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Stress and hatred in emigration: all stages of adaptation in a new country

The joy and feeling that there are no obstacles to happiness is usually only the first and one of the shortest stages that one has to go through after moving to a new country. As soon as the euphoria subsides, many problems arise - from everyday questions in the series “How to pay for electricity?” And “where to fix the bike?” To the most pressing “how to find friends and not become an outcast?”.

Фото: Depositphotos

The author of a popular science book on emigration "How to move to another country and not die from homesickness" Oksana Korzun studied what scientific studies had been conducted on this topic over the past 50 years, and talked with immigrants from different countries. Magazine "Theories and Practices" publishes a chapter on the challenges of adaptation in a new place.

At the end of the 20th century, scientists were especially interested in the process of adaptation of emigrants to new living conditions and cultural shock, since migration has become an ordinary part of life in almost every country. Several theories were developed that could describe the mechanism of habituation to a new country and adaptation. The most well-known and most controversial theory was the U-curve of adaptation, presented by Kalervo Oberg back in the 1954 year, and later repeatedly studied and refined by other researchers.

This theory has been repeatedly criticized for being too universal, indicating that it cannot fit all the diversity of human experience. But over the past 50 years, no other theory has been developed that would become more suitable than the U-curve. Despite its shortcomings and too arbitrary, it was confirmed in part or in whole by numerous studies by other authors. [...]

The stages and stages of adaptation, according to the U-curve, do not always imply their obligatory and complete passage by all emigrants. Some skip part of the stages, someone gets stuck on one and does not move further. There are many factors that influence the completion of adaptation and the stage that a person can go through in order to fully adapt - for example, the level of education, expectations from a new country, cultural difference and many others. [...]

The first stage of adaptation - a tourist, a person feels the euphoria of moving, "I am here, I could, for me there are no barriers." This stage assumes a certain decrease in the critical attitude towards reality, the emigrant focuses on pleasant sensations, new places, variety in stores, new tastes, the environment, and entertainment. In addition, often emigration was preceded by a nervous move and the period of collecting documents - at this stage a person relaxes and exhales.

This stage usually lasts a short time. Kalervo Oberg talks about a few days and up to 6 weeks. It should be noted separately that we are talking here more likely about the everyday sensation of novelty from a change of scenery, and less about the relief from leaving a place of residence that did not like.

“It was only joy that finally managed to move, since about 5 years before that I had been building a plan for how to move my family from the city where we lived so that everyone would be happy. The rest of the sensations can rather be assessed as a benevolent interest in what is around. The joy of moving is still not subsiding, because in Russia, from our point of view, the situation is only getting worse; interest in what is around has settled down at a relatively low level. ”

Arina, Canada, 1,5, in another country

In the second stage, a stage of gradual disappointment, problems slowly increase. The emigrant still has fresh memories of the old country and inevitably begins to compare and usually does not favor the new country.

Most often this happens through the stereotypes with which he lived in the country of departure - now they can be encountered in reality, and often this causes the need to reconsider his own views.

Against this background, a gradual decrease in mood occurs, since the need to integrate into the environment implies a collision with the life and life of another country and can cause negative feelings, because the communication skills in this cultural system have not yet been developed or brought to automatism. At this stage, there is a strong feeling of alienity and the absence of a feeling of “home”.

Some people may have thoughts about their own inferiority, discomfort from communicating with the outside world due to the inability to understand people in a new country, alienation. Often, this translates into conscious attempts to reduce communication with other people, isolate themselves, there is frustration in choosing a country and in general moving. A person starts asking himself questions about the correctness of his choice.

At this stage, the migrant may begin to communicate more with his former compatriots, both personally and on the Internet, sometimes expressing his emerging aggression and irritation because of the inability to express it to those people who were the cause of anger. Communicating with compatriots helps to feel for a short time in a safe environment, take a break from a foreign language, from stress due to learning a new social environment, although it causes an attack of longing for the old life.

“Anger and irritation - no, I did not feel. For the most part, when you finish running to different places, collecting documents and papers, find solitude, longing and nostalgia. But an experienced reseller knows what to do about it. For me the most difficult thing was the lack of a car and people who can help settle down. In the first week or two you are under constant stress: finding an apartment, buying everything you need, making payments for electricity, water, etc. ”

Tamara, 5 years in immigration

A new country may seem to the emigrant to be irregular, illogical, aggressive, stereotypical, and the country of departure, on the contrary, causes pleasant sensations and seems reasonable, correct, safe. It feels like you are a stranger, you can never understand them, you were brought up on other models, books, you do not understand how they react to certain things.

Фото: Depositphotos

At this stage, it sometimes even seems that local people deliberately do not want to communicate and make life difficult (sometimes it is not without meaning - many intuitively sense the hostile attitude of the emigrant and respond in the same way).

At this stage, there may be a reluctance to learn a new language and use it in everyday life, irritation and anger that you generally have to learn it - in this way a person tries to defend himself, because he protects himself from the feeling of failure and fear that people laugh at you, for example, when communications it turns out, or mistakes are made in speech, an accent is heard, or you are constantly being asked again.

Often this may be due to the fact that a person does not accept a new life, is afraid of communication with the local population, attributing to him hostile qualities - alienation, arrogance, closeness. Ignorance of the language acts as a protective barrier - I do not understand you, it means that you cannot offend me.

“I faced a huge psychological language barrier. It turned out that the “don't you dare to make a mistake” hard-wired in childhood does not give any opportunity to speak English - it is scary, embarrassing, painfully difficult. I still know the language quite poorly from my point of view, although there are a lot of immigrants around who know it much worse than me and feel completely free at the same time. In some places this barrier has been overcome, I continue to study the language with the teachers. "

Arina, Canada, 1,5, in another country

Sometimes in such a situation a person can see himself as open, friendly, sometimes with sincere bewilderment why people around do not seek to communicate with him. If the situation changes and a person begins to notice behind himself the traits of hostility towards the local population, and on their part openness and friendliness, this can cause aggression, attempts to assert themselves at their expense, defensive behavior in order not to admit their mistakes, because at this stage it is especially hard given.

The issue of aggression and irritation among emigrants is itself a big topic for research. The process of adaptation requires a serious revision of views on life, changes a person from the inside as a person. Many emigrants in the first few months may react very painfully to changing role models - in Russia we were all someone, but in a new country everything will have to start from the beginning. The study of the new is inevitably accompanied by mistakes in practice, but for some people, especially those prone to perfectionism, this situation can cause frustration and anger.

Emigrants, experiencing unpleasant emotions, often cannot express them to the source of the problem — another country and the lives of other people, and save them in themselves. Often, the only source for easing emotions is other immigrants or strangers on the Internet.

Other migrants, trying to cope with the growing shaft of repressed emotions, on the contrary, speak only of very positive things in their life, sometimes exaggerating, not wanting to admit to themselves problems.

In the process of adaptation, immigrants often experience a sense of losing their role. - Now everything will have to start anew, from a clean slate, some people may have a feeling of inferiority. For many, it is this stage that takes the longest time compared to all the others, because if a new role is not found, then many begin to reconsider their attitude to the move or are locked in denial.

It can be especially long and difficult for people who are locked in the Russian-speaking environment - they communicate closely with other migrants, read Russian Internet, Russian books and watch Russian television, deliberately reducing communication with the local population, to be able to return to the comfort zone, closer to compatriots, reduce pressure. This helps to quickly increase self-esteem and rest from stress, but seriously slows down the process of adaptation, which is impossible without studying the life of the local population.

“I occasionally communicate with 2-3 Russians. The largest part of Russians is here, with rare exceptions, uninteresting people. A person who has achieved something in the country where he grew up will think many times for the sake of which he will drop everything and break loose with his whole family in an unfamiliar country. Whoever has achieved nothing there, arriving here, does not really master languages, forgets Russian a little, as a result speaks a wild mixture, lives on financial assistance or works where education is not required, watches Russian television and becomes an ardent fan of the Kremlin. They usually communicate with each other. Another group of Russians here is “Russian wives”. These are often more interesting people, but they do not adjoin any Russian communities. Unfortunately, the Russian representatives of culture and science who are here have never met me. ”

Elena, 14 years in another country

At the very worst of this stage, it can be felt as a period of strong crisis and suggest serious problems with a realistic perception of the world. Surrounding people may seem hostile, the emigrant feels a strong sense of loneliness, his rejection of this world.

He has doubts about his own value, strong dissatisfaction with himself and the world around him, the feeling of his role in a new country is completely lost. Aggression, denial, irritation become a natural reaction to many situations. Homesickness can become unbearable, and many think about returning, just to not be bored so much.

This state is really serious and dangerous, it can push a person into rash acts, even suicide, so hard it can be experienced.

At this stage, psychosomatic disorders, depression, and various neurological problems often occur. Diseases may occur for no apparent reason, changing sleep patterns, sometimes it seems that there is no strength, even to get out of bed. Aggression is increasing in relation not only to the local population, but also to the closest environment, the family, this deceptively allows you to protect your self-esteem for a short time, to increase self-esteem.

“I felt a little hostility towards the local population. It seemed that they did not approve of my weak English and perceive my shyness as arrogance. ”

Tatyana, 5 months in another country

Often, being in serious tension because of attempts to adapt, the emigrant may experience a feeling of anger and strong irritation of local customs and people, their behavior, he denies the culture of the new country, feels outrage because of cultural differences.

It is at this stage that a burning and overwhelming desire to return to the familiar environment arises and people who cannot withstand the tension return to the old country. Many forget, because of what they left, the home environment seems to be an island of peace and comfort, a place where you can finally relax, relieve tension and become yourself.

Harry Triandis, an American psychologist, highlights a separate stage here - the very "bottom" of the crisis, the aggravation of all negative experiences and, in his opinion, this is where the choice is made - to overpower yourself and begin to adapt, even if nothing happens, or be disappointed in yourself and the new country and go back.


At the next stage of adaptation, the stage of adaptation, the accumulated problems slowly and gradually begin to be resolved, first close acquaintances appear among the local population, relations with colleagues are improving. Domestic difficulties no longer cause such difficulties, there is an opportunity to try something new, and not just a painful desire to hold on to just the familiar and familiar.

Someone this is manifested in a sense of humor - there are forces to make fun of themselves, laugh at the situation, given that it used to cause pain and negative feelings. Others acquire the ability to start conversations with strangers without fear, to attend city events, one to go out into the city, if earlier this was done only in the event of an emergency.

“The feeling of nostalgia will never disappear, just like the feeling or fear that you will not be accepted, or rather, the fear that they will not react as well as“ ours ”would react. At work (I'm already working) colleagues, it seems that they are afraid to talk to me sometimes. Usually I start the conversation first. ”

Nina, 5 years in another country

The emigrant is gradually finding new opportunities for realization, the world around no longer seems so hopeless and incomprehensible. The new country is gradually beginning to seem more understandable and accessible, the country of departure and compatriots are increasingly moving away, it becomes possible to feel safe without communication with their homeland.

Фото: Depositphotos

Someone at this stage is already able to help others, for example, new immigrants. It seems that there are already forces to console and support not only yourself, but also others.

“Discomfort arose after 6 months in the country and continues to this day (declining), as I struggle and forcibly drag myself into a society of Americans and try to find friends. I also try to adapt my style of clothes. In Moscow, people dress more decoratively, here they are more sporty. I am trying to learn how to keep the conversation at all costs. ”

Irina, USA, 11 months in another country

At the last, fourth stage of adaptation, the stage of biculturalism, the migrant is already fully adapted to the world around him, it is easy for him to interact with people, everyday situations no longer cause unpleasant sensations. A person feels that he likes the new country, but at the same time he can critically evaluate its positive and negative sides, without comparing with the country of departure, the situation is completely stabilized, negative emotions do not appear or appear very rarely.

An emigrant is able to evaluate a new country and local population as different, different, not bad or good, despite the fact that they were previously labeled, sometimes negative, to facilitate understanding and defining their own role. Even if there is some misunderstanding when communicating with people in a new country, it no longer causes fear and irritation, you can even laugh at it.

At the same time, a person’s personality is enriched, he becomes stronger and more durable emotionally, he is able to orient himself more quickly in stressful situations. In fact, a person has absorbed two cultures, thereby increasing his self-esteem, he has the strength to move on and do more.

“The adaptation in Canada lasted about two years. In principle, I felt completely adapted after I signed up for a volunteer assistance program for newcomers and discussed everything I needed with a tutor. You could immediately sign up for it. ”

Stas, Canada, 6 years in another country

“It took about 10 years to overcome language and everyday difficulties and to feel completely comfortable and not need Russian food, culture, etc. I used to visit my family every six months, but I haven’t come for a year. At the first visit I began to see the architecture of the city in a completely new way, to pay attention to the rare beauty. The fact that the city is a big village, which earlier irritated me, suddenly began to bring comfort. At the same time, since there was little time, I overestimated what is really important for me at home. Many close relationships gradually fell apart. ”

Mary, New York, 22, in another country

The described scheme may be relevant for many people, but not always in this form - many can jump over certain stages or stop at one and not finish the adaptation process at all. For some, it may take a couple of months, while for others a few years. The choice of a development path is based on the individual factors of the personality of specific people, as well as on the particularities of the country to which such a person moves and cultural distance.

Some researchers single out a separate stage - preadaptation. We are talking about the period when the emigrants, prior to departure, study the society, culture and history of the new country, learn the language before the moment of resettlement, thereby starting their adaptation process long before they crossed the borders of the new country.

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