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Updated 7 Oct 2010

Anyone who has tried living in a new country knows that adjusting isn’t always easy. Undoubtedly, it’s a relief when you are no longer frazzled by daily life abroad, but when the things that used to feel overwhelming are now bordering on boring, what do you do next?

This strange period of time is known as the “Second Settling In”, and to date, there is very little material out there to help the longer-term expat figure out how to move past surviving, and on to thriving in their new environment.

It’s in this phase of adjustment that expats work on finding and bringing people and priorities into their lives that help them feel like they aren’t stagnating while away from home. The ideal is to feel that you are continuing to grow as a person and that you are benefiting from your expat experience.


Signposts marking the “Second Settling In”

Theory says that the second settling in starts with a feeling of confidence that didn't exist before. Expats may find themselves doing some things by instinct, that perhaps, were initially odd, difficult or even uncomfortable.

Expats may be more culturally sensitive, and this sensitivity will feel less forced.

One of the clearest indicators to an expat arriving at the Second Settling In point is this: You will begin to feel bored. You’ll start looking for ways to fill your life with more living. The search for adding greater meaning to your expat experience will begin.


Considerations to keep in mind

  • Expand your social network

Psychologists and expat coaches agree that this is a phase where you should be looking to expand your social network.  Social butterfly, or not, having people to talk to in your new setting helps to speed along adjustment significantly better than speaking mostly with people back home. Hearing from others around you will help you to gain new perspective on your situation, give you greater access to information about what is happening around you, and help you to see how others deal with life in your host country. For these reasons, and so many more, it’s worth it to push yourself a little further out of your shell.

  • Not all connections will be lasting

Expats will come and go, so don’t put all your eggs in one basket. This is another reason why being part of a group can help provide a little more continuity, particularly if many of your friends are expats. It’s also another reason to try and befriend some locals and look into non-expat centred activities.

  • Use the language of the land

Whether the idea thrills you or fills you with dread it must be acknowledged that learning the language is vital to integration. The more you learn, the more possibilities will open up to you and the less ‘foreign’ you will feel.  It is strongly recommended that you continue efforts at language learning for the entire duration of your stay in that environment.

With these building blocks stacked securely in place you can start to take the necessary steps to make the second settling in as valuable as possible.

By Jessica Conrad

Expat Health Insurance Partners

Aetna Global

Aetna is an award-winning insurance business that provides health benefits to more than 650,000 members worldwide. Their high quality health insurance plans are tailored to meet the individual needs of expats living and working abroad.

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Cigna Global

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