The moving game.

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… 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.


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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Meet my third road tester – Erin!

I’ve already introduced the first two of my road testers, brave volunteers who have kindly agreed to write about their experiences as expat partners and how useful (or not) they find the Survival Guide along the way. So far we’ve had Lynsay, who is about too embark on her second expat experiences, and Nichole, staring down the barrel of her first ever move overseas. Today I would like to introduce Erin, who is a newly arrived expat in Copenhagen, Denmark, and who blogs at Oregon Girl Around the World.


Thank you for agreeing to be a road-tester, Erin. First of all, please could you tell me a bit about yourself and your family, as well as a bit about your background.

Oregon girl I’ve been around the world, lived in many states and accumulated a myriad of addresses, but Oregon is where I’m “from.” The Oregon Trail is for explorers, wanderers, cultivators. We seek. We create. We do. Currently living and doing and making life happen in Copenhagen, Denmark as Chief Operating Officer for a lively family of 5.

Where were you living in your home country, and where have you moved to?

We were living right outside Portland, Oregon on the west coast of the United States for the past 7 years. My husband worked for the North American Headquarters of Vestas Wind Systems, a Danish company based in Aarhus, Denmark. With the family’s consent, he pursued an open position with the Danish office and here we are. His department is based out of Copenhagen, Denmark where we relocated to in December of 2014.

Have you ever been an expat before? If so, where and when? If not, do you know much about the “expat life”?

While I have held many different addresses domestically (the USA is a big place) I have never lived abroad. My experiences traveling abroad did not prepare me for the expatriation process. I was definitely caught off guard.

How prepared did you feel for the move? As well as from the Survival Guide, where did you get/are you getting your information from?

I wish that I had known about the Expat Partner’s Survival Guide as we had little assistance from my husband’s company and we had to figure it mostly out on our own.

Why do you think the Survival Guide will be useful? Are there any particular chapters you think you will find particularly helpful?

Wish I’d had Chapters 1-8 last year. Now I am particularly interested in making sure that my children are doing ok and that we power through the “Culture Shock.”

How did you find out about my book?

I can’t remember where I first found you! I think on a blog roll for expats or twitter!

What are you most looking forward to about living in your new country? What are you most worried about (if anything!)?

I was most looking forward to exploring Denmark and the rest of Europe with travel here being so much easier when you are already within Europe than making separate trips all the way from the United States. We were most worried about language and culture differences, fitting in and finding friends and comparable activities.

How are your children feeling about the move? How did they react when you told them?

As this was a voluntary move – we pursued the opportunity – we engaged the children all the way. At first it was very exciting and adventuresome. Sure – let’s do it! As it got closer and we had to pack up the house, sell things, get rid of things and say good bye to friends – the reality was a little harder to swallow and we went through many phases of ups and downs – both before AND after the move.

I have a wide range of expats reading my blog – do you have any questions for them? Either country-specific or just general questions about moving and living abroad?

I am really interested in how other families with teenagers have integrated their children into local schools, cultures and activities.

Thanks Erin – if anyone has any wise advice about integrating older children into the local community and schools please let her know in the comments.

I hope you’ve enjoyed getting to know my three road-testers and that you’re looking forward to following their progress as much as I am. I almost feel like a mother hen as I cluck around them, making sure they’re looking after themselves! Watch this space as we hear about the first part of their adventures – preparing for their big move.

Meet the first of my road testers: Lynsay!

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post asking for people to help me “road test” the Survival Guide. Having written it and put it out there, I am really keen to learn more about how helpful (or not) it is. It’s hard for me to have a perspective as a long-term expat, although to be fair I am certainly finding a lot of the information from my contributors incredibly useful as we plan our next move. However, it was fantastic when three lovely women replied to my plea, agreed to be a road tester and blog about their experiences as they move to a new country. Today I would like to introduce the first of the three: Lynsay.


Thank you so much for doing this Lynsay. First of all, can you tell me a bit about yourself and your family, your background etc.

We are a family of 5, myself, husband Mike and our 3 boys, Daniel (10), George (7), and Alfie (4). I am a physiotherapist by training but currently the one at home, Mike is a teacher and for the last 10 years we have lived in boarding schools.

Where do you live at the moment and where are you moving to? Why are you moving?

We are currently in Dubai, having moved here in August 2013. We are moving to Jeju, South Korea for Mike to take up an Assistant Head position at a school there.


So this isn’t your first expat experience?

We are currently expats in Dubai. We had always talked about living in France or Switzerland but never really thought about being further away from the UK than that!

And how prepared are you feeling for the move? As well as from the Survival Guide, where are you getting your information from?

Feeling more prepared than last time. The school we are going to have sent lots of information and I have made contact with someone who used to work at the school (randomly through a chat on Facebook) who now lives in Dubai. It definitely helps having someone to chat to before the move – someone who knows if you can buy Marmite there, if it is easy to get clothes for the children – generally the household things that are so important but not necessarily on the agenda for the one who is changing jobs!

Why do you think the Survival Guide will be useful? Are there any chapters you think you will find particularly useful?

The chapters on arrival and the early days and shopping etc, all of it! I wish I had seen some of it last time!

How did you find out about my book?

Someone posted a link on Facebook in a mums group that I use.


What are you most looking forward to about moving to your new country? What are you most worried about (if anything!)?

Moving to a country with seasons and without 50degree heat! Moving somewhere with a more outdoor lifestyle. I am nervous about the culture and language. Dubai was an easy first post in many ways as everyone speaks English, food is recognisable and all the road signs, shop signs etc are in English. South Korea will be quite different!

How are your children feeling about the move? How did they react when you told them?

The youngest is a little confused (he is only 4) and it doesn’t mean that much to him other than he finally gets to go to school there! George (7) is excited and keeps looking up things about the school or island. Daniel seems fine – happy to be leaving the Arabic he has to learn here but sad not to be going back to the UK.
They were all fine initially, then Daniel had a bit of a wobble and was upset with us for making him move again. He seems to have come round to the idea.


I have a wide range of expats reading my blog – do you have any questions for them? Either country-specific or just general questions about moving and living abroad?

What is the best plan with shipping or do you just accept a nomadic lifestyle or try to take personal things with you (which seems to equate to rather a lot!)? What is the best way to learn the language?

So can anyone answer Lynsay’s questions? You can find out more about Lynsay and follow her family’s move from Dubai to Korea on her blog – This will (hopefully!) include updates related to each chapter in the Survival Guide, which I will link back to here on this blog. Look out for posts about my other two road testers!