Just now, well into our second year of living in Dublin, I finally feel comfortable saying that life is going well. I won’t say, “better”. That’s not exactly why we moved.
Despite months of pre-emigration planning, and few (if any) language issues, it has taken a good fifteen months for us to juggle the details, bureaucracy, cultural differences, and our comfort zone to finally feel like life is on track. Looking back on it, I think ours was/is a pretty normal adjustment period. It was a shock, but I’m here to tell you that anyone who plans to move abroad should expect an adjustment period. Life is not going to be “better” right away.
Why People Emigrate
People emigrate for all kinds of reasons. Some choose to go, while others are forced into it. For those that are forced, by economic, political, religious, or cultural reasons, their fervent hope is that life will be better in their new home. Fleeing from tyranny and oppression, you hope that life will be better. And, ultimately, eventually, it may well be. But the hard truth is that it probably won’t be right away.
Of course, if you are running for your life, going somewhere where people aren’t trying to kill you, life is necessarily going to be a bit better. But if you’ve fled under duress, chances are you‘ve not had the time to gather paperwork, and life possessions that you might have liked. As a result, arrival in your new home, and the first few months, will likely be spent just ironing out the basics and starting over.
If you are lucky enough to move emigrate on a corporate transfer, or as a diplomat you may have the benefits of what is called an “expat package” in which many of your daily expenses (housing and transportation, etc.) are covered by your employer. But, even in this sheltered environment, there will still be challenges (new schools for the kids, spousal employment) that may keep you unbalanced for months or years.
I’m not saying this to warn against moving overseas. In fact, I think one of the greatest things we can do is to share our ways of living to a much greater extent. Maybe then we wouldn’t be scared shitless of the great unknown just across the border. I’m writing this to caution that immigration may make your life better, in a host of expected (and unexpected) ways, but it probably won’t be “better” right away. That said, there are some distinct advantages to life being “worse” for a while.
Advantages of Immigration
How often have you said, “If only I’d known then what I know now…”? Well, one of the miracles of immigration is that it offers the chance to start much of your life over in very concrete ways. Friends, career, hobbies, education, finances, advocacy, and health & wellness are just a few of the areas of your life that can be reevaluated and adjusted when moving abroad.
Since we moved to Ireland, Kalpana (my wife) and I have both made new friends, and picked up old hobbies (knitting and hiking), dabbled in long lusted after experiences (model boating, Irish language study), and reinvigorated dormant professional paths (writing for the stage and screen).
It has taken time and work for us to get to this point. But all of these things would likely have been much slower to happen (or might never have occurred) if we weren’t already restructuring our lives. Clearly, change breeds change in this regard.
If you are considering permanent, or semi-permanent, relocation overseas with the hope of a “better” life, know that while it may be better eventually, it probably won’t be right away. But you should do it anyway.
Things to look forward to in upcoming posts:
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