The expatriation life cycle

Expatriation brings you into contact with a culture, an environment and, above all, a way of life different from that of your country of origin. Black and Mendenhall’s theory has shown that, during their stay abroad, expatriates go through a cycle of four to five phases, punctuated by pleasure, doubts and sometimes even discouragement. Mondassur takes a look at the different phases expatriates go through. For a worry-free expatriation, we strongly advise you to take out expatriate insurance.



On arrival, people are generally in a euphoric state of mind. Through the superficial discovery of their new environment, it’s essentially feelings of excitement and wonder that expatriates experience.

How to live the honeymoon? Take the opportunity to meet other expatriates who live in the same city, to get their tips and tricks (crèches, schools, sports clubs…) and relax.

Crisis phase = culture shock

The newcomer then becomes aware of the contrasts between the two countries, and is exposed to situations that destabilize him or her. In some cases, this disorientation can lead to feelings of frustration and anxiety, which can have significant psychological or physical repercussions.

How do you experience awareness? Be patient, because you’ll have to go through it anyway. Keeping a diary to record your feelings and doubts, and to take stock of what you’ve left behind and what you loved, can help you take a step back. Later, when you reread the first pages, you’ll be able to measure and appreciate how far you’ve come. Feel free to share your doubts and impressions with other expats who may have felt the same emotions as you.

Adaptation phase

Faced with this, the individual must be able to accept reality and assume his new condition as a foreigner. Once these changes have been accepted, a gradual improvement will be observed in the expatriate’s personal satisfaction, enabling him or her to reach the point of stabilization, otherwise known as the “adaptation phase”.

How do you cope with adaptation? Build your projects, advance your goals. It’s the beginning of a new phase in your life.

Integration phase

After this period of varying length, the expatriate is now at ease in his new environment and more self-confident. He can then capitalize on his successful expatriation.
In most cases, this represents a difficult emotional and intellectual experience, which depends essentially on the individual and his or her ability to adapt to the new situation. However, in all cases, preparation and support, both family and professional, will help you achieve your goals.

Cultural backlash

The end of the assignment and the return to the country of origin also constitute a crucial stage in the expatriate’s life cycle. At this stage, you need to avoid two pitfalls: rushing into decisions to “leave your mark” before leaving, or, on the contrary, dodging important decisions by using the excuse that you’ll be leaving soon. On return, the opposite process begins, and depending on the length of the expatriation, readaptation to the country of origin is necessary.
The term “cultural backlash” is used to describe this critical phase, which is often seen as one of the first sources of dissatisfaction for expatriates.

Scroll to Top