Assimilation Curve: The First Six Months as an Expat

by | Feb 17, 2022 | Global | 1 comment

Living in Ecuador is the second foreign country I’ve made my home. The first time I lived abroad was as a university student in Florence, Italy. There is a definite “settling-in” timeline that I call “The Assimilation Curve.”

If you make it to the other side of the curve, you’re going to live in your new country for a long time.

The honeymoon phase

The first two to three months living in your new host country are going to be exciting!

All the unfamiliar sights and sounds. Learning how to ride the bus. Planning tourist-type trips in and around your new city. You and your partner will pinch each other as you sigh, “Do we really live here?!”

You may start taking language classes and try out your new words on taxi drivers and store owners. Buenos Dias! Cuanto cuesta? Gracias! All of your homework will be done on time, and your classmates will think of you as being the teacher’s pet.

Don’t let it go to your head…The Honeymoon Phase is short-lived.

The maybe-things-are-better-back-home phase

Somewhere between the third and fifth month, you’ll lose that lovin’ feelin’ for your new country. The smells will become nauseating. You’ll start taking taxis because the bus drivers are literally trying to kill you. You’ll quit your language class and refuse to use any of the new words you’ve learned.

So much free time makes you think about all the crummy things that have happened in the past. You may feel angry at your mother/husband/brother/4th-grade bully and ruminate on everything.

All of this negativity and free time spent with your partner may lead you to start nit-picking each other. The way he chews disgusts you. He talks too loud when he’s on Skype. For Pete’s sake, do we really have to watch another baseball game on Kodi?

“Honey, maybe we made a mistake. Maybe we should go back home.”

Thankfully, your spouse is not ready to throw in the towel and answers with a firm “NO!”

The do-over phase

Since your partner has forced you to stay in this God-forsaken place, you try again. It’s been five or six months, so why throw all that time away? You re-enroll in a language school and make some real strides in comprehending the language. You join groups, meet up with friends for lunch, and check out museums you hadn’t visited.

Suddenly, you have a couple of local friends, and your circle expands. You get invited to a wedding and become the token gringo at local events. Although there are still some aspects of the culture you don’t like (darn those bus drivers!), you see so much beauty in daily life.

All of those bad thoughts have become epiphanies and you forgive, accept, and move on.

The “Sorry, Mom. We’re gonna be here for a while” phase

You’ve made it to the seventh month: Congratulations! You and your partner have revived your love and suddenly his loud chewing doesn’t bother you as much!

Both of you are excited about the future and start looking for a new apartment in a different part of the city.

Unfortunately, your family back home is not happy with your decision to lay roots in your new country.

The last time they heard from you, everything sucked: the bus drivers, the pollution, the weird food, the screaming on Skype…

You gently tell your mom the bad news, “We’re gonna be here for a while.”

You are home.

How have you assimilated into your new home? Have any tips to share with the rest of us?

by: Rachel DeSalvo