If you find yourself surrounded by several large, open suitcases in an empty room, or standing in a grocery store filled with unfamiliar items, questioning your decision to move to this new location, then this guide may be just what you need.
LAND is part of a series of resource tools designed for times of transition for the Newcomer. The other resource tools in the series are DOCK, for the Stayers, and RAF(G)T, based on Dave Pollock’s RAFT for the Leaver.
Who is the Newcomer?
The Newcomer is the “newbie” or the “novice.” It is the person(s) that recently arrived at the new destination or have been living there for less than a full year. They are not tourists or short-term stayers. This group is committed to staying for at least a year, but most likely longer. They sold their home and put their possessions in storage. Or maybe they didn't. Their purpose for moving to this new land varies, but they came to make a home.
Why LAND well?
Moving can be stressful, and when it involves relocating to a new country and culture, it can feel overwhelming. From the moment you disembark the plane, you realize that even simple communication has become a challenge. Emotions run high during these times, and it is important to acknowledge them. LAND is a tool crafted to assist you in navigating this early stage of transition and embracing your new life.
Each letter in the word "LAND" represents essential ideas to help you process emotions and make your new location a home. It is not meant to be followed in any specific order; rather, it is an integrated approach that can be adapted based on your unique situation. Remember, there is no timeline for when you should feel like you belong; it takes time.
L: Look for the Good
Just as in new relationships, your new move could have a honeymoon phase. Everything is new and exciting; until it isn’t. Eventually, things are extremely uncomfortable, but for others that feeling comes immediately. “Why did we move here?” alarms seem to go off in your head. This is the season when it is so easy to find faults, wrongs, and terrible things in the new culture, the people around you, and in your home. Even during challenges, it's crucial to seek out the positives in your new environment.
Assume the Best: Keep an open mind and understand that advice may vary in other cultures.
Keep a Gratitude Journal: List the things you are grateful for and why. The why part is crucial.
Note Accomplishments: At the end of the day or week, make a note of all the things that you accomplished. This includes making a cup of coffee to baking your favorite cookies because doing those things in a new country is an accomplishment.
A : Acknowledge the Loss
All transitions are both exciting and new, but they also hold loss. New experiences and foods; learning a new language and culture are great, but it is hard missing the holidays and birthdays with family. Plus there is also the loss of knowing others and being known. This loss produces grief. And unacknowledged grief will find its way to be acknowledged in ways you may not want or like. Processing uncomfortable emotions helps “gain perspective on difficult situations” (Smith, p.42).
Grieve: Acknowledge and name the things you have lost. Name those hard days you have experienced. Give those days a name. I have been known to call them “Taiwan/US Days.” Insert your own country's name. It does not mean you dislike the place, but rather acknowledging that you are having a difficult day living in the country you are presently in.
Keep breathing: Understand that it's okay to feel a range of emotions. Taking deep calculated breaths can help regulate your body during times of stress. There are several forms, so find one that works for you.
Keep a curious mind: Find a “safe person,” someone who knows the culture well and can help answer your tough questions about it. Keep a list of those questions and ask your “safe person” if they have time to answer them over coffee or tea one afternoon.
*And note that if you are repatriating, your passport country has changed since you left. So, treat it like a new country and keep a curious mind, too.
Building connection is essential for a Newcomer. Network to find people to interact with. Community is important and being the Newcomer, you may have to “elbow” your way into a group. That means you may need to make calls, ask people their story, or even ask for help.
Listen: I have found that many want to know where I am from but remember to ask them questions and listen to their stories as well.
Build a bridge: This is not an actual bridge, but a cultural bridge by finding what has been called a “bridge person.” This person understands your culture, but also the culture you are living in and can answer your questions without being offended. It could be your “safe person.”
Make yourself known: Establish familiarity in your neighborhood, even if it's as simple as being recognized at your local tea shop or market stall. It begins to help you feel like you are known and becoming part of the community.
D: Decide to Engage
Engaging is more than networking; it is a step further. It is more about community and belonging. This one could be easy for some and difficult for others. It depends on your personality, but also on your background. If you have moved from place to place and you are not sure how long you will be around, it is tempting to not engage much. But community is important for mental health. You need people in your life.
Decide to put down roots: Make a conscience decision and invest in your new community. This is the first step.
Make friends: Cultivate deeper connections beyond superficial interactions. Everyone needs at least one good “everyday” friend. That one person you can call at 2am with news or will drop what they are doing to go for a walk or a coffee.
Build Community: Get involved in groups or clubs in your community. This could be a religious group, a hiking club, or any other hobby or interest you may have. If there are none, consider starting one. The point is to meet regularly with a group of people to engage with your community; to know and be known. Building a home in a new country takes time, effort, and a willingness to embrace change. It's not just about setting up your physical space but also about becoming part of a community and being known by others. If you have recently moved or are still transitioning and need support, don't hesitate to reach out for help. You can contact me at email@example.com.
Butz, G. B. (2020). Making peace with change: Navigating life's messy transitions with honesty and grace. Our Daily Bread Publishing.
Eenigenburg, S. & Burkholder, E. (2023). Grit to stay grace to go: Staying well in cross-cultural ministry. William Carey Publishing.
Meyer, E. (2016). The culture map. Public Affairs.
Smith, E. V. (2022). The practice of processing: Exploring our emotions to chart an intentional course. Independently published.