For the first 20 years or so of my life I pretty much lived in the same country, same town, same house. Living in such a small community as Malta has undoubtedly given me characteristics that are Maltese through and through: an urge to speak loudly, talk with my hands, have an opinion about everything (sometimes just for the sake of it, or to play the devil’s advocate). This doesn’t really go down well with people up north!
Sonderborg is the 6th city I have lived in for more than a month (after Zurrieq-MT, Konstanz-DE, Prague-CZ, London-GB & Pisa-IT). So I didn’t jump into the experience of moving to a new country with my eyes shut tight. I had also regularly visited Denmark over the past four years to visit Michael’s family and friends, which gave me first hand knowledge of some of the typical characteristics of living here.
Nevertheless, moving to a new country often has its challenges. You have to learn the unwritten norms and values of the place, without losing yourself completely. Sometimes you need to first accept the way things are done before you can understand it. This is not easy for a scientist used to (and being paid to) ask ‘Why? Why? Why?’!
There are different strategies that people can implement to aid (and sometimes hinder!) their acclimatisation. These are often very evident when reading the blogs of other foreigners living in a country. You see the ones who only let themself focus on the good and positive. Others for whom the negative is even more pertinent. Then there are the ones in between.
The strategies one employs also depends on where in the adjustment process one is. Kalervo Oberg, a world renowned anthropologist defined five phases of cultural shock when moving to a foreign country:
- Honeymoon phase: The newcomer feels excited and thrilled by new experiences, opportunities and environment.
- Crisis: When cultural differences become more annoying and irritating to the newcomer.
- Acceptance: Once one has learned more about the culture and accepted the differences, an understanding of the country develops.
- Adjustment: Comes after learning to deal with the positive and negative aspects of the new country.
- Reverse culture shock: Applies when returning to the home country, one can be shocked of the customs of one’s own home country.
So how am I coping?
Looking back over the past few months I can now very clearly see the strategy I am employing. I am like a pressure cooker, which needs to be vented every so often but most of the time is happily whistling away. My venting often happens when I am with other foreigners (which has probably results in one guy telling me I complain too much…you know who you are :P).But really? I am happy here! I enjoy my job, have enough time after work to enjoy what I like, and the weather is not all that bad. So if you hear me complain a bit here, please do not take it personally if you are Danish. Hope we can be friends ;).