Emigration Diary: After the Honeymoon
They say after about three months the honeymoon phase of culture shock ends and the negotiation phase begins. This is apparently when the differences between the old and new cultures become irritating and annoying and many people experience frustration and anxiety while yearning for the familiarity of their old society. Some people withdraw into themselves, some become reliant on others from their own culture, some adopt a hostile, superior attitude and others become suspicious of the cleanliness or safety of their host environment. Thanks, Wikipedia, for reminding me what predictable nutters we all are.
The best thing, it seems, about this negotiation phase or process is that it ends. It’s the make-it-there-or-make-a-legger-for-it period. It lasts about another three months until the adjustment phase begins or, in other words, we get used to the differences and accept them. Hmm… in just under two weeks we will have been here exactly three months. We are four people who have a tendency to react very differently to stimuli. It sounds like this ride may be about to get bumpier.
Still in the Honeymoon period, I guess, George and I took a childfree stroll around NYC last week. We started with Sunday brunch at an outside table on Union Square; mimosas and eggs Benedict, beer and steak and eggs. Delicious. Then we walked down The High Line, a disused elevated freight railway line above Manhattan’s West Side that has been turned into a spectacular public park. This brought us to the Meatpacking District where a rather cool Urban Space market was set up. After a thorough perusal, we took the subway back uptown to Central Park. It was International Peace day as it turned out and we stopped and watched some gospel singers on the bandstand for a while. At Bethesda Fountain, we were amused by no less than six wedding parties posing among the tourists, their photographers desperately trying to capture a scene of newly wedded bliss while the brides threw sidelong comparison glances at each other’s dresses. Afterwards we found a French patisserie where we stopped for tea and cake. All in all, it was a lovely day and it was really good for me to get off the island and spend some time mooching about in the city.
Our life is far from that glamorous on a daily basis. George is working long hours during the week and I work a few shifts in a restaurant at the weekend. There’s not a lot of time or money for wandering about enjoying the sights at the moment and at times we both get irritable. The kids both seem very happy though. They are enjoying school and the afterschool program they are in. At first, I thought it was too long a day for them but I soon realised that they have both made good friends there and spend the couple of hours running about outside playing soccer and tag, followed by homework and quieter indoor games. The few days they have had off they were complaining that they were bored and bugging me to invite their friends around for a playdate. Yes, they use that word.
I think, at the moment, it is not the differences between our old life and our new life that we are finding frustrating but the similarities. The humdrum of making lunches, cooking dinners, loading the dishwasher and doing laundry was not what I imagined when I envisaged our move to New York. I don’t think George imagined himself working very long hours for not enough money either. The big difference here, and it’s the one I’m clinging on to, is that it feels transient. It doesn’t feel like this is it. Already, the hard work is beginning to be rewarded. Opportunities are arising. It feels like upward mobility is not only a possibility but a probability. It’s still very early days in the grand scheme of things. We just have to negotiate the next three months.