What is relocation anxiety?
Updated: Nov 9
You got a job/study opportunity in a new country and you're getting ready to leave. Maybe you're excited about this next phase in your life, about the new adventures that await. You pack up, say goodbye to family and friends and board the plane. Then dread starts creeping in.
Relocation anxiety is when you're anxious about how your new life will pan out in the new place you've moved to. There is a lot of unknown surrounding your new life: how is the culture? How are the people? Will I be able to survive without knowing the language? How will I learn it? Will I make friends easily, or will people be racist/discriminatory? These are all perfectly valid things to worry about.
The issue with these worries is that they are very real things to worry about. If it were just some irrational fear, then it would be no problem to just quit worrying because there's no basis for this fear. However, relocation anxiety is worry about very real issues encountered in the new situation. And if you're not used to moving countries and the challenges these moves entail, it's normal to be anxious.
I find that the best way to deal with this anxiety is to manage expectations about the new place. Part of the problem is making it bigger than it actually is. In psychology, we call this catastrophization. It's okay to feel like the culture may be a big issue because of how different it is to yours,. or that the language is very hard to learn. Maybe the situation really is difficult. However, humans are very good at adapting, which is why we come in so many different cultures and backgrounds. First, learn some things about the country you are going to. Sometimes, the simple action of shedding light on an unknown situation can help relieve a lot of the anxiety.
If you are still anxious, try to shift from focusing on how difficult it is to trying to see what you can do despite the situation. This moves you from a place of helplessness to a place of control and action. Try to find something about the culture you can relate to. Try and find similarities between the language you speak and the new country's language.
When you arrive and start working or going to school, use your community as leverage. Try to find friends who have also relocated to a new country and who understand your current struggles. Since we're all human, you will surely find points of similarities and ways to conquer your fear through action. It definitely beats being worried about everything you can't do!