8 keys to a successful expat honeymoon period

According to expat-studies professionals, there are five stages of expat adjustment:

1st stage: Honeymoon

2nd stage: Rage

3rd stage: Understanding

4th stage: Adaptation

5th stage: ‘Gone Native’

For example, an expat in China might progress through the stages as follows:

1st: The neon and red lanterns are so pretty at night!

2nd: Why is every God damn person in this country smoking all of the fucking time?

3rd: Well, the air is so bad perhaps the filters in the cigarettes provide some additional protection.

4th: What smoke?

5th: 麻烦你, 我想买万宝路的一个纸箱. (Sorry to trouble you, I’d like to buy one carton of Marlboros.)

I, myself, have never followed a predictable linear path of adjustment and have completely skipped stages in certain countries. I feel confident, however, that here in the Netherlands, I am deep within the honeymoon phase.

I credit the following eight items for blessing me with a glorious first stage of expat adaptation this time around:

1. Nazomer (‘Indian summer’). It hasn’t rained (much) in weeks and we are set to hit 24 degrees Celsius (76 F) every day this week.

2. Biking in nazomer. Randomly cycling the outskirts of Utrecht, I encountered this fine view yesterday evening:

Utrecht outskirts _ expatlingo.com

3. Neighbors who are just friendly enough. They brought us flowers when we first arrived. They say hello. They pretend not to notice me when I am arguing with my children in the street.

Perils of on line grocery shopping _ expatlingo.com

Inadvertent mini-bottle purchases: a minor peril of on-line grocery shopping

4. On-line grocery shopping. True, I accidentally ordered the wrong size bottle of wine, but now I needn’t haul a week’s worth of shopping home by bike.

5. Chatty ice cream shop owners. I have enjoyed extensive conversations about ice cream flavors in gelato shops and may have even convinced one shop owner to try lemon grass and coconut milk next spring.

6. Internet. Within one day of taking possession of our rental home, we had broadband service. By contrast, the family we are renting this house from just relocated to Italy and, many weeks later, are still waiting for an internet connection.

7. Amusingly odd Dutch humor. At the Dutch Railway Museum (Spoorweg Museum) there is a display about a historic Dutch train genius, F.W. Conrad. The display begins with a large, black, old-fashioned baby pram, which is dramatically lit and perched on a platform. The accompanying signssays something like: “While not much is known about F.W. Conrad’s childhood upbringing, historians can definitively confirm that this was not the perambulator that he was pushed around in as a baby.”

8. Date night. For the first time in our expat history, we have identified a suitable babysitter within the first four weeks. Last weekend I perched on my husband’s back bike rack (as is Dutch style) and was cycled by him to an al fresco dinner. On our way home, we stumbled across a small lane covered with bunting and lights in preparation for a street party:

Street decorations Utrecht _ expatlingo.com

In summary, to ensure a happy expat honeymoon period: move to Utrecht and be lucky.

I remain in denial of stage two — rage — which will likely be induced by poor-weather once nazomer ends.

24 responses to “8 keys to a successful expat honeymoon period

  1. Fantastic post! And so happy to hear you’re in honeymoon phase, and not like a deer in headlights, which is how I usually spend my first month as an expat in new location…. Perhaps the thought of a typhoon day for HK and enough rain in the last 24 hours to sink a ship will ensure you continue to enjoy your Utrecht experience to the max!?

    • I think I’ve never experienced a honeymoon phase before. Fourth time’s the charm! Of course, Dutch politics have nothing like the drama of Hong Kong politics and drizzly European rainstorms are nothing compared to the fantastic force of your recent typhoon! It’s not dramatic here, but it is cozy.

  2. Rage that the Edamer you like is out of stock. And why is the grocery not stocking your favorite Ginever? And if someone doesn’t give me a plate of fresh Kibberling I’m gonna FREAK OUT! Oh wait, if you say these things you have skipped to local status.

    • Ha! That’s advanced Dutch eating! I’m still puzzling through the various forms of dairy here: yoghurt in tubs, yoghurt in pourable cartons, melk, kaas, kaas plaanken, kaas room, kwark, boter, slagroom, vla etc.

  3. I have been living in China for a year and a half and I am STILL waiting for an internet connection–ba-dum-dum!

    Glad to hear you are settled in and enjoying things. Take care!

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