If you are living the expate life, you’ve all been there: Those friends you made for life just announced plans to move to yet another country or back home and, well, it has been terrific. Good bye.
Sure, there is always Facebook.
But, seriously. That hurts, more than a little.
Jerry Jones knows about the little hurts of the comings and goings in Expatland. (I’m not talking about the Jerry Jones of the 2-5 Dallas Cowboys. That is a whole other person and a whole other pain, if you are a Cowboy fan.)
Jones lived in China for seven years where he helped bewildered expats navigate the often perplexing culture. Now he does the same from the states. He is a culture transition coach.
On his blog, The Culture Blend, Jones has just written about that part of the expat life that you rarely hear about before making your big move — the revolving door of friends and community that can keep you off balance if you don’t quickly ground yourself.
“It is a big painful part of the expat experience though,” writes Jones. “Transition that is. Not the expected ones like ‘culture shock,’ bumbling language mistakes and system conversions. We saw those coming from a mile away (1.60934 kilometers). We read books and blogs about those. Some of us even went to seminars and conferences about how to ‘transition well.’ ”
Nobody told us we’d have to be saying goodbye a lot.
And hello. Because planes fly in both directions.
Where Jones lived the bulk of departures seemed to occur in June, but not only then. Here in Belize people come and people go all the time.
That might be good for his business, Jones acknowledged, but not so easy for the expats with boots on the ground.
“If coming and going only impacted June I think it would be manageable,” he writes. “If it was just a matter of saying the inevitable goodbyes, we could wrap our heads around it and brace for the annual Expat Exodus.”
Even trying to nail down where you or your friends fit in the revolving door can be challenging.
Observes Jones: “We are Stayers, Goers and Newbies figuring out life things together. The Stayers don’t stay forever. The Goers don’t go immediately. The Newbies need some time to adjust.”
Jones goes on to offer some decent tips on how to cope with the constant flux.
His key piece of advice: Don’t insulate yourself from the constant expate parade of humanity. Don’t shut yourself off.
Says Jones, “When Stayers stop engaging Newbies (because saying goodbye to Goers is too painful) the clock starts ticking. It is a matter of time before the community will grow up behind them and they will be the ones trying to break in . . . or going. Continued connection is key.“
Jones has much more to say on this topic and he offers two graphs on expat relationships that are both profound and hilarious. Be sure to read his blog post.
Jones writes a lot on the expat life, because that is his job. But it is also clearly his passion. Check out some of his other postings, like the much-needed reality check of The Seven Lies of Living Cross Culturally and if that expat thing just didn’t work out the way you’d hoped, Jones’s Leaving Well: 10 Tips for Repatriating with Dignity is a must-read.
In fact, Jerry Jones’ Culture Blend blog is loaded with good information, whether you are coming or going, or simply staying put. For example, here’s another good one: Staying Well: 10 Tips for Expats Who are Left Behind.
Geeze, this is like a candy jar of good stuff. Dig in and dig deep.