Arrival and the first few days in a new country is almost always exciting. And disorientating. And frustrating. And tiring. And eye-opening…
In other words, it’s a whole lot of things, all rolled up into one big fat ball of emotions. Out of which you tumble at some point – maybe a week after you arrive, maybe a month. Hopefully relatively unscathed – although, from previous experience, you are unlikely to be totally unchanged.
As someone with many years of expat experience behind me, you would think I would be ready for this. But every time is different – there is always something that throws that unexpected curve ball at you. And even when events are expected, even when you know with that growing sense of anticipation what is about to happen, there are still things that are just always going to be difficult. However well prepared you are.
One of these things is not having transport when you very first arrive. This always happens to me – not necessarily because we haven’t thought about it or tried to organise things in advance, but just because it is one of those things that usually does have to wait until at least a few days after you touch down. In our case, my husband has a work car and he has taken a few days away from the office to look after us – so we didn’t want the expense of a hire car until we absolutely needed it. In the meantime, we are busily looking for a permanent family car – although I appreciate this will take a bit longer.
So not a bad situation but still I don’t have a car, I would feel very nervous driving his HUGE work car and I am having to rely on him driving me and the children everywhere. We can’t really walk to many places here so we are very restricted to what and where we can go under our own steam. And even if I did get out on my own (which I will very soon – hopefully this week, possibly even tomorrow…), I don’t have a local bank card, I am still getting used to the coins, I am terrified of getting lost in the wrong part of town….
In other words, I am as helpless as a child.
As well as the lack of car and the lack of bank card, I am also still trying to muddle my way through all the various locks, doors, bolts, keys and alarms on our house. People keep telling me how to alarm or de-alarm the house; which key fits into which lock; when I should open which door and how to work out who is at the gate. It’s so confusing and I just want to shut down and ignore it all, but I know that sooner or later I will have to start taking responsibility again and work all of this out for myself. I can’t rely on my husband forever – even if he does seem to understand things like locks and gates better than me..
But the one advantage of having done this before is that I know things will get easier – and hopefully pretty quickly. I know that once I start to drive, I will start to get used to it. I will soon begin to understand the rules of the road, which honking horn is serious and which can be ignored, what those signals at roundabouts actually mean. I will be on my own in the house so will need to know how to unlock the doors and I will also be the one off to do the weekly shopping so will have to get to grips with paying for things in this country (after all, how different can it be from paying for things back home?).
I think we are all allowed a little “cocooning” time at the start of our new lives abroad. But I know that this time will be over soon. I will have to take a deep breath and start living here. Ignore my fears about not knowing what to do when I hit someones wing mirror and they start to threaten me, or I accidentally set off the alarm in our house trying to open one of the doors. Sometimes the anticipation of these things is actually a lot worse than the reality – and you find that once you have gotten over the first hurdle (get in that car! visit that supermarket!), you start to wonder what you were so worried about.
For now, though, just for a couple more days, I’m going to enjoy being the child, getting driven around, acting dumb about the house locks and letting someone else do the shopping. It’s actually quite nice not having adult responsibilities! Perhaps I should keep up the scardy cat act for a little while longer…..
Shopping photo courtesy of colorblindPICASO