Get the best out of a ‘Look-See’ visit
What is a Look-See visit?
A look-see visit is exactly what it says on the tin; a chance to look around your prospective new home and see what’s there (and what isn’t!). Someone once said to me ‘you don’t know what you don’t know until you find out’ and honestly, that is so true. You can take virtual tours, read brochures and look at endless images but until you go and look-see for yourself you don’t truly understand what you need to plan for.
Not everyone gets an opportunity for a look-see trip. And that’s OK too! Sometimes it may work out better for you to not know; especially if you have no choice in your move.
We don’t get a look-see trip as part of our relocation; we don’t even get to choose our house. In our latest posting we were in temporary accommodation for a few weeks and, for once, I had the chance to view my ‘new home’ before moving into it. I chose not to look because I had no choice where I lived, so if I didn’t like the place, it would spoil things and depress me before the final move. Turns out I was right not to look… I have no option, so I have to make the best of it.
Your look-see visit should be all about familiarisation; sampling the culture, asking questions, searching out all the local facilities and making connections. There’s a lot to achieve in a relatively small period of time, so I hope this guide will help you to make a fool-proof plan.
Taking the children?
Take the kids, or not to take the kids – that is the question… Children can benefit greatly from a pre-move visit to their new home, but there are several things to consider before you rush out and book family tickets.
If you take the children with you on your look-see visit, how likely is it that the whole trip will revolve around their needs and wants and the things you need to know will be neglected? If the answer is very likely, then you may want to consider leaving them at home and plan how best to communicate your findings when you get back.
Another consideration is what if the trip doesn’t go to plan? What if the children get bored, or stressed, or see something they don’t like? If you have a very sensitive child there is a real risk that this may put them off of the move and cause problems further down the line. You may be better off telling them all the great things about their new home instead of letting them experience it too soon.
If you decide not to include the children in this important fact-finding mission, then you can still make them feel like an important part of the process.
Take lots of photos and videos of all the things they’ll be interested in. Their new school, the local play facilities, parks, leisure centres and interesting places you can visit together. Use these to give your child a really positive picture of their new home, to encourage them to ask questions and to promote a sense of excitement and anticipation.
Google Street Maps can be a really good familiarisation tool and if you look at these with your child after your visit you’ll be able to give some great insights and add colour and experience to your virtual tour.
Planning your Look-See visit
OK, so your look-see visit is booked; now you just need to create an itinerary so you can be sure to maximise your time. From experience, I think you’ll find the following list useful:
If you’re starting a new job, contact your Manager in advance of your trip; you may be able to schedule a meet and greet session and a tour of your workplace. This will help you to feel more comfortable on your first official day of employment.
Arrange a visit to your child’s new school (or potential schools). Ask if you’re allowed to take photographs and perhaps even try to get their new teacher to record a video message saying how much they are looking forward to welcoming them into the school. Consider making a little photo book or video journal of the important points; the classroom, cloakroom, lunch room etc. so your children get a feel for where to go and what to expect.
Visit the local Bank, shopping centres, entertainment venues, cafes, petrol stations, hospitals, doctor’s surgeries and pharmacies. Find out if all the things you need are going to be readily available (prescription medication for example) and plan your alternative if the answer is no. The more information you can gather now, the more prepared you’ll be; it’s too late after you move to discover you can’t obtain a specific medicine there, or find out the local store doesn’t stock anything your child will eat, or that there’s nothing for families to do in the town you’ve chosen.
How are you going to move about in your new location? Will you take your car, buy/rent a new one there or rely on public transport? How long is the school run going to take? Take a tip from a hideous experience of mine – don’t assume a handful of stops on the metro will be a ‘short journey’, especially if there are changes of line involved. Our first few weeks’ journey to school in Tokyo took two and half hours… each way! Then a lovely new friend told me about the buses and we shortened it down to an hour each way. Once I got a car, the trip took less than 20 minutes.
Research the local transport links and take a few trips to and from the important places to get a feel for traffic flow and the amount of time you might need to allow for travel. Try to get out and about in the rush hour too; these can vary hugely from location to location and you need to know what you’re up against.
Moving overseas is a massive commitment and you need to know whether you’ll be able to fit in to the local rhythm and social etiquette. Try to make some connections with other expats; you may not want to restrict your social circle to the same people after you move but, to start, they’ll be a valuable source of insight and information. Talk to the locals too; everywhere you go try engaging in conversation with shop owners, passers-by and neighbours. Get a feel for the culture and how easy it will be to build social connections.
Try to enjoy it!
A Look-See visit is a mission rather than a holiday, but if you make it too stressful you’ll put negative connotations on your move. Try to plan some time for sightseeing and relaxing; soaking up the culture and sampling the local leisure facilities.
Do your research before you go, find out how much time you might need, make a realistic plan then stick to it. Take it all in your stride and go home armed with loads of useful and productive information to help make your new life a great success.
Expatability Chat Podcast
If you’d prefer to listen to me talk about this topic, here is my podcast episode about Nailing Your ‘Look-See’ Trip