Photo courtesy Fir0002/Flagstaffotos
I read a great article on Expatica about the phases of being an expat. I particularly enjoyed the article (the link for which I can’t track down at the moment), because it focused on expats that move to be with a partner - like me! The author described the honeymoon phase in which you’re exploring your new home like a tourist - euphoric and almost unaware of the long, difficult road ahead of you.
When I arrived in The Netherlands, my partner Thomas had nearly a week and a half of vacation time to spend with me. We frantically visited some of the major cities (Den Haag, Amsterdam) to get documents necessary for the residency permit process, met his family, and generally relaxed. Eventually it came time for him to go back to work, but I was still motivated by my move and had big plans to bike to the market on my own, cook dinners, catch up on my reading and knitting. This went on for a while, but I quickly grew bored with my relaxing lifestyle. In America I was a girl on the go, always working and thinking of new projects. Here in the Netherlands I was turning into a bump on a log.
I was entering what I’ve now dubbed the “expat doldrums.” The doldrums are named for a band of winds just north of the equator notorious for trapping sailors without enough wind for their sails, according to Wikipedia. But as a figure of speech, one is considered to be “in the doldrums” when she’s listless, inactive, or in a slump. That definitely describes me right now and the weather here isn’t helping.
It seems like a perfect recipe for depression: You’re homesick. You don’t have your own group of friends yet. You quickly tire of reading and knitting. You aren’t working, so you don’t feel “useful.” These little breezes can swirl around you at once and turn into a severe storm of the blues, to keep the meteorological metaphors pumping.
The first step is recognizing the problem, but the next is solving it. I can’t yet say that I’ve quelled the feelings, but I’ve found a few ways to try and resist those doldrums when they begin to creep into my mind and life. Over the next few days I’ll be posting my tips as a way to help others and remind myself of what I need to be doing.
Step one is pretty easy and cathartic, I think.
Step One: Organize
If you’ve moved to another country and you apply for a residency permit, you’re likely facing a waiting period while the agency analyzes and (hopefully) approves your application. The IND here in the Netherlands legally has up to six months to analyze your documents and give its verdict, though the official I dealt with said lately it’s more like three months. Use this time to catch up on all of those little things you meant to do.
Make a list and tackle one or two each day.
What’s on my list? Organizing my RSS feed and picking out the things I actually read and want to read and tossing the stuff I subscribed to and forgot about. Backing up my files online and on my hard drive. Update my photo site. Find a way to arrange my spices (part of the growing “organize the kitchen” to-do list). Exciting stuff? No, but there’s no time like the present especially if your present involves waiting around for a government to make a decision.