Culture shock and binational relationships

Living in a cultural exchange is extraordinary

When you live abroad or with a partner from another country, you experience daily contrast, which is exciting, but at the same time it can also be quite overwhelming.

A lot of things that are completely normal in your country of choice or for your partner from another country are not normal for you, perhaps almost unbearable.

"Who am I if I accept this?", "Can I reconcile this with my personal values?" Such questions often arise for expats or in a binational partnership. The search for greater understanding and connection becomes a frequent challenge.


Where do you currently stand with your experience of intercultural Exchange?

Just like in a relationship, you go through different phases with your experience abroad.

At the beginning, everything is new and exciting. You are in your element as an observer and explorer of a new world. You are fascinated and totally receptive about the different impressions.

At some point, the first shock situations come. Somehow people are different here. You find it difficult to assess what is right and what is wrong. You may sometimes feel forced to do or accept something that doesn't suit you at all. This can be very uncomfortable and you don't know how to deal with it.

The phase that follows is crucial. After a few shock moments many decide to go back home or split up, which is understandable. Those who stay accept to live with the differences.

Each phase brings its own questions, decisions and tasks. Where are you right now?


In my consultations with expats, I often hear about similar challenges

One topic that comes up again and again is the difficulty of making friends and deep connections. You realize how much you sometimes miss having friends and family from home nearby. Especially when children are born or holidays are just around the corner.

There are many moments of nostalgia, comparisons with the country of origin, frustration with the bureaucracy and the foreigner status and this can lead to moments of loneliness.

Binational relationships, where both partners have different mother tongues, often report the limits of communication. "When I want to explain certain things to my partner, he/she doesn't understand me in my language and I don't have the words to explain myself in his/her language."

There are also recurring questions like: "Do we want to stay here forever?", "Should we live in our partner's home country for a while?", "How do we keep in touch with the family back home?" There is often a feeling of never really arriving and no compromise is the perfect solution for everyone involved.


The fear of being alone

So, when you feel desperate because of these extraordinary challenges, there are important worries and fears behind it:

- That you will lose yourself in the relationship or the other country because you feel you have to adapt too much.

- That you don't feel like you belong and don't have a solid anchor.

- That your voice doesn't count because it comes from outside. You often stand alone with your opinion and wonder whether you are the crazy one or whether it's the others.

- The uncertainty of whether things will stay the same forever or can they get better?

You may feel like you're in a labyrinth and wish you had new direction, because you hope that you simply haven't found the right path yet.


Has the misión abroad failed?

One of the main reasons why many of the expats I have worked with choose to live in another country is the desire to open up.

They want to apply values such as tolerance and openness, they want to think outside the box and make connections out of their comfort zone. But often the opposite happens. They make mistakes in their communication, are misunderstood, perhaps no longer invited or are always seen as outsiders. Their friendships abroad tend to be superficial and that disappoints them.

If you feel the same way, then it's like your self-image of a "cosmopolitan" person who likes to live in exchange and who values contact and connection is compromised. This can be very unsatisfactory because it is as if you are not seen for who you are.


What exactly is done during my consultation in such a case?

That depends entirely on your individual wishes and ideas. What is it about for you? Dealing with shock, making decisions, clarity and understanding?

You have certainly already done a lot and tried out various things, and we want to evaluate this together. But there is no predetermined script or guide for a fulfilled life abroad, or for a happy relationship from two worlds.

Many of my clients are initially interested in sharing and processing their experience. They are looking for understanding. For couples in particular, as an observer I can more easily point out the existing cultural differences and mediate so that more empathy is created.


How long does such a counseling process take?

Counseling has no prescribed duration or number of sessions. I always work according to the situation and focus on your needs and goals. It can be a couples counseling session, an accompanying counseling process over several weeks or months, or one to several individual sessions.


How should it continue?

Are you in a similar situation to the one I have just described and are looking for professional support at this moment? Then book a free initial consultation with me so that I can answer any questions you may have.