All around the world there will be families going through exactly what we are doing right now.
Relocating to another country.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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?
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?