Starting expat life: feeling like a child again…..

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.

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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 husbandΒ  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?).

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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

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My Expat Family

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16 thoughts on “Starting expat life: feeling like a child again…..

  1. Best of luck as you transition to your new home and from being a child to adult again! I so “get” this. I love that feeling of “staying safe” and not venturing out at times when all feels so new and somewhat risky… and then it kicks into gear and the adult takes over and one little success leads to another and before you know it, you are feeling more like yourself in your new home. I will be right there with you this week as my daughter and I move to Egypt on Thursday… and I too will want to retreat ( I know) but hopefully it won’t be too long until I feel like my feet are under me… or at least partially πŸ™‚ Take care!

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  2. Those first days are alternately exciting and depressing, such a rollercoaster. One month from now and it will all feel so much more normal. Good luck with the car – I hate changing cars – that first drive as you get used to the new dimensions are bad enough anywhere but positively horrid when you are also learning a new driving style/rules of the road. Good luck on the bank card – can you use it until you get your name on the account?

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    • I can use my old UK card, but we’re waiting for another credit card still linked to our UK account but with no charges attached. I can still just use cash but then there is that horrible business of trying to work out which each note and coin is…. Anyway you’re totally correct, one month on it’ll be a different story. I’ll try and remember to do an update post!

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  3. Preach! I know exactly how you feel! I still have days where all I want to do is hide and feel anything but an outsider. My mom has always said that it takes 21 days to break a habit. I think after 21 days you’ll feel WAY better than you do today. And even if you don’t, then it’s alright. Sometimes having that comfort of knowing that things will soon get better is enough.

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  4. I completely sympathize with what you have said here! As a new expat teacher in Venezuela this is exactly what happened to me too. No car, don’t understand the local norms, and it was so “unsafe” that we had admin taking us everywhere before they trusted us to not get kidnapped. Even after moving to Valencia and being in Venezuela for two years, I still felt a little “cocooned”. Thanks for sharing your experience!

    -Amanda at http://teachingwanderlust.com/

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  5. I think I was probably lucky that we lived with my mother-in-law for a bit when I first moved over before we were able to move into our apartment. It definitely gave me a chance to get used to everything a bit more before we had to set up house. I still don’t have my own car, but we don’t have kids, so I just have to worry about getting myself around when my fiance is at work!

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