Kenneth Demsky PhD

International Relocation - One Of Life's Most Stressful Events

Posted 14th November 2016


Cross-cultural counselling can help to address the difficulties after an international relocation.

To ask for information or to arrange an appointment,
please call Kenneth Demsky, PhD on 020 7435 6116
or send an e-mail to

An international relocation can be a grand adventure, but the challenges it brings can test interpersonal relationships and internal coping mechanisms like few other situations in life. In fact, on a famous rating scale of stressful life events, it's graded to be as stressful as divorce or losing a close family member.

That's because we human beings are essentially animals who like habits, routines, schedules and rules to follow. These habits are familiar and comforting. Relocation to another country, however, takes them away in one stroke. Additionally, your trusted network of family and friends who have always been a few minutes away will be much further away, perhaps even in another time zone. This is unsettling, and the adjustment to such a major life change tests anyone.

Our ancestors' way of life was predominantly to be born, live, work and die in one place; it certainly was not based on frequent long-distance travel or immigration. In this age of technology and global opportunities, the world may appear much smaller to us, but the experience of "culture shock" is not extinct. Sometimes seemingly small differences become real stumbling blocks in building a new way of life.

Moving to a new country involves issues such as logistics, visas, emigration and immigration requirements. Whether you are relocating in response to a job offer, responding to family needs, to maintain a partner relationship or just as a way of having a life re-boot, the stress starts at the outset, rises to a peak, then gradually lessens until one has made a complete adjustment to the new environment. Some people are capable of moving through this cycle quickly on their own; others needs extra support and input.

Cross-cultural counselling is an invaluable tool to help you move into a new way of life more easily and achieve personal growth at the same time.

Fear of the unknown is common and life change of such magnitude can bring unpredictable scenarios. International relocation can seem more daunting if you've not moved before. You will need to consider housing areas, local schools and shopping areas in relation to work locations.

Remember that at first even the mundane might appear forbidding:

  • How will you make friends?
  • How will you settle in to a new home?
  • Will the shops sell your favourite brand of coffee?
  • How will you cope driving on the "wrong" side of the road?
  • Will your friends from the past be lost?
  • How can you get emergency help

It is not a sin to grieve for the past a little, a new place will have new rhythms and you'll inevitably miss the old way of life. Try to think positively - quickly settling in to a routine again will immediately make you more comfortable. Plus, although this may sound impossible in the preparation for a move, try to spend some time with your partner, so that your most important relationship is not strained beyond recognition.

And then you can just get on with living life... however, the cultural differences that you may encounter can impact your interpersonal relationships. Some cultures perceive age as being a source of wisdom and some don't, some are more and some are less money oriented, some value compromise and accepting limits, others push to achieve goals at any cost.

If you are speaking with someone in your new neighbourhood, you need to know how to ensure this does not become an argument or all-out war! An example of differences can be easily found between the British who appear to be incredibly polite and other cultures who tend to speak more directly. Another example - the Japanese, who pride themselves in their social cohesion and indirect methods of achieving peace in their communities.

Cross-cultural counselling can help to address the difficulties after an international relocation, lessen the stress, bring better level of understanding more quickly and prepare you for more personal growth in your new setting.

Posted 14th November 2016

To ask  for information or to arrange an appointment,
please call Kenneth Demsky, PhD
on 020 7435 6116
or send an e-mail to