psychology | 1718

Psychological Problems of Immigrants

Psychological Problems of Immigrants

Except various social and domestic problems every immigrant usually has stocks of extra psychological issues. It is assumed that the level of the stress of immigration is comparable to the stress of death of a close person. Many break down on the road towards settlement abroad, other live in stress a long time even after it and third are stuck in “neither here nor there” state. This article about psychological problems of immigrants is an attempt to help all those, who decided Cyprus to be their second homeland.


Who Usually Moves to Cyprus?   

Obviously all the countries are different. And therefore people choose different countries to immigrate to because of different reasons. For example, many go to USA for education, career growth etc. North Europe is a dream destination for people, who crave higher social welfare standards. In Nepal land those, who can’t imagine their lives without mountains. Indonesia is favoured mainly by neo-hippies.

But who and why immigrates to Cyprus? As reflected in open statistical sources, 20% of population of Cyprus is foreigners. Which means it’s every fifth person on the island. This is high percentage indeed. Only Luxemburg has biggest amount of aliens in EU. In other words Cyprus is a very popular country for immigration.

Despite the geographical proximity of the Middle East, the amount of refugees from that region is quite insignificant comparing to the total percentage of aliens. Cyprus is actively against hosting refugees on its territories. So the main part of immigrants arrived to Cyprus are citizens of European countries. In fact they rate way more than a half of that number. Among leading nationalities are: Greeks, Brits, Russians, Bulgarians and Romanians.

Greeks are moving to the island mainly in search for a better life. Economic indicators and opportunities in many business spheres in Cyprus are way better than in Greece. And taking into account related mentality, easy path to socialization, hospitality and historical closeness it can be said that Greek immigration is quite conditional. Representatives of this country blend in the new life as easy as Germans in Austria or Spanish in Portugal.

When it comes to Bulgarians and Romanians, they are moving down for good too. The salaries in both countries are low as well as demand for different jobs, that’s why the people from Balkans choose to live in Cyprus.

Russians and Brits opt for Cyprus for another reason: the island is seen as a nice place to settle because of a pleasant climate, beautiful nature and closeness to their homeland, first and foremost.

However the reason for both Russians and Brits is almost the same, the background behind it is very individual.

It’s simple with Brits. The Foggy Albion is cold and that’s why is not really a nice place for a living. Unlike it, Cyprus is warm and welcoming because its historical deep roots connecting the country with Great Britain. Hence, it’s extremely popular among Brits heading to the island soon after they retirement — “to warm their bones” under the Cyprus sun.

It is somewhat different by Russians. Of course, many low-income Russians would like to immigrate to Cyprus. But no one is waiting for them here. Visa barrier, difficulty of getting a work permit — it filters out the flow of immigrants from Russia leaving only wealthy people, who want to live in a more comfortable climate, rare specialists, promising IT guys and experienced bankers.

To sum everything up. We need to keep at least a schematic “portrait” of an immigrant in our mind in order to understand what kind of psychological issues is most relevant for them.

Because the issues differ considerably by a respectful British retiree and by poor Syrian orthodox islamist.

Now we can say that an immigrant in Cyprus is more likely a European searching for better life. It is rather climate or undeveloped labour market they are not satisfied with.

The Immigration Starts in Your Mind

The immigration process is a complicated thing for sure. When someone goes through it experiencing the worrying level compared to loss of a loved one, the others get off only with short periods of bad mood. The level of difficulty of migration process is affected by mental distance, character, general level of social skills, financial capacity, purpose of moving, having immigration experience in the past and many other factors.

However, despite the differences in stress level by different people, there are still several common moments that are typical for all the immigrants without exceptions. Because we are still just humans even when we belong to different nationalities.

I would bet you have seen or read somewhere about 5 stages of accepting something: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Something similar happens to you during the migration process. It also has 5 stages, several of them are completely identical to acceptance phase and some are just indirectly close.

There are few types of classifications of psychological crises caused by migration. However all of them are talking about the same thing: about a sine wave from frustration and despair to euphoria and back. And it repeats several times.

The first stage is also called “stage zero” begins in many cases well before the moving. It’s just a thought that does not contain any intention in it. Like the thoughts about a suicide that usually remain to be just thoughts.

The process of transition from thoughts to actions doesn’t have a limited time. By some people it could take a half of their life.

This first stage has it’s own rules and subcategories (which also correlate with acceptance stages):

Denying reality. It happens when we don’t like what we see around us. Retired Brits complain about never-ending rains that they feel it in their bones. And a young Romanian guy realizes that the opportunities his homeland has to offer him doesn’t match his desires at all. This is the moment when a person starts looking around seeking better conditions.

Anger. It could appear when thoughts about migration are more or less formed in the head. Anger at the nature, God, government, neighbours, yourself. We are angry because someone or something is forcing us to move.

Search for a compromise. “Am I sure it would be better in Cyprus? May be there are other options I didn’t think about? Do those constant rains really bother me that much?”

Depression. Realising that choosing another country as a second homeland is not a fad but a vital need. We understand that we have to give up million of things we are used to, our daily routines, the society we were integrated in long time ago.

Insecurity. It’s one of the final stages. When we are still here but our thoughts are all about the country we are moving to. Nothing is clear. We are lost in turmoil.

Awareness of the need to make choice. When we aware that the decision of what to do is urgent and should be final. Because it’s impossible to live in limbo any longer.

All the listed stages could go one by one or mixed together. We can go back and forth between them too. It could take years for some of them to be over, or weeks, or even days. But these stages are typical for all the people since the time they had their first thought about immigration.

Many people still fail to go through the whole process. Often it’s because humans are conservative by nature and the reason for that kind of decision should be really a serious one. Most of them give up already at “search for a compromise” or “depression”. But the rest manage to go the whole way long. And then: ticket-flight-stamp-hello, new homeland!


Stage 1. Euphoria

So, you decided and did it. A new country. New opportunities. Everything is unknown, appealing and not like at home. Almost all the immigrants feel the spirit of freedom and new chances during this stage. People get “wings”. There aren’t any of the upcoming problems seen on the horizon yet, the future troubles are unclear and there’s no sign of it in the moment. It seems that only the sky is the limit.

Stage of euphoria could be a beautiful one except the fact that it has two nuances:

1. “Tax on foolishness”. When we live in our “natural habitat” we already know where to by cheaper milk and meat, which bus to take, what kind of petrol is better, what insurance company you can trust and so on. We learn these things from scratch in a new country and that’s why we have to spend more money than back at home. You always pay more if you don’t have enough knowledge. That is exactly a phenomenon called “tax on foolishness”. It is better to observe and think more and to do less at this stage, so the tax wouldn’t become crushing for your budget.

Specifically for Cyprus there are few main places where a new immigrant could have financial troubles. These are insurance companies (by the way, not only some no name companies but sometimes also big respectful ones try to shake you down for money), car rent offices (it is better to rent a car not by locals but by huge transnational corporations like Hertz, Sixt etc) and all kind of agents offering help with papers for immigration.

When it comes to the applying for residence permit, it is easy to gather all the documents for the most kinds of it, so you don’t need any specific knowledge to do that. However many immigrants have no idea about the process and they immediately fall into agents’ hands, who are very skillful in convincing you of anything. So many lawyers and notaries charge 2000 Euros for their help to get popular so called “F category”. While all you need to do is to gather few papers and spend few hours of your time.

2. Sooner or later but euphoria will definitely come to an end one day. It’s very important to understand and keep it in mind. Euphoria stage is also reach on resources. A person is full of energy and wishes to change the life for good. You’d better to use these powers wisely because the further stages won’t be as bright, promising and inspiring.

Stage 2. Touristic

First understanding of what’s actually going on appears on this stage. You start to notice that life in Cyprus is not only about beaches, restaurants and shopping malls. You can’t spend your days being on an eternal “holidays” and it’s time to get settled in somehow. You should balance against your demands and opportunities. The perception will also change. The country you left stops to be “a demon and a scarecrow” in your head. People begin to compare the “new” and the “old” homeland.

On this stage immigrants could get thoughts “I can’t escape myself” for the first time. It’s absolutely normal, you should not worry about it much.

Stage 3. Orientation

It is also called “active stress” phase.

It comes to the stage when we already have some kind of knowledge of who we are, where we are and why. We have plans for the future, demand in putting down the roots and we are ready for action.

It’s necessary to solve the immigration problems — that means to go legit. Also you need to ensure an income, socialize and define your priorities.

Of course a person receives inevitable huge amount of stress on this stage. And of course everything going not as it seemed to be during euphoria stage. Unquestionably the lack of necessary knowledge about the country and skills of communicating with locals cause that a person has a really hard time dealing with the realization of these tasks. It feels almost like break through. People still have energy on this stage however the amount of power and wishes grows smaller every day. All in all, welcome back to the reality.

Stage 4. Depression

It is also called “passive stress”.

This stage is the most difficult one. Practically it’s a turning point. As they say the darkest time of the night is usually right before the sunrise.

Unavoidably the proportion of your efforts made in attempt to take roots in a new land multiplied by the number of fails and low efficiency leads to disappointment. On this stage people already see the underside of immigration with all its negative sides. Sometimes they even tend to overestimate the complication of the problems.

Tempestuous socialization hasn’t been happened yet for many of them that’s why many have to face their problems head-to-head in a crisis, without any support from the outside. It seems to be that nothing will work. People begin to remember more and more about the place they lived in. Negative picture of the former homeland is more often replaced with a nostalgic one. We start to notice pros of it, especially those we weren’t be able to see before. We miss our friends and relatives. Sadness and dismay become our constant companions. In the worst cases apathy and bad habits also join them: alcohol and drug addictions, stress eating, insomnia or visa versa — sleeping around 16 hours per day. This is the place where Rubicon flows. The quality of settling down in a new place depends on how we will go through the depression stage. If the desire for changes is strong and we still have few resources left to continue with the process of integration in Cypriot society, we will go to the next stage. If the reality is stronger, the most frequent consequence in this case is the reverse escapism. It’s the process when a person begins to close themselves off from the new compatriots and stops socialization. Every contact that remains includes exclusively people from the place of the previous residence.

Reverse escapism leads to marginalization of the person and “pushing them out” of the society. It forces people to give up and return back home. Another experience could be also a false reverse escapism. It’s quite the same thing with the only difference that a person has a persistent wish to take roots in a new homeland whatever it takes. But without socializing too. Such a scheme is very common and, as a rule, never leads to anything good. It’s very unlikely an immigrant will make a life to the level come to be known as “happiness” if they not even try to fit into society. They also barely could be able to realize their potential in life.

Stage 5. Action

If it was still enough energy and persistence, then “credit given where credit is due”. Depression is over, integration in the new society is more or less complete, we are able to feel happy again and notice those pros of life in Cyprus that we saw only during the euphoria stage. We are back on track as they say.

Of course it doesn't mean that all the immigrants get to the Valley of Eden immediately after the depression stage. Their number is far from all. Anyway the life of the most immigrants returns back to normal, so they characterize it as “it’s manageable” or even “this is a marvelous life indeed”.

Sometimes it happens that a person overcame all the difficulties and strikes of fate and went through depression to the more or less comfortable level of living but sees no value of this new life. Or it’s not enough. So they can’t reach what is important to them. In this case immigrants decide to go back home. This kind of approach is typical for the minority of the immigrants, but it’s still quite a big number of people. While immigrants, who succeeded continued to live they lives like a “normal people”, those, who returned to their homeland should face one more… “bonus” stage.

Stage 5.1. Reverse culture shock

This stage occurs when our fantasies and dreams about the previous place of living capture us more and more. We are endlessly comparing two countries and see that the life in the previous one is way better. So we make a tough call to go back home.

In the beginning, as always, our homecoming meets with euphoria. We meet old friends and acquaintances, feel wise because we “been there, done that” and actively make plans for the new wonderful life. We try to search and actually find compliance between our fantasies about the country and reality. These kind of “finds” are quite often just our wish to see what we want.

However the reality starts to shine through our fantasies brighter and clearer with time. At this time occurs unavoidable throwback. A person gets feeling of being “a stranger among their own people”. Former immigrants are beginning to think that people around don’t understand them any more, their hometown and country changed drastically since they left it and that “there’s nothing to do here anymore”. Well, there are two options at this stage. First one is a deep depression and reintegration into society and the second one is again “thicket-stamp-flight”. Situations when people immigrate back and forth like lost souls without a chance to figure out where it is better for them happen all the time.

How long does it take to go through this or that stage during immigration? From few days to several centuries, passing them down the generations!

Let’s see an example for illustration purposes. Once upon a time in the beginning of the XX century a large group of Russian immigrants, fleeing from the civil war, went out on a search for better life to a far Uruguay. These Russians had their own settlements in their new homeland, where they kept up customs and traditions of no longer existed Russian Empire.

Uruguayan immigrants didn’t fit into local society and basically created a small “island” of Russia inside the far away continent. So we observe here a classical model of reverse escapism.
A lot of talks inside their community were about “Paradise lost”. How everything is right and good there, in the real Russia. These thoughts and dreams were growing inside the chests of Uruguayan Russians for decades. As a conclusion they led to the fact that the most part of Russians decided to become returnees.

Because the community was large, the immigration process was proceeded at the State level with a lot of publications in media. TV programs were showing crying out of happiness Russians, who finally returned back home after hundred years.

Almost all these people were farmers back in Uruguay. That’s why the government of Russia took account of their interests and provided them with lands for farming in the Russian Far East. The farmers were over the moon.

But when they returned to historic homeland, new citizens started to understand pretty soon that their fantasies about Great and fair Empire are slightly different from the reality. And that modern Russia of that time has as much resemblance to the old Empire as Honduras to Portugal. What means it doesn’t look anything like it. It’s a completely different country. With total strange customs and traditions, with another, different mentality. Plus, Far East of Russia — it’s not Hawaii, the climate there is very severe. The soil is also not as fertile as in Uruguay. And what is more, the regime and legislation of the country were a big surprise for the returnees.

As a result the long process of immigration that had been planning for hundred years turned into a puff. Spending a couple of years in suffering, newly minted Russia citizens observed everything what happened around them and returned back to “hated” Uruguay.

Decision to immigrate is not just “let’s see how things go”. It’s a very serious process fraught with stress and depression you must expect as something unavoidable and be prepared to it.

What Could Help You to Immigrate and Make the Whole Process as Less Traumatic as Possible?

1. Nothing wrong with psychological therapy. Yes, it will cost money. And immigrants’ money’s tight usually. But it’s definitely not a waste of your budget. A good therapist could help you shorten the period of tough times significantly and assist in successful integration into new society. The quicker you will manage these, the faster you will be able to fix your finances.

2. Physical activity. During the rough times the only wish we have is to lie down on a sofa doing nothing or practicing different kinds of bad habits. The more time a person spends “lying”, the more difficult is to “wake up”. That’s why it’s very important always stay physically active and do some sport, no matter how hard it is. Doing sports will help you to improve your mental health too, feel more happy and enjoy your life.

3. In any unclear situation — learn a language. This investment is always a win-win scenario. If you know the foreign language, you are already halfway to become a local. With all the benefits it gives you.

When it comes to Cyprus you have options to choose from, because you can learn English or Greek. Locals speak both languages quite well. English could be more important for getting a job and it’s more practical because could be useful in many different situations. Greek is a language of respect. Locals tend to be more loyal to the foreigners when they see that they can speak their mother language. Ideally it’s better to learn both English and Greek.

4. Remember about all the stages mentioned above. It’s way easier and simpler to get through trying times when you know exactly what’s what and that it’s not your fails and screw-ups but unavoidable and necessary stages everyone goes through.

All in all Cyprus is not popular among immigrants for nothing. Cypriots are a wonderful nation, entirely exceptional and distinctive. The nation has a lot of lovely features. Cypriots are mostly peaceful and non-aggressive. They are loyal to the most part of foreigners (with only few exceptions connected with historical specific nature of the country).

Cyprus doesn’t have such a dictatorship of the law as in the countries of continental Europe but also has no anarchy typical for several Eastern countries. In Cyprus the society and authorities made a kind of deal based not on the law but on some implicit agreement. The state is not terrorizing its citizens and people are not too insolent in return. As a result there is an own special atmosphere of freedom and comfort in the country.

Geographical location of Cyprus is another advantage. The climate in the country is more pleasant than in the most homelands of immigrants. What is more a small island has all types of landscapes: high mountains, forests, fields and deserts. The diversity of the nature is very impressive.

In conclusion we can say that there could be many different reasons to choose Cyprus as your immigration destination. It’s a nice country that became a second beloved homeland for many people. But of course not everyone succeeded to integrate. We wish you will manage it or, maybe you did it already. We hope this article will provide you with some help during hard times!

Author: Dmitry Gridin
Translation: Inna Guseva