Relocation adjustment is commonly described using the famous four phased U-curve. While reviewing the curve I reflected back to the beginning of our first relocation from Israel to the Silicon Valley, California.
We arrived in San Jose in 1997 – young newlywed couple, and no doubt – we had it going! Living just around the corner from San Francisco it sure was a real honeymoon period. Everything seemed like a dream. Rollerblading on the dock in front of the Golden Gate, munching on wonderful food, engaging ourselves in the local ‘shop till you drop’ – living the American dream, at its best.
But there came that notorious bend in the U curve..With a towel thrown nonchalantly over my shoulder I was coming back from an aerobics class at our temporary serviced apartments condo. On my way to the pool I was passing in the apartment just to get my bathing suit. But there, on the counter, a note was waiting from my hubby. ‘Honey, customer crisis down in Arizona, I stopped here but you were out. Now on my way to catch a flight, will call you when we land… ‘. Pre-mobile phone age and even before I got my Pager, and I didn’t even get to say goodbye.
The towel is still on my shoulder, but the swimming pool is far from my thoughts. 25 -years-old girl, standing in the middle of an empty apartment in San Jose, thousands of miles away from home, alone. Who cares now about San Francisco and the American dream? Who wants to hear the English rolling all over the place? And where are Mom and Dad when I need them? Tears on my cheek and I’m deep down in that crisis phase. What the hell were we thinking when we decided to leave home?
Yet slowly it happened. A phone call from home, then another one from an office colleague’s wife. An expat fellow is asking me to babysit her kids and suddenly I’m juggling a successful career of Behavioral Therapy for children with Autism. We move into a cute apartment, streets start to look familiar, I climb the steps of adjustment and without noticing it reach the phase of adaptation. Now I feel I’m back in business. I’m studying and working, I’m surrounded by friends. America feels like home.
But browsing through the literature reveals criticism of the neat U-Curved adjustment model and questions over the described universal process and the relevance of the actual U-shape. And indeed, fast forwarding our life in the US I am reminded of another adjustment experience which seems like an alternative to the U-curve. Although it does follow the same four phases,this time it may be better illustrated with the letter J.
Four relocations and two children up the road, my hubby and me are landing in Adelaide, Australia. Just like before the honeymoon period is dazzling – the little ones are hugging Kangaroos, we find a small house with a lovely back yard, and life is sweet. But here again, just when everything seems perfect, comes the turning point and the drop down the curve. Hubby gets an offer he can’t refuse for a three weeks’ mission in China, and I find myself with two toddlers at the back of the car, dropping him at the airport while the radio plays Maroon 5’s “This love has taken its toll on me, she said goodbye too many times before..”. Following standard procedure, the tears are already on my cheek, but in this time I’m already experienced. The short trip back home is enough to remind me there is no time for wallowing in self-pity and that the way up from the depths of the crisis is in my own hands.
I pull over in the parking lot of our duplex and there, right in the adjacent parking lot sits my neighbor, a lovely talented lady, engaged in her hobby of fabric printing. Without hesitation, I release the kids from their safety seats and confidently approached her. “Nice to meet you, I’m Taly”. The crisis phase was much shorter this time and the climb with my lovely neighbor by my side was fast and sharp. As hubby comes back from China, me and the kids are already at the top of the curve, feeling well adjusted to the local environment, loving the Australian culture.
Relocating to Singapore we are once again introduces to yet another version of the adjustment curve. Several variables including cultural similarities, a desire for relocation of all parties involved, and early preparation to the local conditions help us experience the process as a soft and linear increase without any relapse into a crisis. To this day we feel we continue to climb up the curve, learning to love more and more layers of the fascinating Singaporean experience with its local culture and the special community that surrounds us.
And what will our next relocation adjustment look like? That, only time will tell…
By Dr Taly Goren, a long time traveler between nations and continents,
relocation specialist, parents groups facilitator, mother of two adolescent TCKs,
and the wife of a Hi-Tech Expat frequent flyer.