Excerpts from expat life in England
This expat interview comes from the deliciously-named Ms Havachat who currently lives in England. As a ‘highly mobile’ expat, she and her family have a unique outlook on the concept of home as they move so often.
Where do you currently live and how did you come to be there?
We are currently living in Surrey, UK due to my husband’s work (why else, right?). We’re what you’d call highly mobile expats, moving every 2-3 years with husband’s employer.
What does ‘home’ mean to you?
Home is where we’ve lived.
Home has so many meanings since becoming an expat nearly 10 years ago.
Home is Sydney. That’s where we are from. It’s where immediate and extended family and friends are. It’s where my husband and I have childhood memories. It’s changed over the time we’ve been away, but so have we but it’s basically the same. There’s a sense of familiarity. It’s where our daughter was born though we left for a 2 year contract when she was nearly two and a half years old, so for her, it’s a romantic notion of everyone on their best behaviour, on holiday mode.
Home is where we’ve lived. So, while we lived in Dublin that was home. After two years, Dublin was where we used to live and Yokohama become home… then we moved to Winchester, UK… then back to Dublin (which was very like going home as it was familiar to us, we had friends waiting for us as, I knew where to shop etc)… then to Surrey, our new home. Everywhere was home while we lived there, and when we moved on to another adventure, it was where we used to live.
When we first started expat life, we referred to Dublin as home as that’s where we lived, where we had our home, our friends. I remember our first trip to Sydney and saying to friends, “we’re going home for a few weeks, see you when we get back”. Towards the end of our holiday, I’d be saying “we’re flying home in a few days, been wonderful to see you”.
How lucky are we to have more than one home, yet how confusing at the same time?
Much to our Sydney family and friends’ disdain, “Sydney” is “Sydney. It’s where we are from and will always be home”, but HOME is where we leave from/return to for however long we are there.
We take a little bit of each home with us where ever we go and are so grateful for the time we’ve had in each place.
Do you have a few words of advice on coping with the first six months of a move?
- Be kind to yourself.
- Be patient with yourself, your partner and kids.
- Know that ‘this too shall pass’
- Join the local International Women’s Club (or similar) and get involved.
- Join your child/s school’s parents association (or similar), get involved.
- Ask questions, or for help. Everyone has had a ‘first six months’ too and karma is your new best friend.
- Find a child minder/baby sitter so you and your partner can go on date nights.
- Be open to new experiences. If it was ‘just like home, why bother leaving?’
- Sign up to Facebook groups, subscribe to tourist websites, discover as much as you can about the local area, the wider community, the country you are in and plan to go see it while you are living there.
Is there something that you wish you’d known before moving?
I had several friends who had ‘expatted’ before us, and they were a huge source of information and encouragement. We asked them LOTS of questions and took copious notes. I quite like researching stuff, so I spent hours online, Googling all sorts of things (InterNations was a great place to find current information); real estate websites for rental accommodation; travel books, tourist information centres, HSBC Expat Guide, cost of living guides, government websites.
So, no. For us our first move to Dublin, Ireland was fantastic in every way. And from that experience, we’ve just kept going and building our own How To Guide.
Your best moment to date?
So many! The opportunity to travel and see parts of the world I’ve only read about or seen in movies; being elected to the VP role at our international school in Japan, and the opportunity to live in Dublin one more time. Oh, being the VP of the International Women’s Club was very special too.
Ms-Havachat is my alter ego, though very much who I am. Someone who loves to chat with others, share experiences, solve problems and laugh. We are a family of 3, and have taken to expat life way more than we thought we ever would. Hubby golfs and works and is a huge support; daughter sings, dances, and loves her drama classes and has proven to be an incredibly amiable child who just gets on with things despite changing schools every few years; I’m an expat wife and mother who knows how lucky she is to be a SAHM for her child. We all appreciate that our adventures could be cut short any time, so make the most of each opportunity as do our family and friends who visit often, so in some ways, I’m also the part-owner of a B&B.
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