Settling in: #1. Newness tiredness


We’re being very ‘Cambodian’ in combating our newness tiredness.

Overseas tiredness is different from tiredness in your own country. While being too busy is present in both, there is one major difference; as you settle into a new country everything is new.

In your own country there’s a mix of new and old. Often the old is easy to do–we do it without thinking about it. How many people driving in Sydney for 10 years get stressed by ‘the scariness of driving in Sydney.’1

In a new country, everything is new, nothing is old. Which means everything is hard work. Even the little things that you wouldn’t think about as hard, are tiring. One example is shopping. Where do you go to get food? You can’t get it all in one place. There is often one place for one thing and another place for the next thing. None of this is one stop shop; more like one thing per shop. It hurts your head just trying to figure these simple things out. So overseas tiredness could be better termed ‘newness tiredness’.2 Gradually things change. But in the beginning you’re hit with all the new.

We were told in training, ‘expect to sleep 2 hours extra each night overseas just to get by on the day to day.’ We’ve certainly experienced that. But Sam and I also employed two other strategies to combat newness tiredness (at least we did in the early days). Our first strategy was to just aim to do one thing per day. If you get more than that done, you’ve done well… but maybe too well (you’ll pay for it tomorrow). So really it’s ‘well done’ if only the one thing gets done.

Our other strategy is to think long term. We have the privilege of being here long term, which means we don’t have to try and cram everything in all at once. The result of this is that going slow is not only doable but will enable us to stay long term.

This newness tiredness doesn’t disappear overnight. Even after you’ve ‘settled in’ there’s still more ‘new’. In that sense, the newness tiredness hangs around indefinitely.


  1. There may be other reasons for why you are stressed while driving in Sydney. 
  2. Not only are you physically and intellectually tired, but you’re emotionally drained. Your senses are pumped full with new. Your values take a hit as you get used to a new culture and new way of living with different goals and values inherent in their way of doing.