress earlier and you will be better able to deal with negative thought patterns. There is a higher level of awareness and you can better guard your boundaries. With mindfulness you live more intensely and consciously.

Mindfulness teaches you how to focus on the present and therefore experience less distress from negative thoughts and emotions. It has proven to be effective for people with a wide range of psychological problems and can generally help to improve the quality of life. As Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of the mindfulness training, has said:


“You can't stop the waves, but you can learn to surf”


Are you interested in seeing what mindfulness can do for you? Please contact us at or 085-0660500 to get more information on our 8-week mindfulness course starting March 5 2019.