Mobility - June 2020 - 49

While familiarity with a language may lessen the
immediacy of culture shock, differences in words,
meanings, and the way in which people communicate
can still lead to misunderstandings and confusion.
"Sometimes the assumption that it will be
easier makes it difficult," says Anna. "You are not
anticipating as many problems, yet it is still a big
cultural change. And there are many British words
that are simply not known to other English speakers, so there can be some guesswork. My husband
and son are American, and they often look at me
when a Brit word comes up in a conversation."
According to Caitlin, a British mom who relocated to the U.S. and back again, "The language
is not the barrier, but the differences in mentality,
self-consciousness, and approach to life can be.
Americans will have the impression that it is an
easy transition, but after a while they see that,
despite the language, it is a different country."
The most frustrating moment of the relocation
process may happen when expats are already in
their destination and are starting day-to-day life.
Something as simple as buying a screw in a country where a person does not speak the language
could become a nightmare. Consider that the transferee needs to know how to find a hardware store
and then drive there, and every country has its
own driving culture. British drivers, for example,
may be more apt to politely let you in when you
use your turn signal and try to merge into a road,
but the cultural norm for many Spanish drivers
would likely be to accelerate to get past. Every
country has its own rules, and it is important to be
flexible, stay open-minded, and endeavor to find
out how everything works as soon as possible.
Often, those who carry the greatest burden of the
relocation experience in families are parents who are not
being professionally relocated. These parents tend to
deal with all the logistics of the move once they "land"
in their new destination. Navigating a new culture
and possibly an unknown language day by day can be
quite stressful. Again, for them, the international school
community can provide a lifeline.
An international school might, for example, offer
classes to help parents improve their language skills.
While it's not an absolute requirement for expat families to know the host-country language, memorizing

a few key words and phrases may help them get by.
The ability to converse helps families fully enjoy a
relocation experience. Many schools offer multilingual parent classes for those who want to improve
their social English language skills. For Anna, the
English language class offered at TASIS was helpful in ways beyond mastering some new speaking
and reading skills. "The English language group is
of great value to parents who don't speak English
as their first language," says Anna. "Not only is it
a language class, but it helps parents make friends
and learn about the school, the culture, and events
throughout the year." Often, it takes only a few sessions for parents to gain confidence in their ability to
participate in the social life of the school.

Embrace the Experience

Although relocating to a new country is a challenging experience, it is also a wonderful opportunity to
discover a new culture and meet new people. Many
expat families enjoy this way of life and jump from
country to country every few years. The more remote
the destination, the more challenging-but also the
more rewarding-the experience may be.
Expats learn that every destination has its pros and
its cons. But whenever they leave a country behind,
they take with them the memories of all the moments
their family experienced. And once they have moved
on, they may even be surprised at how fondly they
look back on the unique or quirky things that they
never imagined they would miss. Embracing the
adventure and reaching out to available resources can
help them settle in and fully enjoy all the advantages
that each destination has to offer. M
Angel Lozano is the director of institutional advancement
at TASIS The American School in England. He and his
family lived in Spain, the U.S., and South Korea before
moving to the U.K. He can be reached at +44 (0)1932
565252 or alozano@tasisengland.org.
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Mobility - June 2020

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