Whether we have family support, or not, when we emigrate and decide to start our lives all over again, it can be very daunting, very stressful and very anxiety-inducing. Whether we’re truly aware of it, or not, we’re causing ourselves a great deal of stress, which can cause a series of physical consequences that affect our health over a lengthy period of time. 

Starting All Over Again

Starting all over again from zero is never easy in one’s own country, let alone starting from nothing in a foreign country; where we have no knowledge of legal or administrative requirements, general customs and how things are really done. 

As we plan to emigrate we’re, obviously, full of enthusiasm and joie de vivre at the prospect of moving abroad and starting a new life. However, within this enthusiasm, we undoubtedly mix a lot of fantasy and expectations that are born from our own culture and previous experiences in our own country, which we then project onto the culture and country we move to.

What I mean by this is, that we expect things to be done in a manner that is equal to, or more efficient than, in our country of origin. We are essentially and unrealistically projecting our standards onto the country of destination. 

However, once we’ve had a chance to experience the new country from a “living” perspective and not a holiday one, more often than not, reality fails to live up to our expectations and projections. As a consequence, delusion and disappointment set in and we immediately fall from the castle we built in the sky because it was built on a foundation of illusions; fantasies if you will. That’s when we become frustrated and unhappy and take it out on the country and its people.

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It’s Not The Country’s Fault

Halt right there though! It’s not the country’s fault. The country and its culture have always been the same. It’s our fault because we fail to see reality as it is. We have a dream and we allow our minds to create the entire narrative of that dream without taking into consideration local customs and bureaucracy. In our dream, we don’t consider how much of a language barrier we might encounter; especially if we need medical attention at any point. 

We don’t think about how we’ll be affected by our residency status, local and international tax requirements, property and/or land ownership, to mention a few. We don’t realistically consider how and whether, or not, we can earn a living in the country we’re emigrating to. The younger people reading this might not take into consideration their entitlement to medical attention or the need for private health insurance. Different countries offer different options and have different requirements for expats. 

Being on Holiday Vs Living

Being on holiday isn’t the same as living somewhere. When we’re on holiday, if everything is to our liking, we experience a sense of euphoria because we’re away from our routine life. When we’re happy, everything is wonderful and we experience life with positivity and optimism. Even when things are not quite perfect, we turn a blind eye because we’re happy.

When we decide to emigrate and live somewhere else, we have to fulfil all the legal and administrative obligations that aren’t necessary as a tourist. We have to accumulate new knowledge and adapt to local customs. Life isn’t a party every day. The friendly barman who gave you all their attention, while you were on holiday, isn’t going to give you that same attention when you live in their country. Unless you’re ultra-rich, you won’t be dining out every night and you won’t be going to the beach every day. 

The sun may shine most of the year in warmer countries but winter still arrives. If you suffer from winter blues in your own country, chances are you will too in the hosting country. Unless you can afford it, chances are you’re not going to live in a hotel. So, you’re going to need somewhere to live, which means that sooner or later, whether you rent or buy, you’ll have to deal with electricity bills, gas bills, water and rates and all their relevant authorities. You’ll have a local council to deal with. You may have to deal with the local police. 

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When we emigrate, we may have to learn to be more patient because in some countries, dealing with legalities can take days, weeks or even months. In some highly efficient countries, this is unheard of. So, it can cause a great deal of frustration and anger because an efficient person, coming from an efficient country, has expectations of efficiency. This is where learning to be a little more laid back and adaptable can come in very handy. Flexibility and adaptability are key elements for a successful, and more stress-free emigration. 

Paradoxically, this frustration can also be experienced by migrants returning to their own country after a long period of living abroad in an efficient country. This frustration often contributes to a nostalgia for the country left behind. It causes a type of grief for having left the country and repatriated. It also creates a sense of distaste for the lack of progress in one’s own country as well as, in some cases, a form of resentment/regret for having repatriated. 

The people who tend to repatriate better, generally speaking, are the ones who continue to travel abroad in some form for whatever length of time. 

As a matter of interest, I’ve been known to be sitting for hours in civil service offices, in Spain,  Portugal and Italy, only to witness a civil servant get up, with a room full of people waiting, go for breakfast and come back half an hour to an hour later. That would frustrate most people and cause a lot of anger; especially when they are heard saying: “I’m going for breakfast, I’ll be back later.”

From a holistic point of view, frustration and anger are two of the worst emotions to have for health. They cause indigestion and poor metabolic functioning, which can lead to headaches, acid reflux, liver issues, bile and gallbladder problems and, over time, more serious ailments that can lead to stomach, intestinal, pancreatic or liver cancers. 

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Anger and Prejudice

Of course, let’s also remember that anger is contagious. That means, a frustrated and angry person will surely spread their emotions onto others, which is deteriorating for any kind of human relationship. Should the angry person take their rage out on the civil servant who attends them, they will then be met with resistance to assistance. 

Yes, believe it or not, the unkinder you are towards someone in authority in a foreign country, the less they may be inclined to help you. If we couple this with prejudices towards particular races and the reputations they have, this resistance is increased. 

I’ll give you an example. In 2002, I worked in Shanghai. On the day of my departure, I was arrested at the airport because the hotel I had worked for failed to provide me with my exit papers. So, at passport control, I was considered an illegal immigrant and they arrested me. 

I was escorted to the chief of police’s office within the airport. When I got to his office, he seemed annoyed by my presence. To make it worse, he was about to eat his lunch, so I was there at a bad time. One of the six policemen who were armed to the teeth and had escorted me, with their guns in hand, to the chief’s office, handed the chief my British passport. 

He picked it up and looked at it with disdain. As he was examining it, he barked questions at me very impolitely and in a callously cold manner until he saw my name. Then he said: “Venerllna? (Because the Chinese have difficulty saying Venerina) – This no British name.” I replied: “No, I’m half Italian.” All of a sudden, he made eye contact with me, smiled greatly and said: “Ohhh, you Italian. My good friend Italian. Please sit. Can I get you drink? You like some food?” His attitude towards me changed completely. 

He didn’t know if I was a good person or a bad person. He judged me based on his experience with another Italian who happened to turn out to be a really good friend to him. So, he liked Italian people. He put all Italian people in the friendly basket and judged them based on his one good encounter. It was a very naive notion but also one that was very endearing to me. I often think of him with a smile and it reminds me of my warm connection to China and the Chinese people. 

As a sideline, if I may, I think that whenever we think warmly about someone in a foreign country, we remove a barrier to prejudice and hatred. It brings us one step closer to world peace because it’s very difficult to condone wars when the people being affected are our friends and not our enemies. 

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Back to the topic at hand. The point I would like you to take away from my experience is that every person in every country, including us (probably), unfortunately, has prejudices and acts discriminatively towards foreigners based on their prior encounters and experiences. 

So, if you’re going to shout at someone because you’re frustrated with the way they conduct themselves, per their culture, then you might be adding fuel to an already pre-existing fire that could escalate beyond proportions. You’d also be giving a false impression of how other people of your nationality conduct themselves under the same circumstances. Basically, you’re setting the standard by which others, of your nationality, will be judged after you.

It’s important to note, here, that prejudice is nothing more than an opinion that has been formulated on the basis of an experience and turned into a belief that has then been adopted as a truth. However, in reality, it’s not an absolute truth. Yet, if the person who has adopted it has a rigid mind, it will be considered, by them, as an absolute truth and they will close themselves off to any convincing otherwise. On the other hand, if the person does not have a rigid mind, they will be willing and open to new experiences that contradict their belief; forcing them to change it.

Tips and Solutions

So, when we encounter prejudice that is a consequence of those who have come before us, we have two options: 

  1. React in a way that reaffirms and reinforces that prejudice, that belief and that truth, or:
  1. Behave in a way that annihilates that belief and hopefully replaces that false and negative belief with a new and positive one.

Of course, if we have support from family, friends or even a private NGO (Non-Government Organisation) immigration agency like one I previously owned in Portugal, that supports us, things will run a lot smoother. Emigrating is always easier when there is someone who can guide us through what might otherwise be described as the minefield of local bureaucracy, and trust me every country has it.

So, can we start again from zero? Yes, of course we can but everything depends on our mindset. Here are just a few tips to help: 

If you enjoyed this post, please consider reading this post about immigration – CLICK HERE!

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