While deciding to move to the Netherlands it is important to manage your expectations. Yes, moving to a new country brings many opportunities and possibilities. You will meet with a lot of new people, you will have a new home, new work. However, it will probably not magically solve all your problems. Remember, you are trying to create a new version of yourself in a whole new environment and it will take time and modifications in your lifestyle. In this blog post, I’ll explore the consequences of unmanaged expectations, delve into real-life examples, and offer insights.
Common Problems Resulting from Unmanaged Expectations
Unrealistic expectations can lead to feelings of disappointment, frustration, and even depression. If you expect to adjust quickly to Dutch culture, this may not be a very realistic expectation especially if you moved from a very different culture. Culture shock is a real problem and can cause emotional distress if you do not accept that it will take time to adjust.
If you expect to fit in seamlessly with the local community or establish a large social circle immediately, you might feel disappointment. Like you have a close-knit circle of friends in your home country, Dutch people also have that. They have friends from school, from their neighborhood. Building genuine connections takes time so you may need to work your way through winning their hearts. So if you expect to have a best friend the second day you move there, you may feel disappointed and withdraw yourself from social gatherings. This may make you more and more isolated.
Unmanaged expectations can strain relationships with friends and family back home. Suppose you expect frequent visits or constant communication. In that case, you may feel hurt or resentful when this doesn’t happen due to time differences, conflicting schedules, or the sheer distance. It may be helpful to talk about your schedule, before arguing with your partner for not visiting you every other week. Remember that relationships evolve, and maintaining a healthy connection may require adapting to new ways of communicating and understanding each other’s needs.
If you expect immediate success in your professional life, you may be disappointed when faced with the reality of job hunting. For instance, you might have had a high-level position before, but you start at a lower level in the Netherlands due to language limitations or differences in professional qualifications. If you do not research first and take the time to adjust the new work environment, you may feel frustration or dissatisfaction. In return, it may be even more difficult to climb the corporate ladder.
Expecting Dutch culture to align perfectly with your own can result in cultural misunderstandings or conflicts. For example, it is common to bring your own birthday cake or treats to share with coworkers or classmates. If you are used to getting spoiled with a birthday cake everywhere you go, you may struggle at the beginning which may make you feel alienated in this new community. Try to use this cultural difference to choose your favorite cake for your own birthday!
Addressing the Consequences of Unmanaged Expectations
- Adjust Your Expectations: Reflect on your expectations and consider whether they are realistic or achievable. You should accept the fact that it might take a long time to find a job in your field or to establish a close group of friends. Adjust your expectations to align more closely with reality, and recognize that adapting to a new culture takes time and effort. To get a better picture of the expat life, you can talk with expats who already settled into the Netherlands. There is a lot of expat influencers sharing videos in social media websites. You can watch these videos, message them, and get information about their experiences.
- Embrace Flexibility: Adopting a flexible mindset can help you navigate the challenges of expat life. Be open to change and willing to adapt your expectations as you learn and grow in your new environment. For instance, instead of insisting on celebrating holidays exactly as you did in your home country, be open to new traditions and customs. Who knows, celebrating in a new way can be even more fun!
- Seek Support: Connecting with fellow expats, locals, and colleagues can provide valuable support and help alleviate feelings of isolation, frustration, and loneliness. Seek out social events, clubs, or online forums to meet others who share your interests or experiences. For example, consider joining expat Facebook groups, attending language exchange meetups, or participating in local clubs or sports teams. You can join them biking or hiking their way through the Netherlands.
- Be Proactive: Take proactive steps to address the issues you’re facing. If you’re struggling with language barriers, enroll in a language course or find language exchange partners to practice speaking Dutch. If you’re feeling isolated, join clubs or attend social events to meet new people and develop connections. The more proactive you are, the better equipped you’ll be to find success in your new environment.
- Focus on Personal Growth: Instead of focusing solely on your expectations, shift your focus to personal growth and development. Embrace the unique opportunities that living in the Netherlands offers, and strive to learn from your experiences and challenges. Use your time here as an opportunity to develop new skills, broaden your perspective, and discover new aspects of yourself. There are people from many cultural and educational backgrounds here. Talk with them, attend to their cultural events, learn about their professions. This is a great opportunity to broaden your horizons.
- Develop a Strong Support Network: Having a strong support network can help you manage your expectations and navigate the challenges of expat life more effectively. Besides connecting with other expats and locals, maintain strong ties with friends and family back home. Use video calls, messaging apps, or social media to stay in touch and share your experiences. These connections can provide a valuable source of emotional support and help you maintain a sense of belonging.
- Educate Yourself About Dutch Culture: Take the time to learn about Dutch culture, customs, and social norms. This knowledge will help you better understand and navigate your new environment, reducing the likelihood of cultural misunderstandings and conflicts. Find out the most watched tv shows, most popular songs in the Netherlands and keep up with them. You will both have an understanding about their culture, and you will also have a topic to talk about with your Dutch friends. Who knew watching a tv show could be this beneficial, right
- Get to Know Yourself: You are in a new environment without both the comfort and the burden of your past. When you move to a new country, it is possible that you will not know a single soul. You will spend more time with yourself. Besides trying to meet with new people, it is also important to enjoy this alone time. What do you like? What don’t you like? What are your values? What do you want to do with your life? There are lots of paths in front of you, which ones you want to try? This is your chance to get to know yourself without the customs forced on you. I would recommend that you try to be realistic while remaining hopeful.
- Get Professional Help: I gave you some recommendations to manage your expectations and deal with difficult emotions. However, it is not always easy to manage these emotions. You may be very excited to move to a new country. You may have some relational problems you want to get away from, you may want a whole new social circle etc… It is not always easy to be patient or flexible, you may struggle with feelings of anxiety or depression. Reach out to a licensed psychotherapist to share your feelings and get the support you need from a person who can understand and empathize with your struggles.
Remember that adapting to a new culture is a process that requires patience, resilience, and an open mind. With the right mindset and support, you can turn your experience into a rewarding and fulfilling chapter of your life. Also remember that it is normal to struggle and more people than you think is struggling. So don’t hesitate to get the support you need both from loved ones and from professional psychotherapists.