This is the first time to live in a city where the beach is just a stroll away from home. What can I say. It's not fancy and the locals claim it to be "so-so" but come on. One cannot ask for more.
Walk in the morning to the awesome market that sells locally grown mangoes, strawberries and avocados. Then drop by the beach, rent a stand-up paddle, lay under the sun or try a run on the sunset. Unparalleled healthy lifestyle, close to those Australian fitstagram accounts that we all follow, for inspiration.
Aren't beaches something amazing? It's always the same thing, right? Lighter or darker sand, cooler or warmer, cleaner or turbulent water. It doesn't change but no-one seems to be getting sick of it, either. Well, maybe some do.
Just like with sunny days in Spain. Locals complain that "it's too hot". Those who ever lived in a cold country plan on getting some international mobility deal for them, so they can see how awesome it is, to spend 6 months under a down jacket :P
I am not the person to say "nowhere like Spain". But in my view, locals (specially those who haven't moved so very much) are excellent at:
- Complaining about their reality
- Believing that "grass is always greener on the other side"
- Lacking appreciation of the everyday wonders in front of their eyes
This is just mankind. Everyone dreams about their imaginary picture of what others have (Japanese dream of siesta, Swedish dream of beach, Spanish dream of Scandinavia??) but just a few are prepared to pay the price (long hours, job instability, cold & dark weather) of being an immigrant.
Maybe, this is the best aspect of radical changes. Suddenly, a new world opens up. Everyday is a new adventure, among amazing details, that others happen not to pay much attention to. By looking silly in certain situations, you are able to learn from the new cultural clash while starting from scratch (hopefully, reinforced by some learnings in the past).
Some days, are better than others. Today was a good one.
There is nothing like the support on the first months in a new country and workplace. I've been through this already, but is always as hard as the first time. Forever gratitude to those who wasted some time, played mentor for a while and helped out on the hard walk, that first steps always are.
In the flight to Japan, I watched a Korean movie called Architecture 101.
Quite not a masterpiece, but in one of the scenes, a professor recommends his architecture class to go out and about, explore the neighborhood and try to discover the beauty in it. Then, go to the opposite end of Seoul, to repeat the exercise. Guess that the best way to appreciate is to lose, whatever you have (even for a while).
For those of you wondering about how I feel or what's going through my mind, these days, I thought it would be interesting to explain the stages of expat (and repat) life. At a time when many are considering a move out of their homeland, understanding what will most likely go through your mind is always good (spoiler: if you master the host language before you leave, half the job is done) :
1. Honeymoon (1st - 3rd month)
Initial fascination and excitement about the new country, its sights and flavors.
2. Culture shock (3rd - 6th month)
Once the initial excitement is over, the issues in everyday life (inside and outside the office) start to pop-up. This is to not quite get the way people behave in the office, who is who or how to be more effective. Besides, your loved ones may be suffering too (gets worse for those bringing teenagers). Tough overall. Lots of confusion, anger and frustration.
3. Adjustment (6th - 12th month)
Adjustment to the host country is finally a reality. You start to build relationships, learn (master) the language (depending how tough it is), business style and integrate. Anxiety is finally over.
4. Bubble, Assimilation or Cosmopolitan? (>1 year)
Out of the adjustment phase, 3 main things can happen:
- Assimilation: Integrate fully in the host culture, lose their original identity and remain in the host country forever.
- Cosmopolitan:Adapt the parts of the host culture that you see as better and keep some own and create an own blend. It's no problem to go somewhere else or back home.
- Bubble: Specially seen in Asia and countries where the culture gap is larger, we see people only relate with other expats and reject (show zero interest) to adapt to the "host culture".
5. Reverse shock (when coming back)
The idea is quite simple: You can't go home again. The host country changed you and meanwhile, the home country changed too. So it'll never be the same. This stage is often misunderstood as the easiest step, when it usually turns out to be the worst (as people are not expecting it).
It's a bit different for us. Because, we had never worked in Spain before. It doesn't feel like coming back (as it would be in Stockholm) but rather, like reallocating somewhere else. I guess that mastering the language is as helpful as being new in paradise city.
The worst part is to face the things dropped in the previous clashes (e.g. shouting, criticizing others, needing a car, lack of order and punctuality) unfortunately, it feels like a painful step back sometimes (trust me, those question-mark-faces of "Why on the hell anyone would leave Tokyo to come to Malaga?" aren't helping either...).
As I always tell myself when someone complains a bit too much (hey, I'm Spanish too) "if you don't like this, it's easy. Get another job and move somewhere better - if you think you can ;)"
Sometimes, best is to stop. Try to appreciate the present, what you have, who you are with and the good things in it. That's how I decided to get out of the pain of leaving Tokyo besides of course, writing about the repat culture shock I'm currently going through.
I will also learn from the people around to relax, to create the right blend of work and enjoying life.
I know a bumpy road is ahead. But the good things in it, will be the lighthouse to guide me through.