“Will you relocate with me?”
Being offered an international relocation is much like a marriage proposal.
Initially, it’s glamorous and you’re starry eyed thinking of the travel possibilities, the incredible schooling opportunities, the chance to shed your former life much like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon, even if only temporarily. The chance to meet new people and leave behind many of the obligations and responsibilities that can bog a family down were just too tempting.
In our case, for me it meant a chance to be a stay at home mom. My kids are all school age now though, so I’ve decided to look at my new found status of ‘unemployed’ as a very delayed maternity leave (without a baby). For my husband, it meant a really interesting professional opportunity; helping to bring life to a new company.
People were so curious. “You’re moving? Where? WHERE?!” Lots of conversations like that.
Then it all becomes surreal. The mechanics and logistics of arranging such a move, even with the immense support of my husband’s company, was daunting. Months of planning, packing, and appointments culminate in farewell parties and promises to visit.
Then you arrive in your new country. Exhausted. Food the kids like is initially hard to find. It’s tough to please a sad child. Household furnishings won’t catch up for a few weeks, so you live like a tourist. Hotels, every meal eaten out. Seeing the local sights. But the winds of change began to blow.
Our kids tired of living out of two rooms and suitcases. They demanded we check out of the (very nice) hotel and move into our completely empty apartment. So, we did. Bedrooms were negotiated, food was shopped for. The GPS began working overtime as we ventured out. My husband began his 60 and 70 hour work weeks.
Promises to visit began to be retracted (timing, the expense, household emergencies).
The household budget became difficult to manage in a country where you’re now paying double and triple, sometimes quadruple (the dentist comes to mind) for services you normally use.
So, you redefine. Friends need to be HERE as well as there. Budgets need to be rearranged. Expectations revisited and reconsidered.
Much like coming home after the honeymoon, real life begins. It probably isn’t exactly what you expected. Maybe not even close. But it’s good. Different, but not unpleasant.
Expect a roller coaster ride.
Those of us who have been married long enough know this is a fundamental truth of marriage – there are highs and there are lows. The same is true of life as an expat. It’s an adventure. You might not always love every minute but the overall experience is priceless.
By Jennifer Weaver Dziekan
Jennifer is married with three kids (8,11,13). She was a high school guidance counselor and feels a bit set adrift. She blogs at Weaving in and Out about moving from the US to Switzerland and all the trials and tribulations involved
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