Stages of Settling In

I can officially say that the honeymoon phase is over.

There are phases or stages of moving to a new country. We knew that going in. We knew that for the first little while we would love everything about our move. Even the things that we didn’t love we glossed over or just accepted as a silly one off, or just something that doesn’t really get to us. Everything is roses. For us, we constantly found ourselves saying ‘Ha ha, we live in New Zealand!’ It was a very normal thing for us to experience.

This week will mark 7 months since we arrived here, and though we are finally feeling like things are settling, we are both experiencing some of the lows of moving overseas. We are feeling a fair amount of homesickness. We are also noticing that things that were maybe considered a nuisance at first are now feeling more and more like a thorn in our sides. Even now, I’m underplaying it. There are times when the feeling of being so far from our previous life can feel depressingly paralyzing. That’s not to say that we regret our choice to move here. We are, in all realistic and purposeful ways, very happy we made the move. But we are experiencing a normal drop in excitement. The Immigration New Zealand website has a great page (and graphic) about this. I’ll link to the page below and show the graphic so that it’s easier to see what I mean.

Settlement Chart

To be fair, I think this curve is different for everyone. It certainly isn’t exactly this way for us. First, we haven’t had a specific experience that is ‘frightening’ us. I would say it’s more a collection of experiences that make us think ‘gee, things aren’t exactly the way we were led to believe they would be’. And even that statement could use some clarification, because right now it sounds like I’m saying we think we were lied to. Not the case. More so that we feel like maybe we didn’t fully understand what certain things meant. For example: multiple sources said that the Kiwi lifestyle is a very laid back lifestyle. That sounded great to us! We knew coming in that we’d have to adjust our expectations to be more laid back (easier said than done). But now we are coming to realize that calling it laid back is an oversimplification. When we are feeling frustrated and at our wits end with the laid back lifestyle here, it can sometimes feel like the culture here is one of just not caring. Of being so laid back that it comes across (to us) as being uninterested and tiresome. In the last couple of months, especially, we have felt as though our presence here was bothersome to those around us. Friends, neighbors, co workers, acquaintances – didn’t matter. We’ve been feeling like we just don’t fit in.

There are also the times that we each catch ourselves saying or even thinking ‘man, back home things would be so much easier’. I, myself, am very aware of using the word ‘home’ in both my thoughts and my spoken word. To me it feels as though using the word is setting myself up for failure; that I’m going to want to go home just by the very nature of thinking that somewhere ELSE is my home. So I try not to use it. But it happens. It happens to both of us. And let’s face it, we each spent 35+ years in the USA before we moved here, so of course we’re going to compare. And of course we’re going to feel like things were better before. I can say without a doubt that America has a WAY better selection of goods and services. I mean, there’s nothing quite like a Walmart here. And even though there are big stores here, the selection of items can sometimes be weird (to us). Like, there is a store chain here called The Warehouse that is similar to Walmart in that it is a large store, holds a lot of items, and is very affordable (only, it does not have the food section really. Just an aisle or two of mostly candy and sweet foods). But the selection is just odd. There may be tons of flavors of candy, but only one or two choices for a set of silverware.

One thing I find myself struggling with lately is how my feelings fluctuate so drastically. I’ve noticed that lately, whenever I get out and DO something, I feel great! We went to a museum to meet a new family that’s thinking of moving over here from the UK. Their daughter is a couple of days younger than Patrick and I felt like we all really hit it off and got along well. I felt fabulous because I got to see and do something new, meet some new (hopefully) friends, and just got out of the house. But once I get home and the dust settles from our little adventure, I find myself getting quite down. It can be for a myriad of reasons. Either because I felt bad for not doing/trying that activity sooner, or because I felt I could have been friendlier, or because I feel overwhelmed with the information I was given, or because I now find myself with even more on my ‘To Do’ list, etc.

I will say that things aren’t as bad as they can sometimes seem. I know that we will come out the other end of our little dip on the chart feeling a renewed sense of purpose here in New Zealand. Until then we will continue trying to find the good in the bad and just staying the course. Thanks to all of you for reading and keeping our spirits up. We love and miss you all.

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