This is Clara. She moved to Basel in 2012 from the UK. Her husband had received a very good job offer and they both decided to move here together. Clara was not aware that her degree in child psychology would be less known in Switzerland plus she had to learn the German language before she could function here. After one year she felt rather useless and depressed. In one moment she focused on your job search, the next moment she was playing with children. In another minute she opens her email account only to find that she was rejected for all the jobs she applied for the previous week.
- You feel disappointed and angry.
- You blame Switzerland.
- You blame the fact that your German is not fluent
- You hate your partner for exposing you to this situation.
- You might even feel like you do not know who you are anymore.
- You stand in the line at Migros and a person barks at you and you stop to care.
- You do not get that the cashier asks for your “Migros Card” because of his or her funny foreign and Swiss accent.
- Maybe this is the day you called the handyman to fix a light bulb only to discover that you cannot communicate with him or her.
You are exhausted, tired, emotional and you just wish to pack up and go home. You certainly do not want to meet another Swiss person tonight. Then your wife calls to cancel the dinner you had planned for both of you.
This is the typical expat spouse experience. What often happens is that you have a “culture shock” a bit later than your (working) partner as in the beginning of the international assignment you are too busy to organize the home and settle in everyone. You are too busy supporting your children and your partner. One day, you notice that you have your own needs too. Some expat spouses therefore only have a “culture shock” late in the first year of assignment or even the second year.
What can you do to overcome “culture shock” and focus on your job search again?
1) Develop a regular routine.
2) Go for a short walk of 15 to 20 minutes per day.
3) Practice a relaxation method such as progressive muscle relaxation.
4) Write a diary or blog to digest your experience.
5) Go on a weekend trip with your family.
6) Reconnect with friends and family.
7) Build up a social circle.
8) Meet professionals through structured networking groups.
9) Watch your eating and drinking habits.
10) Invite one person you do not know well for a coffee per week and get to know this person better.
What happened to Clara?
Clara took a course and rebranded herself. She also built up her network in Basel and continued to study in her field. Today she is working as a freelance teacher working with global children at the International School in Basel.