When you’re faced with a move abroad, emotions are often running high. Whether it’s your first, second or fifth move, you really can’t escape how a move can make you feel.
Of course, there is a level of excitement… everyone is looking forward to the new experiences and new opportunities. But there are a variety of emotions about the move that you may be feeling all at once, from sadness and anxiety to the overall “wow” of the experience. Don’t forget that what you feel, your kids may be feeling too, for example you may be unsure about who your new friends will be and so may your kids.
The fact is that moving your home abroad is an emotional thing. Take heart though, a little time and effort in doing some research can help to make your move a successful transition.
Firstly, you need to find the groups that are active in your new community. Search on google, search on social media (Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest), you are looking for “foreigners in…” “expats in…” “families in…” “parents in…” and so on.
Once you find these groups, engage and start asking questions. You want to know how easy grocery shopping is and what sort of products you can’t get access to, like your kids favourite treat; I always bring a few sachets of Jelly mix from home and I make it in chinese tea cups as a little treat for the girls. Ask random questions, is it possible to buy bras in your new home? You may be surprised to learn that living in Asia it’s almost impossible to buy bras without padding! Ask about medicines for your baby and what you should bring from home, although even now the girls are older I still buy all my common medicines when visiting home such as paracetamol, cough liquid,hay fever relief and so on. But don’t forget about the other family medicines such as vitamins, supplements and annual things like deworming!?!
When it comes to schooling, ask at your current school, what do they know about the schools where you are going? Ask around your community if anyone knows the schools in your new location? A recommendation is worth a thousand google searches! Then start your online research, once you either by recommendation or by your own reading found a school that looks interesting ask on the social groups you’ve connected with – what are the experiences of other people moving from [your current school system] to this school? Is there anyone from [your current school system] who would like to connect and have a skype chat? What are the values of the school? Do they have a good induction for new kids? And so on. Then make time to talk to someone at the school, probably in the admissions department, and go from there.
Once you know where your (or your partner’s) office will be and you’ve identified which school you want to send your kids to, then start your home search. Often when moving abroad, we live in apartments for the first time. Consider who is above and around you, how much noise are they likely to make? What outdoor spaces are around you, it’s important to be able to get the kids outside easily! How many windows can you open, you will need fresh air 🙂
I feel that maps are super important when moving abroad, this is one of the first purchases I make. For me, there is nothing more unsettling that not knowing what direction I am going! I also use the maps on my phone, and I pin everything (writing a brief description each time so I can remember what it is 🙂 from an interesting shop I walk past, to a recommendation someone makes.
In addition, I use Google Keep, and I have notes in different categories – shopping recommendations, important addresses, restaurants and cafes, recipes, and I keep photos of the labels of local products I like.
Once you are settled find out where your nearest fruit and veg supply is, a wet market or a cart seller, once you find one you like go there often and build a relationship. In Mumbai, the cart seller really got to know me and he encouraged me to try different vegetables and even started to keep a small box of ‘other’ items under his cart like broccoli!! Start looking for the surplus markets, these are often great places to find basic clothing items at discounted prices. Even if you’re not a big craftie, find out where your local fabric market is… you can almost guarantee you will need to create a costume for the kids at some point! I also like to find the local flea markets, they’re a treasure trove of interesting items that with a little cleaning can help make your new place a home.
Go back to those online groups that you found, ask where they go for a long weekend? Who is a good babysitter? What do families do on the weekends? Where can you get a good haircut?
Don’t be put off if your favourite brand is available. Don’t be afraid to ask other people where they go (I have literally stopped blonde women in the street to ask where they get their hair done!). What is critical is that you put yourself out there and research! It really does help you and your family settle in and enjoy your new home.
What tips do you have for moving abroad? What questions do you ask? Please do share your experiences, let’s help each other make our transitions successful!