I first read about the “expat syndrome” in 2014 but couldn’t find any reference of it by psychology communities. It seemed many writers have also put their own take on the “label” but it did originate with an expat author called Tony Crossley who was living in Thailand. He wrote…
Expat Syndrome is a condition whereby many expatriates see mostly either the best of their own nationality & the worst of the locals, or see the opposite.
He further went on to explain that…
The secret to expat life is tolerance of ways that are different to what the expat is used to. Many expats adapt well, but others become niggly clods of criticism that constantly complain that the authorities and locals do not devote their lives to making the expat happy.
In truth, these are wretched souls that think they can build themselves up by pulling all around them down.
What Specifically is the Expat Syndrome?
As I sit here and think about my expat years in Turkey, I begrudgingly have to admit that if such syndrome does exist, I have succumbed to it on numerous occasions.
Kate Ashley Norman at the Thrive in Turkey Centre, who is aware of the expat syndrome, says that psychology communities would probably refer to it, as an internal or external locus of control i.e. do you let events dictate your outlook on life or vice versa?
“For many, the decision to move overseas is fulfilment of their wish to ‘live the dream.” The first few years are a roller coaster of pure happiness. No stress, mid-afternoon beers, cheap cigarettes, no demands on their time but reality sets in.
Unexpected cold winters, changing bureaucracy, falling interest rates, missing the family back ‘home’, increasingly poor health, and fear of being conned (again), can lead to feelings of unhappiness, and often depression.
There is a distinct difference between those who succumb to the expat syndrome, and those who happily avoid it. Those who succumb demonstrate an external locus of control – a feeling of powerlessness over events that have contributed to their feelings of unhappiness.
Those who avoid the expat Syndrome trap are those who have a deep sense of control over their lives. Despite experiencing similar challenges to those affected by the syndrome, they have a greater sense of resilience and empowerment to deal with the crap and focus on the good.”
Expat Life in Turkey
So basically, thinking of your adopted country as the source of everlasting unhappiness and stress free days can be your downfall. More specifically, viewing Turkey as a utopia is a belief that we would do well to avoid especially given the current situation.
While expats have seen their monthly incomes dwindle, the cost of living go up and the value of their property spiral downwards, we’ve also witnessed a civil war in a neighbouring country, refugee babies dying on our beaches, ISIS threats, media restrictions, mass murder at a peace rally in the capital and a political scene that has evolved into the biggest mess the country has witnessed since the 1980s.
As the country goes back to the polls on November the 1st, many Turks and expats will be watching the results with intense anticipation.
Turkey is at a crossroads.
Last week, an expat friend asked if it was time to leave.
“I wouldn’t do that” I replied but in the meantime, it wouldn’t hurt to start being grateful for the small things in life.