Relocating your Family: How to have adventure and sanity with five steps.
I wouldn’t say I’m an expert at many things. I can’t tango, or hold my breath for longer than a minute, and I literally have no understanding how to contour (does anyone know how it is different from using bronzer? Serious question, comment below to help a sister out). But I think it’s ok to be confident in yourself, and admit when you’ve got a skill. And just like a professional high-jumper can look at a bar and know in advance that she will clear it with ease, there are some things I would call myself a professional at: Reverse parking (thanks to Desley my driving instructor’s infuriating physics equation); Estimating the exact weight of any sized stick of butter (a talent I’ve honed mercilessly at the peril of my hips), and relocating my family. I think when I look back at my life, from my deathbed, I should be proud to know that I had three skills, albeit that they revolved around cars, cake and travel.
Just before I got engaged to my husband, nearly eight years ago, he said something to me that I will always remember. Paraphrasing (not because I don’t remember, but instead because being succinct is one of those things he isn’t an expert at haha). ‘If you marry me, we aren’t going to stay in one spot, we’ll move a lot, it’s my job.’ I don’t want to go into his job, because when that happens people lose all interest in anything I have to say and just want to talk about that, and I’ve got the microphone, so that can wait.
And move we have. This time hasn’t been a cross-country move however. We have crossed continents, the equator, seasons and language. We’re not in Kansas anymore so to speak. Despite the huge changes we’re all experiencing, there are a few tips that can be applied to any relocation, that will make it a little less like you want to kill each other. Here is a list I have compiled over our three international, and four interstate moves. I hope they can help you too.
Things are going to get hectic. A taxi is going to stop across four lanes of traffic and you are going to be standing in the middle of a highway trying to put down your new junky stroller to the tune of a hundred cars tooting their horns at you. But know in that moment: I’ve been there too. And there is literally nothing you can do, but focus on what you’re doing and get it done. Letting your adrenaline take over is going to do nothing other than make the situation more awful. You can do it. And also, there is a secret silver latch on the right of the stroller. Stomp on it hard.
2. Eat Well
Do all that you can not to go into survival mode and eat whatever you can find. (I.e. McDonalds for three meals a day because it looks familiar). It’s ok every now and then, but your body needs you, and it needs you to look after it, at least for your mind’s sake. I know I sound like Harold the Giraffe but if you get this thing right (and get some sleep), you’re going to be in a far more stable frame of mind, when you get overwhelmingly homesick and your body goes into auto-pilot taking you to the airport to throw it all in. Have an apple instead of that Big Mac.
3. Make Friends
It can be lonely to be away from everything you know, but guess what? There are other lonely people too. Most places have some sort of social forum for expats. Do a quick Facebook group search and you’ll be overwhelmed with social activities. And even when you don’t feel like going to anything, and it’s -9 degrees outside. Go! I went to one on Friday night and laughed so hard I was crying. I was in a stranger’s house, buying second hand clothes, with a group of women from all over the world, connected only by our language and location, and I have no doubt, some of those women, when I look back on my time here, will have been major characters in my narrative.
4. Establish a Routine
I read an article on the Four Stages of Culture Shock It says they are elation, resistance transformation and integration. For kids though there is no elation. They don’t want to move, they want to stay in their house, near their cousins, with their bunk beds and trampoline. So it’s really important, for their sake as much as yours, that you don’t become a Kardashian addicted, bed-bug recluse (unless you were beforehand) (And by no means is this a go at my girl Kiki, if anyone loves a Kardashian marathon it’s me. But don’t forget you have children – if you have children). If you got up and made porridge in the morning at home, get up and do it here. If you can’t take much with you, take their favourite toys, their nightlight, their pillow or blanket. Things that smell the same, home is where the heart is, or where the fabric softener smells familiar: same, same.
4. Be Minimal
I know I said to bring your kids’ junk, but limit it. When you get to your new home there will be a whole new range of things you’ll want to stuff into your 23kg of luggage on your way home, and if you’ve bought everything you own, you’ll have no space. Ikea is everywhere in the world.
So to summarise. Find your zen, eat your veggies, make a buddy and you’ll be fine. Haha no really though, if you’re struggling, find someone to reach out to. There are always people to help. I’d love to hear about your experience.