Becoming an expat is a decision most people will have spent a lot of time considering and you may or may not be expecting opposition to that move. Moving is listed as one of the top three stressors in life (along with divorce and death of a partner) and moving abroad only adds more weight to that title. What you need most is support and possibly assistance from those around you. Many of you will receive the opposite.
Types of opposition
Most opposition originates from three causes: envy, worry and anger. Many people will envy your bravery and ability to organize your life and finances in such a way that you can have this experience, others will be worried about your safety, your relationship with them or about you staying longer than originally planned-or never coming home. Those who are angry about the move will consider your decision a form of betrayal of your family or your nation.
They will criticize your decision-making, the host country, and/or the company or partner you will be joining. They are trying to make the decision look less interesting or hostile so you have second thoughts.
- Scare You:
They will highlight anything they can think of that will potentially go wrong: what if you lose this job? What if the relationship breaks down? What if you get seriously ill? Some of the what if’s they come up with may sound silly to you, but they are real worries to the others.
- Talk you out of it:
They will offer you an ‘out’ such as ‘you can still change your mind.’ These people are trying to sound helpful while registering their unhappiness at your move.
- Isolate You:
They will attempt to isolate you or display disapproval by not seeing you off at the airport. This rejection is a punishment designed to make you want to return in order to be accepted by them again.
- Show Strong Emotions:They will argue and show real hurt. Some, especially older relatives, might find your move incomprehensible, a betrayal even, especially if the country you’re moving to was once an enemy of your home country. It’s hard for them to let go of the intense emotions they felt about that country at one time.
How to deal with opposition
Begin by looking at your decision from their point of view. What is motivating them to say and do these things? Many people won’t want to acknowledge the buttons your decision is pressing in them, others will happily discuss them. Understanding the reasons for their behavior will help you frame your response.
- Don’t Obsess About It:
Don’t spend all your time talking about your upcoming move. Stay involved in the lives of those around you. Plan days for just you and whoever needs one to one time.
- Organize Your Time:
Set aside time when others aren’t around for your time consuming, move-focused tasks.
- Don’t Add To Worries:
Be careful with whom you share your anxieties. The worriers, the envious and the angry will only have fuel for their arguments if they discover your worries. Share these with the person you’re moving with, or look for online sites that can help with your questions, offering information and support, such as Expatify.
- Plan Communication:
Set up a Skype account, or find the nearest internet access point and show the worriers how to use it. Make a card with new phone numbers, email addresses, house address and an emergency contact number if possible. Promise regular contact, but don’t schedule it in too frequently or too specifically or the worriers will be distraught if the schedule becomes too difficult to cope with once you move.
- Don’t Pacify:
Don’t be tempted to talk down the experience to the envious people in an attempt to make them less envious. Be direct, let them know you’re excited, but leave it at that. Have conversations about other subjects as well. Show them know their world is interesting by asking about their lives and stay up to date with their news even when you feel distracted by the move.
- Help Educate Them:
The angry people may benefit from gentle re-education through movies, the internet, or foreign nationals. This might help these people understand that times have changed, politics have changed, and the people are ok. If re-education doesn’t work, reassure them of your loyalty to family and country; show them you are packing a flag or other symbols of home to display.
- Share Your Life Abroad:
Start a blog and encourage your friends and relatives to do the same. Leave well thought-out comments so they know you remain interested in their lives.
Once you have moved staying in regular contact with people back home will help everyone to feel reassured that you haven’t moved on, that you are happy and healthy and that you have ups and downs but that you are overall enjoying your experience.