The transition that never ends: The ongoing cycle of expat Stayers, Goers and Newbies

three brown suitcaseIt’s not yet Christmas . . . and already I’m thinking about June.

There is a reason for that.

Where I live people come and go . . . a lot.  That’s the part that they don’t put in the brochure when you move abroad . . .

“Adventure of a lifetime — Explore exotic lands!  Learn new languages!  Say goodbye to 20% of your friends every summer and random others throughout the year!”

Sign here.

It is a big painful part of the expat experience though.  Transition that is.  Not the expected ones like “culture shock”, bumbling language mistakes and system conversions.  We saw those coming from a mile away (1.60934 kilometers).  We read books and blogs about those.  Some of us even went to seminars and conferences about how to “transition well”.  There is no small bit of attention paid to the beginning phases of life as a foreigner.  There is also a growing bit of attention surrounding the ending phases — leaving well, saying goodbye, repatriating, reverse culture shock and so on.

Not knocking that since . . . you know . . . I wouldn’t have a job without it.

BUT . . .

Here’s the kicker:  As long as you live abroad — TRANSITION NEVER STOPS.

Ever.

The big ones on either end are significant to be sure but it’s the little ones in the middle that will get you.  The incessant ones.  The ongoing ones.   The cyclical shifts and annual flip flops that never stop and that you never saw coming.  There are many, but by far, the most daunting  (at least where I live) is the revolving, evolving community of people.

We are Stayers, Goers and Newbies figuring out life things together.  The Stayers don’t stay forever.  The Goers don’t go immediately.  The Newbies need some time to adjust.

If coming and going only impacted June I think it would be manageable.  If it was just a matter of saying the inevitable goodbyes, we could wrap our heads around it and brace for the annual Expat Exodus.

 

If it looked like this it would still be hard but doable . . .

 

Screen Shot 2015-11-02 at 12.13.57 PM

 

 

But it doesn’t.

It actually looks more like this . . .

 

Screen Shot 2015-11-02 at 12.01.18 PM

 

So it makes sense really.

That I’m thinking about June in November.

Now is the time when people (my friends) are making decisions.  Stay or Go?  Another contract or move on?

The announcements have already started to trickle in and there will be more and more in the next few months.  I have now been a Stayer, a Goer and a Newby all more than once.  I have done them all fairly well and all pretty pathetically.  Here are a few things I’m learning in the process.

 

Everyone is at risk.

 

Stayers are at risk 

When Stayers stop engaging Newbies (because saying goodbye to Goers is too painful) the clock starts ticking.  It is a matter of time before the community will grow up behind them and they will be the ones trying to break in . . . or going.  Continued connection is key.

 

Goers are at risk

Mental and emotional shifts begin long before the physical ones.  Once announcements are made the community changes even though no one has flown away yet.  Stayers and Newbies start figuring out what life looks like without the Goer and adjust accordingly.  Goers check out.  The chemistry of those two things can make for some explosive reactions.  Intentionality is key. 

 

Newbies are at risk

Newbies lend fresh eyes and fabulous new ideas to stagnant and stressed environments — often before they have developed the relational capital to be heard.

“HEY GUYS . . . You’re a sorry mess!!  Where I come from this is how we did it and that would fix every last one of you and all of your problems!!  How bout’ we try it?!?!”

“I’m Bob by the way.”

In short, Newbies may see what’s wrong before anyone is ready to listen.  Stayers get annoyed.  Goers continue checking out and chuckle because it’s not their problem.  Patience is key.

 

Everyone has something unique to give.

 

Stayers give stability  

Stayers have less of an unhealthy attachment to their suitcases than either Goers (who are packing) or Newbies (who are un).  Stayers, although always in transition, have the solidity of NOT changing everything.  No global trekking.  No new job.  No figuring out where to buy cucumbers.  They may not feel stable but in this scenario they are privileged with a lesser instability.  If you’re a Stayer consider watching the Goer’s children while they pack or showing the Newbies where the cucumbers are.

 

Goers give understanding

For Goers, going is the most consuming thing in their lives.  Fair enough.  It’s a big deal.  For Stayers, the going of the Goers may be a big deal, but is not generally all consuming.  Goers who have expectations (active or passive) that Stayers will drop everything to be consumed by their six month departure are failing to see the broader picture. There are ALWAYS Goers.  Understanding that will actually help Goers AND Stayers plan focused, intentional quality farewell time.

 

Newbies give humility

It can be really frustrating to step into a community of Stayers who just lost their best Goers.  That frustration only grows when you can clearly see problems and the Stayers are still figuring you out.  Starting as a learner is genuinely the deciding factor between those who do this well and those who do not.  Listen first.  Learn.  Ask a billion questions.  Not because you don’t know anything but because you don’t know everything.  Give the Stayers the respect they’ve earned from staying and the space to adjust to another round of new.  Soon you’ll be on the other side.

 

Selfishness doesn’t work.

 

Selfish Stayers protect themselves from the Goers and commit to not getting hurt by Newbies (consequently hurting the Newbies).

Selfish Goers check out on the Stayers and leave a mess for the Newbies.

Selfish Newbies learn nothing from the Stayers and don’t recognize they’ve stepped into a Goer shaped hole.

 

It’s hard because it’s good.

It’s hard to be a Stayer when everyone around you is coming and going.  The only way to make it easier is to stop connecting with people.  Stop going deep.  Stop making friends.  Then the coming and going is not so hard . . . and the Staying is not so good.

It’s hard to be a Goer.  Period.  But having a global network of deep, deep friendships . . . that’s pretty cool.  The process of going can be stressful but it is also your chance to firm up relationships that won’t be broken by distance or time.

It’s hard to be a Newby but trust me . . . this is truly the opportunity of a lifetime.  Stayers may be standoffish at first — that’s because it’s good.  They may have just let go of their Goers.

 

Are you a Stayer, a Goer or a Newby?

What does your never ending transition look like?

What have you learned along the way?

 

99 Comments

  1. This is great stuff and I think it is applicable beyond expats. It seems to me the same thing often happens within local church communities. It isn’t nearly as constant, but the same principles apply, especially when it comes to the stayers and the newbys. This definitely got me thinking and I always appreciate that.

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    • Thanks Ron — So true.

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    • I see this more and more in our churches as you suggested.

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    • This is a great article -sums up so well the experiences that so many face. Certainly true for many ex-pats we have journeyed with during 9.5 years of my being a church pastor in an international church within a university city and with people working for all kinds of international companies. Plus very relevant for us as a family living in a different country too. This said we are glad as a couple to be this life season with all its richness as well as challenges.
      Another group to not be forgotten in the mix are the locals (in our case Dutch) who also seek to connect in with ex-pats. They were already here of course but also have the challenge of being stayers very often and have heartache at times of having made friends with others from other nations, who then move on. Sure there is Skype and the like but it is not quite the same as face to face!
      Will sign off, we are going to a social event full of parents made up of stayers,goers and newbies connected with our son’s school…..

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    • Ive thought about that too after moving back to our passport country after over 15 yrs abroad. Thanks.

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    • Ron;
      I started my “expat life” in Cuenca, but discovered that it was too cold and rainy for me. So I moved to Sangolqui, outside
      of Quito & LOVE IT ! The weather is much warmer than in Cuenca & the proximity to Quito provides great “mall shopping” and fabulous dining. This place works very well for me. It all just depends, really…in “who you are” and “what you want”. I like it here very much. There’s a lot of youthful presence here…which I like. Safety…oh yes… safer than Atlanta & most large
      U.S. cities. Life is good !

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    • Thoughtful, perceptive, well written article…thank you!

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    • I’m a stayer. The constant transitions are tough! Glad for other “stayers” as few as they are.

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  2. A very entertaining read, written to be read by another bonafide culture vulture. Some new perspectives here! The expat genre (if there is one– anyway the books, sites, blogs etc) is chock fulla hash/re-hash woe-is-me-I am-a triangle drivel. Certainly sharing, thank you.

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  3. Last year we were goers…this year we’re newbies. The irony is that we’ve been ‘stayers’ in this particular country for 13 years. But we’ve transitioned into new jobs…a new city…so we’re back to being newbies.
    Very insightful post. I shared it on Facebook and quite a few of my friends read it and passed it along.

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    • Rachel – Feel your pain. We were Goers two years ago (which made us Newbies somewhere else) and then Goers again this year (which made us Newbies here — in the same place that we have been Newbies before – and Stayers – and Goers). Thanks for sharing.

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  4. Been each of these in multiple cultural transitions over three decades (both oriental and occidental). … Jerry. You are right. Selfishness is the main ingredient in our destruction at any stage of the journey. Any place where ‘self’ is trumping all the other cards, we are in trouble. Maintaining our conscious contact with G_d and others is the key. Life is always going to unfold in better ways when it is not ‘all about me’ … There is a Forever Home for those of us looking forward to it. The rest is just a real (but manageable) buzz – when I live in the reality that life is about Him and others first.

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    • Well said Makala.

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  5. Excellent resource for me and my kids and our friends to understand the ups and downs that are magnified in a transient community

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  6. Great article! I appreciated the assessment of the three roles and specifically how to do well (and what to avoid) in each role. The cycle of Stayers, Goers and Newbies is present in all of my circles where I live, but it appears to be a much more turbulent cycle in the “international school” community than in my organization’s community. My organization’s cycle moves more like a lazy river whereas the international school cycle seems to spin more like a whirlpool. I think the faster cycles are naturally harder, but the article points out some key truths no matter what your role or how fast the current is: selfishness destroys and prevents relationship, and it never benefits you over time. So, as stayers (that’s the way I think of us) we’ve got to keep connecting relationally even when it’s hard.

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    • Great analogies Christopher. It would be interesting to set the whirlpool communities and the lazy river communities side by side and compare the challenges along with the advantages. I would think that the farewells in a slower cycle would be tougher and cause more of a ripple throughout the community. Fun to consider. Thanks for commenting.

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  7. hard life being an expat, not; oh cry me a river, what about the ones who do all the hard graft (non-white labourers, maids, nurses etc) who you don’t consider expats? Make local friends & put your kids in local schools and no excuses about the locals not letting you in. I’ve been on the move for 26 years & have not & will not ever consider myself an expat. Home is where I live, not where I used to live.

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    • That is how the life has panned out for you. Don’t broadcast your experience and expectations (which frankly are flat out dangerous in some places where we work) on people who are attempted to do the same as you: love their neighbors as themselves. Have a little grace.

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      • Apologies for the generalisation but the expats I’m referring to know who they are. Fair play to those of you working in places where to do as I’ve suggested would be dangerous & to those doing dangerous work e.g. the ones building Dubai; we’re all global for our own personal reasons, the main one being economic. If only we would ALL love our neighbours as ourselves.

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        • I don’t know what you’re on about Mz World. Get real. I live in the most dangerous, underdeveloped city in the world. Makes Dubai look like a f***ing cakewalk. I do everything for me, I buy my own groceries, I don’t abuse the local labour pool. I’m like Jesus Christ come back I’m so nice.
          There are dangerous jobs everywhere. Even in Winnipeg. And most immigrants do those ones. Grow up. The most important thing is getting my favorite brand yogurt for god’s sakes. Sheesh.

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  8. The first Sunday I (Newby) was in my new African home, the international pastor (Goer) announced his upcoming departure. My friend (Stayer) whispered to me: “Quick! Tell him you want to buy his furniture before someone else gets it!” Expat life.

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    • Peggy — Ha. We’ve been on both ends of “AWWW you’re leaving? So sad. What are you gonna’ do with your toaster?” Part of it I guess. Thanks for commenting.

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    • This cracked me up! So very true!

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    • Gave me a good chuckle!

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  9. Best infographic ever, can I steal it for my Facebook cover? That way when my family asks me why I don’t call more often, I’m going to refer them to the info graphic. Very very good stuff. We are goers, who quite possibly will be bouncing back and forth across the pond to DC every two years for the rest of eternity or until we run out of gas.

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    • Misti — you can buy this infographic at my online store . . . THAT’S A JOKE. Of course you can use it. Thanks for reading.

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  10. So fantastic! Just shared on A Life Overseas and the accuracy is almost painful!

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  11. Also – what are your parameters around sharing the infographic? Would love to share!

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    • Marilyn — It’s yours. Share at will. I still owe you a connection too (haven’t forgotten – just got swept away by another round of transition). Thanks for sharing. I love what you do.

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      • Oh my gosh – no – I love what you do! Not to get into a one upmanship on admiration or anything 🙂

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  12. Thank you for this incredibly insightful article that describes our life overseas to a “T” It helps so much to be able to understand it in this way.
    You are a gem!

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    • Thanks donnajeanne. Too kind.

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    • Donnajeanne, this article is poignant, both in its depth and it’s simplicity! Jerry, thanks for giving us a tool to help others gain insight and perspective. -Paul in Member Care

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  13. Great info and spot on! My daughter is in Uganda and it’s been a real struggle for her to feel like she’s part of the community. Love the graph!!

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  14. You missed one. The Dreamers. They are the people who went back home to be with family and are dreaming of the next place.

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    • Well said Bart. And so true.

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  15. Those graphics are gold 🙂

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  16. Oh, this is so very, very right.

    I’m a long-time stayer, working on being a goer (and therefore a soon-to-be newbie), and I need all of these reminders. Thanks!

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  17. We are Stayers, 7 years and counting, and I would never not get to know the newbies because one day they might leave. Sure they leave, but they give us another place to visit, and our kids a safe harbour in a round the world backpacking trip.

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    • Love this Alison.

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  18. Two and a half years ago we were newbies, again, in a place I really did not want to be.
    We have now transitioned through being stayers onto being goers, again! I will leave behind the best group of friends I have ever made and the place I only reluctantly moved to somehow became our most successful posting.
    Keeping an open mind and staying in the loop, throughout the cycle, is so very important.
    In December I will be a newbie, yet again….. Part of me is absolutely dreading another move, but the biggest part of me can’t wait for the new adventures ahead.
    I hope to not end as a dreamer, I hope to one day repatriate with a suitcase full of the most amazing memories from our life as newbies, stayers and goers.

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    • Wisdom. Thanks for sharing Mette.

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  19. Exquisite article. Heartfelt and compassionate. Bravo.

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    • We had this discussion yesterday!! I’ve been the newbie and the stayer … Of 18 yrs so I’ve had lots of newbies and goers through my life. It’s dangerous to not welcome the newbies and is vital to keep putting yourself out there to get to know them … You could end up very lonely as in any one year your social circle can be decimated by goers leaving! I do find the constant farewells painful but in reality I am so extremely grateful that I have had the opportunity to meet these amazing people that I would never have met was I not part of this cycle. And sometimes we even get to welcome back previous goers!

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  20. When I was reading this, I was thinking of a sister who is a world mover. She is all of those people on a three-year period. Then it dawned on me that I was the selfish one. I live in nice size city USA. Close to a military base. In a 10 year old subdivision. When we moved in everyone was newbies and everyone was socializing. We made great friends. And most of them became the goers. I have not tried to be a great stayer. I see this happening all a cross this great country. And it is time for me to change. I want and need more friends. Any great ideas to welcome all the newbies into the neighborhood/country.

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  21. Nailed it. I’ve been a newbie, stayer and goer for the past 20 freaking years and it NEVER gets easier. Never. Love it. Sharing far and wide. Thank you. I feel normal all of a sudden!

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  22. Not good with comments, but this is my view, the way I prefer writing it:

    The Expatriate

    Sometimes friendship is fleeting
    like the brief morning tide,
    Bringing fresh cool air to breathe its aroma
    like the coffee cup in my hand

    Other times it is longer, standing the test of time
    I know you better, you know me too.
    Releasing soft bouquet of rested fine wine
    Leisurely we sip, to pass the time.

    Life in transit, it is our way
    Not chosen perhaps, the bags are never put away
    It is like the flower, yesterday, today and tomorrow
    and then it fades away
    Some we remember, some we don’t

    Hard it is sometimes, to live this way,
    To experience the fleetingness of our life’s
    dress rehearsals that don’t seem to go away

    This one will stand; will survive the vinegar
    The final journey even of good wine
    Will bring a smile, a flash of memory
    definitions of a point in time, golden like honey

    I see the desert sand
    and the desolate landscape surround
    and yet, this is the place
    Where friendship came to be, to grow in stature
    to become part of me

    Now the time has come, the calling card arrived

    it could have been the other way around
    We do not need to celebrate this part
    it is our way of life, and it is because of this
    We celebrated it each day

    the furniture is not ours
    only belongs for a time
    visitors we are, always

    You go with the moments, with who we all are
    with the joys and sadness we shared
    They stand above the dirty streets of Cairo
    the polluted skies
    faint memories of our shadows still hide

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    • Well spoken Gerhard.

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    • Loved your poem and knew you were talking about Cairo from having lived there for six and half years. Thanks!
      Some of those friendships indeed continue to remain and be so sweet. The goodbyes are such a part of serving overseas and there will be no goodbyes in heaven, thankfully!

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  23. I love this. I can relate to this on so many levels! This year I`m a stayer and had to say goodbye and get over the leaving of so many leavers… Love the diagrams!

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  24. You pretty much nailed it! I’ve been all of these at various times over the last 8 years, including a repatriation. Now I’m a “boomerang”, and I’m not actually unique! Boomerangs are those of us that have returned to our previous expat assignments in the exact same location 3-5 years after the original assignment. Boomerangs are so different because we are blessed with the knowledge of a stayer, but have the connections of a newbie and know what it feels like to be a goer. It is hard to fit in as a boomerangs at first, harder than a newbie. Eventually you find the best of both worlds by being involved in both the expat community and the host country community. Anyway, I really enjoyed your article! Thanks!

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  25. I’ve been in this exact boat lately: It’s hard to be a Stayer when everyone around you is coming and going. The only way to make it easier is to stop connecting with people. Stop going deep. Stop making friends. Then the coming and going is not so hard . . . and the Staying is not so good..

    After living in Chiang Mai for years — and all of the comings, goings, etc. — relocating to Madrid I thought would give me a bit more stability. But, I’ve found myself not wanting to go out and meet people or invest because everything seems to incredibly temporary. Thanks for writing this. At least I know I’m not alone!

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    • Leaving CM was one of the hardest transitions I ever made.

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    • Hi! Also in the same boat and in Madrid (six years now) Tough being a stayer sometimes…If you’d like to meet up and swap stories, send me a message!

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    • omg, I feel this is the way I am right now… I used to be a bubbly party starter, middle of the group kind of person and now I find myself stuck in my house watching netflix and barely going out for groceries!!! I’ve even cut off ties with the people I care for most- basically turned off whatsapp, instagram,twitter and most of fb, which has created more (friends) troubles for me since now they’ve taken it personally and cut me off the groups. I don’t know how much this will last since I seem to be a stayer now.

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    • I think you need more relaxed attitude for maki g friends doesn’t matter if they are not on your doorstep

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  26. Be wary of too much pigeon-holing.

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  27. Excellent article. We have been Goers and Newbies a lot, and envious of the Stayers at times. At this moment we are the Stayers surrounded by a lot of Goers. We are experiencing the transition stress from a new perspective.

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  28. I was a Stayer in Buenos Aires for a long time and I think you nailed it. The big waves of leaving friends was bad, but it never ends! When I did leave, it was hard. Now I’m an expat again, in Puerto Rico and I have to admit that after a year, I’m still a newbie. I haven’t connected, because I expected it to be like Argentina in how relatively easy it was to make friends, but it hasn’t been. I just renewed my lease for another year though…

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  29. My favorite is the actual chart! Perfectly said…thank you! And it is how I am feeling this November- in limbo. :/

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  30. This was excellent! It’s always great to read insightful posts about our life that really get it. This year we are struggling with being stayers when 80% of the people we know are turning into goers. We’re not really sure what to do, but we definitely keep thinking of going, but know we should really stay. How does one keep as a stayer when everyone they know is being a goer? The struggle is real.

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  31. I had goose bumps reading from beginning to end reading this post. Thank you so much for putting the experience not only into words but into a flowchart….brilliant! Regards from a stayer in Paris.

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  32. Great post, but I realize there is a fourth category in my life: Keepers–the people who leave but who become lifelong friends. We just returned from a weekend with some keepers, and it was great to catch up with them, share news from here, and see them in their new/old life back home.

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    • Love that Annie — One of the great perks of this life. We’ve got keepers all over the world and while the face to face connections are few and far between they are sweet when they happen. Thanks for sharing.

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  33. Too many newbies act like they know everything because they saw a video on youtube.

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  34. Great article and infographic, it really resonated with me (and as a relocation health coach, I could picture my clients on the cycle too).

    ‘Every year the same – but completely different.’ So true.

    I’ve been all the above, a newbie, stayer and goer, about 10 times.

    Right now, as our children’s international school announces about half of the primary school teachers moving on at the end of the year, we’re personally transitioning from newbies to Vanuatu, to stayers for 2-3 years. My online business allows an element of consistency, as it moves with me – within this environment I am a stayer even when all around me is new – I like that.

    Love meeting people and hearing their stories, whether fresh new perspectives or insights from experience. Local and expats. Stayers and goers. Loving it. And / Or finding it tough.

    Thanks for these insights Jerry!

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  35. I loved reading this particular post and finding your blog. We have been back in the U.S. from the Middle East 4 years now and it’s still hard. Prior to that, we were “stay-ers” for 15 years. I would like to know more about your training and what you are doing in the U.S. now…

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  36. Great insights. Thanks for putting to words where each and everyone of us are.

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  37. I am a stayer. Though the article rang true as a memory, it is less of an issue with me and colleagues teaching at universities here in Japan. Most of us are stayers. I know almost no newbies and few goers. Still, it is an issue, but it is a less prominent role in life for me. I still have people come and go from my life, more than I would if I lived back in my home country, but back when I taught privately and in schools, this was a major part of the rhythm of life for me. Well written piece.

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  38. An excellent article and the analogy is spot on the target. As a recent ‘Goer’ or ‘repat’ I’ve found the whole experience a complete let down. Not because I don’t love my country of birth, my friends, my home, etc., It’s because everything I knew and understood has changed since I last lived here.

    As a ‘Newbie’, you’re welcomed by your hosts; you find new friends through work or your child(ren)’s school and you enter a world of transition that everyone else has been through. The excitement of the newness also carries you……it is invigorating……or so it is as for me.

    As a ‘Returnee’……..

    That’s it, zilch, nothing. You have to get on with things yourself because why do you need support? This is a country and lifestyle you know well. Probably it’s the trailing spouse who adjusts the slowest. I’ve come across many ‘repats’ in the same boat….we need a Repat Club!

    Has anyone written a good book on repatriation? I can read it whilst I continue to adjust. 🙂

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    • Hey Repat — Thanks for reading and for commenting. You’ve described the repat experience so well. Spot on. Have you discovered Naomi Hattaway and the “I am a Triangle” community? She has a Facebook group that is largely focused on repatriation. Tons of good support and resources there. https://www.facebook.com/groups/IAmATriangle/?ref=bookmarks.

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      • Thanks for the tip – I’ll follow that up.

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  39. I’m a stayer for 47 years and still feel like a newbie at times. Trying to include all the newbies that arrive, is hard but I remember what it was like and always try to start a conversation. Sometimes I feel “the click” when you meet someone new and a great new adventure starts in my adopted land.
    Great article!

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    • Cathy — Wow. 47 years. Seems to me like there is a correlation between the fact that you have been a Stayer for so long and the fact that you have never stopped doing it well. Inspiring challenge for the rest of us.

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  40. What a great blog post. I have been all of these and concur with what you have to say. One thing worth mentioning: when a goer comes back to visit, it can be hard. You see all your former life, and realize that your stayer friends, everything, has gone on quite well without you, and your stayer friends have even gone on to make friends with new people (gasp), who are quite naturally not very interested in you … There’s a profound feeling of “where do I belong?” and of being uprooted that you don’t get so harshly when you’re in the process of going, staying or being new.

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  41. What about the trailing spouse? One partner has a job to do,and the other must fend for themselves. Nothing has been said about the huge percentage of trailing spouses (particularly women) losing their husbands to local women.
    Ladies,your man is irresistible catnip to many local women,especially Asia. Don’t think it can’t happen to you. That was my mistake..

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    • Don’t blame women in Asia. Blame a combination of (a) your man being weak and (b) yourself for being attracted to a weak man. There are temptations at every turn of life, it’s your job to keep those temptations in check, and ideally find someone else with similar values.

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  42. I am a stayer and this article rings so true on many levels. Well done and well written

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  43. Totally applies to our life as active duty military! … So hard on all fronts and just when we think we might be a stayer the military says GO and then it begins again!

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    • Great insight. I’ve heard a lot of military people speak of the similarities between their lives and expats. Transience is tough no matter where you live. Thanks for commenting.

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  44. I show dogs and this article could be said of the dog show world…our rule is if you make it showing dogs for five years chances are you will be a “lifer” and that for the most part is true. Can’t tell you how many “newbies” I’ve helped over the past 20 years and how many people from the dog show world have come and gone and in some instances come back in. Hopefully this will help me to cope with now being a “Newbie” at the expat game, and will have given me the stamina and fortitude to help other newbies, when I am no longer one. I figure if I can hang in the dog show world for 20 years and love it, then I can hang as an expat…we’ll see…. Loved the article, looking forward to reading many more and learning, learning, learning…

    Reply
  45. Your post resonates with Goers, but it’s so helpful for everyone, because everyone, at some point, is a Newbie, Stayer and Goer. I have been been all three simulatenously – newly arrived, knowing I will only be there for a short time, yet welcoming someone a few weeks after I arrive as the ‘oldie.’ It may seem to be a complicated web, but one of your points sums it up well – seek to be selfless and serve the Newbies, Goers and Stayers no matter where YOU are on the spectrum.

    Reply
  46. I find this article very sad and depressing and I hope there is a great dose of irony, sarcasm and humor in it. Stayers, Goers and Newbies exclude the essential part of the population and that is the local Mexicans. The story is about the expats who suffer in their isolation. Wouldn’t it be much happier if a decision of resettlement to a new country was based on the interest in a new environment, culture and the people who always lived there without being Stayers, Goers and Newbies?

    People in America and elsewhere in the Western World often complain about the immigrants inability to assimilation. Isn’t the same principal that should apply to us, who decide to come and live outside the world we grew up and shaped our personalities? Where is a will to learn the language there is a chance to open entire new world of curiosity. Meet your neighbor and it doesn’t have to be your buddy from Hennessy’s weekend get together or another “gringo” you met by accident at Soho Gallery or having a casual drink at “Fiesta Americana”.

    If you won’t limit your horizons to the exclusive club of expat community, you will not suffer any more by the turmoil of Stayers, Goers and Newbies. Your network of friends and acquaintances will be enriched by many of people you would have pass by on the street unnoticed. The key to broaden your vital network of social life is by starting to speak Spanish, the language of the land and not remaining in ignorance and being prone to casual trauma of parting with the dear friends you so carefully bond over the time. Good luck to everyone and please don’t forget to contribute to your new homeland. Otherwise you will soon become unhappy and on the way to becoming one of the Goers. Hasta luego mis Amogos 🙂

    Reply
    • That’s a lovely ideal Mariuszsz but not how it works out in my experience. You end up being friends with expats because they understand why you can’t get used to cold baths, hand washing your clothes in rainwater or that you miss food your neighbours have never heard of. They don’t yell at you for not putting socks and hats on your baby in the tropical sun or not squeezing its face every time it yawns.

      Reply
  47. Mariuszsz, you are surely correct in your observation that we need not be completely dependent on the comings and goings of expats for friendship. Having retired to Mexico almost ten years ago, we have made some meaningful friendships with local Mexicans that we will always cherish. Determined to “assimilate” when we first arrived, however, we discovered that assimilation is not easy. The cultural differences are much more profound than we suspected; most Mexicans in our area do not make casual friendships. They are too busy working, and their social lives revolve around extended family. So we are more dependent upon our fellow expats than we expected to be. And in our area, which is a beach resort area and very warm & humid in summer, there is a further division: the year-round stayers (us) and the snowbirds, most of whom hail from Canada in our area and who stay here only 2-6 months of the year. So it is a constant repetition of hello and goodbye. It does take some getting used to, but after almost a decade, it is a rhythm of life with which we are comfortable.

    Reply
  48. Hi, Was looking for an email, but came across your post and wanted to know if we could use it in our Moms Expat group in Lima. Your post really hit home for me and the admin group. http://www.miramoms.com and each one of us experience this each year.

    Reply
  49. Hey Kelly. Thanks for reaching out. Please feel free to use this post.

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  50. Great post – I am a newby, about to say goodbye to a goer who I really connected with – it’s certainly hard. I will be sharing this on my blog’s FB page – I think we can all relate.

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  51. Wow! This is very interesting.Thanks! I am about to be a newbie as this will be my first time living in the International world.

    Reply
  52. Love this Blog – lots to contribute – laters!

    Reply
  53. Love the information and can relate to it !! You nailed it. I also enjoy the other articles. Transitions has become part of our world and so few people are really prepared or understand the dynamics in which they let themselves into. I work with quite a few career expats and no two transitions are the same. It helps people, however. to know that they are on schedule with their experience and that the ride is never ‘over’. Thanks for these insights.

    Reply
  54. I’m scared now…because we are about to be Newbies. It sounds real, hard, wonderful, and part of life. Thank you, though, for telling it like it is.

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  55. Hey Melissa — Nothing wrong with a healthy bit of scared. Just don’t be consumed by that. No question it’s hard but only because it is good. So worth it. All the best on your upcoming adventure.

    Reply
  56. Goers become Newbies the instant they step off the plane. Every Newbie was a Goer a few hours before. The transitions from Newbie to Stayer and Stayer to Goer are less abrupt. The observation that Stayers are more stable is accurate. Stayers need to deal with change around them but their state is relatively stable. The Goers/Newbies need to deal not only with the change around them and also the abrupt change of their own status.
    The Natives are Stayers, with the difference that they were never Newbies. The Stayer also has the option to assimilate over the long term, asymptotically approaching Native. Many indefinite or long term Stayers do not choose to assimilate.

    Reply
  57. Making friends with locals is how you put down a good foundation. Our friends are primarily people who have lived in Panama 5 or more years and have businesses. I have been here 5 myself and married a Panamanian. We make some friends with expats but they would rather barrier themselves in their enclaves. That has no appeal to us. Expat life is hard but so is slaving away at a 9-5.

    Reply
  58. As a stayer (17 years in East Africa) who wonders often if she should be a goer (especially when terrorism was at its height in Nairobi) – this all rings true. The grass seems to be always greener for those who are off to pastures new and I’ve been stuck in one spot for too long to have any idea of what it truly is like to move on. Eeek!

    Reply
  59. Sorry guys – all this is expat blahblah from the expat bubbles and the reason why I try to stay away from expats as much as possible. Nothing but complaints on how stupid, dishonest, lazy, dangerous, greedy etc… the locals are. You guys lock up in a golden castle of fear. Really – this can spoil your stay – as Randy Hilarski states: stick to the locals. Didn’t go abroad to meet the same pack that I left at back at home.

    Reply
  60. I’ve been doing this for 24+ years and no one has ever captured it so well! Thanks for your article!!!

    Reply

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