The moving game.

All around the world there will be families going through exactly what we are doing right now.

Relocating to another country.

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Packing and lists and decorating and sorting and letting and selling and more lists and goodbyes and checking and booking and calling and re-checking and more lists.

Houses and schools and visas and passports and children and pets and cars and boxes and suitcases and suncream and…..you get the idea. There is a lot to do, and lot to take in. My head is constantly spinning and when someone asks me how’s it all going sometimes I just go blank. How is it all going? Well, it’s going….and we’ll get there.. But the next few weeks are not going to be fun.

When I found my three roadtesters – Erin, Nichole and Lynsay – I asked them to help me out by using my book as a guide for their relocations and then write about it. Erin is already living in her new country (Denmark), and has been there for more than six months – so for her, these difficult days are in the past. But she wrote a post reflecting on the move and her first six months in Copenhagen, which you can read here. The post includes a list of some of the things Erin has learned since she arrived in Denmark, including the immortal line: Traveling, holidaying or vacationing somewhere is vastly different from LIVING there. Oh yes.

Erin and her family

Erin and her family

But both Nichole and Lynsay are yet to relocate and are basically both in more or less the same place as I am: in the midst of their move. Nichole is moving with her family from Australia to New York, and Lynsay from Dubai to Korea (Lynsay might have actually left already – I await updates on her arrival!).

Nichole covered chapters one (Before You Go) and two (The Move) of the book in one post – which you can read on her blog From Melbourne to Manhattan. But as a taster:

The first couple of chapter’s of Clara Wiggins’ The Expat Partner’s Survival Guide, ‘Before you Go’ & ‘The Move’, have really been brilliant in reassuring me that I’m not going crazy and that I’m basically doing the right things!

Clara has used her previous experiences and a very down to earth delivery style to provide support and a vital second reference for when your mind is going through the endless ‘what have I forgotten’ cycle, which usually occurs in the way too early a.m. hours and sees me knocking things off my bed head as I flounder around for a pen and notepad.

I find the information itself helpful but also the anecdotes from other expats, that quite often oppose one another. We’re all different and each family has it’s own little world order and when it comes down to it, you just have to make decisions based on the best information/gut feel that you have and go with it.

I think it’s so important to know that you are NOT going crazy – and also that you are not alone.

In the meantime, Lynsay took each chapter separately and wrote two posts on her blog Mills Family Travels, one on Before You Go and the other on The Move (part one), about which she says:

Sorting began last month and I am gradually trying to move anything that is coming with us to a spare room.  Anything to avoid the few surprises that were shipped here (an empty suitcase that we needed for the flight, a tennis racquet case minus the racquet and an empty cardboard box!).  The arguments caused in looking for that suitcase!  Fortunately this time there is very little in the way of furniture as we are moving to a furnished accommodation.  So whilst that makes things easy in some respects it is amazing how much we are still taking (having 3 children with all their toys and books means lots of boxes!).

I love that they found an empty suitcase, empty tennis raquet case and even an empty cardboard box when they unpacked!

As for me, well here is my take on the first two chapters of my own book:

Before you go

It wasn’t an easy decision to apply for an overseas post – but I kept telling my husband applying didn’t mean we had to take whatever was offered – but if we didn’t apply, we would never have that choice. All through the long process, he kept telling me he wouldn’t get through…he wouldn’t get through….so many times that I believed him.

So it was a bit of a shock when we found out he had been accepted! To be honest, in retrospect, it shouldn’t have been a shock as he has exactly the right background, skills and experience for the job. I just believed him when he said he wouldn’t get it!

The second shock was hearing we were being asked to go to Pretoria. We had had a whole list of possible postings right back at the start of the process, and had gone through them with a tooth comb. We cut the list down to about half, and then took out a couple, added a couple….eventually I think we ended up with about six or seven real possibilites – of which Washington and the Netherlands were probably at the top for schooling reasons. South Africa would have been my first choice had we not had children, but there are a few issues around schools that luckily we now think are resolved.

So, finding out we were moving again – and then finding out it would be South Africa – was quite a shock. First thing we had to do was tell the kids – and you can read exactly how that went in this post. But after that, other than a couple of days up in London for a sort of “orientation” meeting with my husband’s department, we sort of returned to normal. We had a years notice almost from the day for this posting so it’s certainly not been a rushed process!

During that year we have managed to do quite a bit of research, and I have made contact with a few people already lving out there (we are lucky in that I have two friends in place in Pretoria, plus relatives living all over Southern Africa). But the highlight of our preparations was the trip we made to Pretoria last October.

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Zebras by the side of the road, Pretoria

When writing the Expat Partner’s Survival Guide, I did urge people if possible to make a pre-move recce to their new country. Although we had managed this previously as a family to St Lucia, this time – with school  now such an important part of our lives – I found it even more useful. Seeing their school, as well as their house, local shopping malls, restaurants etc, will definitely make the move far easier for the girls (and therefore for me).

The Move

So now we’re in Chapter Two mode. I wrote a checklist for myself a few months ago, based on the checklist in the book, and have been going back to it every so often to see how we are doing. But now that we’re weeks rather than months away from going, I write weekly and then daily lists on top of my general list. I wonder whether, by the last week, I’ll be writing hourly lists?

Lists on lists....

Lists on lists….

As we go through the process of sorting out letting the house, selling the cars, changing our addresses, sorting out all our stuff (what to take, what to leave, what to sell, what to give away…), buying insurance, chasing new passports and visas, booking flights, organising decorators and cleaners, one thought keeps coming back to me.

How on earth did we do this in 2008 when we moved to Pakistan with a baby and a toddler?

As it is, at least this time the children are at school 6.5 hours a day (although to be fair, I didn’t have a part-time job, blog to write or book to market back in those days). However, as someone pointed out to me this morning while I was discussing this, that time I didn’t have to worry about dealing with the chidlren’s emotional baggage.

As part of the organisation for this move. I have printed off little slips for the girls to give out to their friends with their email addresses, my Skype address etc – and a place for their friends to do the same and give back to them. Taking them away from their friends and the school that they love is probably the hardest thing I have had to do for this move – and I am hoping that little things like making sure they’ve swapped addresses with their schoolmates will help.

We’re at M-day (moving out of house day) minue 15, and F day (flying day) minus 31. It will be a little while yet before I can relax – but we’ll get there.

So long as I don’t lose all my lists first.

(Overseas pic courtesry of BiblioArchives)

Are you moving this summer? If so, how’s it going? Are you feeling ready?

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27 thoughts on “The moving game.

  1. We’re in the wonderful place called LimboLand. Been here for nearly 6 weeks.

    Being summer, of course we need to know asap so we can make formal enquiries about school and find a house etc so we can move asap and get settled before school starts.

    It also means sneaking away as friends are on summer holidays 😦

    Detest LimboLand, yet here we are again …………….

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  2. A year’s notice would have been nice – but then we don’t have children, so packing up and moving out in a matter of about a month was more possible. The thing that continually keeps us in Limbo-land is the visa situation. As we didn’t do this relocation with an existing job we had to find a third-party to sponsor, and jumping through those hoops was a bit of an ordeal. We were hoping to extend our stay here, but having lost out in the lottery for an H1B visa we’re now having to look into whether work’s parent company might be able to sort something out… So we might be staying – or we might be moving in October!
    Anyway, best of luck with your move to South Africa, Clara, I look forward to reading all about it!

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  3. Hi Clara, you mention that you feel you have resolved the issues around schooling in SA, can I ask what you have decided on, as it’s a source of continuous debate and discussion amongst the UK expats in Johannesburg! They are meant to be building a British International primary school here in Johannesburg following the Cambridge curriculum but building work still hasn’t started and the pupils they do have are are being taught in portacabins, literally at the side of a busy road.
    Good luck with all the packing!

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    • Hi Ele, well we’ve resolved it in that we’ve chosen the American International School (Pretoria campus), but I’ll let you know in 6-12 months if it’s the right choice! If only there was a really good British School like in so many other places. Most people do seem happy with AISJ though… I can’t remember where yours are?

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      • We looked at AISJ, and lots of our friends have children there, but decided on a private South African school. The school is lovely, the facilities are amazing but there is a huge academic difference with the UK. Both our children, aged 9 and 7 are up a year though for their age, to narrow the gap and we have tutors in the afternoon to extend them! As you say they just need an British international school. I was talking to the Head of the British international school here and she was saying even thought they haven’t got planning permission yet to build the school this side of town, there is such demand that they have bought the land on the other side of Jo’burg already for the 2nd school!!
        But education aside the weather, the travel, and the lifestyle is amazing here so get excited! 😀

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  4. Yes absolutely, I will send you a quick email now so you have my email address. I have been meaning to do that for weeks. Please just drop me a line if you have any last minute questions. We were all very excited this afternoon to discover our favourite marks and spencer biscuits in a new Woolies that has just opened near us!! 😀

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  5. Good luck with the move Clara! It takes me back ten months ago. Just reading this post brought back that whirlwind feeling…and butterflies in my stomach. The unknown, the uncertainty…all tinged with excitement! Can’t wait to hear how it all goes. Cheers, Nicole

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  6. Oh Clara it is really getting so close to your moving day now, how exciting to think you’ll be there next month!! I’m so pleased that your visit there made the girls happier about it, I’m sure that has eased your mind so much too!!
    I’ve loved reading your book and it’s great to read that others have found it so useful too!
    Thanks for sharing with #myexpatfamily x

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  7. As you commented yourself on my post, thank goodness for the knowledge there is someone else in the same boat! Although I really do feel like I’m going stir crazy, it is kind of going. Two weeks to go until the boxes get shipped. All I keep thinking is, “just keep swimming, just keep swimming”. We’ll get there in the end, hang on in x

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    • Yes! Just Keep Swimming – thank you! That is just how I feel. We are being packed on Friday and it feels we have a mountain to climb before then….yet I still seem incapable of actually doing it! Mind you so much can’t be done until the very last moment so I know today is probably my last relatively sane day for a while 🙂

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