I came accross « Between two lands » documentary in a recent article published in Courrier Expat.
I enjoy watching this documentary as I learned a lot about the emotional process you go through as an expatriate. This topic is of great interest to me. With Pacify Your Mind Inititiative I want to help professionals engaged abroad to put their emotional well-being at the heart of their mission.
In his documentary, « Between two lands », the director Javier Moreno Caballero confronts the stories of young Spanish expatriates who live in London with the analysis by experts on the psychology of migration of the different emotions they experience.
This documentary is not dedicated to Spanish expatriates only. It concerns any individual who experiences or experienced expatriation.
1. This documentary helps you understand the emotional process you go through as an expatriate
Expatriation requires a lot of personal efforts in order to adapt well to a new context and culture. Although it can be a great professional opportunity or personal adventure at first it could be also a threat to your mental health.
The expatriation is a very intense personal journey: you leave your protection and the security of your family, relatives and native culture to experience a new cultural, social environment by yourself.
The feeling of being between two lands is called by psychologists the migratory grief. When you move abroad you have to face different types of losses such as the separation from your family, your native language and culture, your social status etc. Throughout the documentary, experts on the psychology of migration explain the different stages of grief expats go through.
Migratory grief could be expressed by feelings of stress, anxiety, sadness, guilt, etc which can appear chronically and the person doesn’t know why he or she feels this way.
2. This documentary helps you understand expatriation as a personal development adventure
For some expats expatriation have give them an opportunity to grow, to take a different perspective, knowing people from all over the world and being more tolerant. It is a personal challenge where you prove to yourself you can live on your own in a foreign country and achieve new personal and professional challenges.
Being far away from your homeland, your family and relatives, you can better understand what the real issues are in your life. Personally, after watching this movie, I reflected a lot on the real issues behind my decisions to expatriate few years ago in Western Africa and then in Belgium.
The documentary focuses also on the decision by some Spanish expatriates to return to Spain. The issue of returning home is a recurrent question expatriates have in mind and in particular now in the new normal context.
According to a recent article published in the Financial Times, the pandemic with COVID 19 has caused people living abroad rethink their long-term plans and decide about a return to their home country. Time spent in lockdown has underlined the importance of family and the importance of living in a country with a good health system.
Returning home requires also a mental preparation. Returning home could be lived for some expats as a reverse cultural shock or another migration grief. You are not the same person as before and you need to build again a new life in your home country.
I do think expatriation could be assimilated to a personal development adventure. You need to find a meaning for your choice for expatriation or for a return to your homeland. You need to accept what you have lost and continue to build yourself.
3. This documentary outlines the importance of emotional support to expatriates
The director, Javier Moreno Caballero, hopes that this documentary can help those who live in or have just returned from abroad. He admits that this documentary was a real therapy for him and the Spanish emigrants who participated in it and who shared their experiences with psychologists specialized in migration.
One of them, a Spanish psychologist, Ms. Arroyo works with « Volvemos (“We are returning”)”, a platform which facilitates the return of Spanish emigrants, giving them both professional advice and emotional support. She confirms that both adequate information and emotional support participate to improve the confidence and emotional well-being of Spanish emigrants.
Similarly, I am convinced organisations and companies play a key role in supporting colleagues in their professional expatriation adventure. They can give support in many ways, by giving adequate information, a safe environment where expat colleagues can express their emotions related to expatriation before, during and after their expatriation as well as an access to a psychologist if needed. All these initiatives, when put in place, have proved to enhance the emotional well-being and mental health of expatriate staff.
Where could I watch « Between two lands » ?
The documentary is available on Vimeo platform with subtitles in English. https://vimeo.com/ondemand/entredostierras
I hope this documentary will be helpful naming emotions you feel or felt during the different stages of your expatriation.