Recognising the Settlement Stages for Families Moving to New Zealand
February 3 2016
Moving to a new country is a big life change that involves a lot of adjustments. So even if they’re not expecting it, a degree of ‘culture shock’ will almost certainly affect migrant families at some point.
The graph source: ssnz.govt.nz
This article is about the stages that most people go through when moving to a new country.
The journey to feeling settled
Pre-arrival is filled with forethought and planning. People have different approaches to this stage. Some like to research in depth and have everything organised before they leave. Others plan as they go. It is important through this phase to identify the family’s Lifestyle Needs and to discuss with them the differences in culture, as well as their expectations for their decision to live in another country. Once they are living here, they are likely to experience what researchers call the ‘settlement curve’. It has four distinct stages - fun, fright, flight or fight and fit.
Exploring new places and meeting new people is fun and interesting, and the energy and excitement of this stage carries through the first few months. The mood is high.
However, in any new country, it takes time to understand how things work. So it can take longer than expected to organise everyday things that you take for granted in your home country.
At some point, you realise that you are living in a different country.
You might get bad news about someone back home. Or find something is not quite going to plan here. If you have children, they may be having trouble settling in. Or you might simply find a whole lot of minor irritations build up into a major sense of frustration.
You may experience the feeling that life ‘back home’ is going on without you and you’re missing out on important family milestones.
3. Flight / fight
You may not experience the ‘fright’ phase for a few months or even years. But when it happens, it can make you question whether you should go back to your old life (flight) or try and make your new one work (fight).
To be able to make that decision in a balanced way you need to prepare in advance.
Part of the process is recognising that ‘fright’ is a typical part of the migrant experience. It’s the low mood point of the settlement curve.
You should have a plan in the back of your mind, or one you’ve created with your family, about what you’ll do when you reach this point.
Having someone to talk to is a big help at this stage. On Arrival sets up informal support networks right from when our families arrive, introducing them and making friends with other new arrivals to share experiences .
This is the final stage of the settlement curve, when you start to ‘fit’ with your new surroundings and feel at home in New Zealand.
The daily challenges are more routine and you’ve developed more understanding of the way things are done. Some aspects of living in New Zealand have become second nature and you don’t have to think about everything.
Much of achieving the sense of ‘fit’ comes from staying on and contributing at work, at school, and in your social circle.