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We all make the decision to move abroad for different reasons – we want to experience new things; following career opportunities; we want to share the world with our children… The list of possible reasons is endless.
No matter your reason for considering a move, there are some key questions you should answer.
Firstly, why are you making this move? Get really honest with yourself and dig deep, what is the true reason for considering moving abroad? Get a piece of paper or your journal and write or doodle about it. Let your mind wander, explore your deepest thoughts and feelings and understand why this move is important to you? Why is it important to your family? What are you hoping to achieve with the move? What outcomes are you expecting for yourself, for your family? How is moving abroad going to be different from living at home (or where you are now)? Explore the reasons and understand them, you will need to have a concrete answer for when the times get tough (which at some point they will) and you find yourself asking “why am I doing this?” Being clear about your reasons before you move will help you regroup and refocus during the tough times.
What’s in it for me (WIFM)? If you are moving for your partner’s career, then this is probably one of the most difficult questions to answer. Will you be able to work? Do you want to get involved in volunteering? Would you want to be a leader in the school? Do you want to stay at home with the kids? Maybe you’re like me, and you decide to start your own portable business? When you are moving for your partner and you move often, it can be hard to build a life for yourself only to have to do it all again with the next move. Some people love this aspect, an opportunity to reinvent yourself with each move, to try new things. But sometimes this can be the big drawback of a move, especially if you have had your own career and you have to give it up for the move. You can suffer from loss of identity and your confidence can take a huge hit. So talk openly and honestly with your partner, be clear about your expectations. Although some of it will be unknown until you arrive and settle, keep the channel of communication open and discuss how you’re feeling.
What about ageing parents? Ok, so the pandemic has limited things over the past year or so, but what are your plans around your parents and family as they age? Are you able to visit often? Are they able to visit you? How will you keep them connected with your kids? What is your plan if there is an emergency? Or if someone gets really sick? Do you have other people you can rely on? A tip, when my mum was diagnosed with breast cancer we were living in Delhi, so I got permission from her and her doctor that I could email or phone anytime to ask questions and get updates on her treatment. This was a huge weight off mum’s shoulders and it allowed me to have peace of mind. But these are things you can only set up in person, do you need to be arranging this before you depart?
What type of person are you? Do you love to try new things – foods, experiences etc. Or are you more cautious? How will your personality impact your ability to explore and discover your new home? Are there support groups you can join who will organise walking tours, guided food experiences etc so you can explore in safety? Do you love meeting new people? Are you likely to start a conversation with someone in the check out queue with you? If not, have you thought about how you will make connections? Can you join some lessons so you meet people on a consistent basis and form friendships over time? Know yourself and know what to expect from yourself. Know the type of person your partner is, can you support each other in these areas? With many of our moves, it has been me that finds the tennis group for hubby – he’s a little more introverted and very busy with work, so I do this for him.
What is your plan? How long are you intending to go for? How will this impact the kids’ schooling? Is there a certain age they need to be ‘back’ in your home country? Are you flexible to see where the journey takes you? Or do you have set commitments that you have to be ‘back’ for? Even if you discuss this before you depart, ensure this is a discussion that continues as priorities can and probably will change over time. Ensure you and your partner are maintaining open dialogue and understand each other’s expectations. There is nothing worse than your partner deciding to renew a contract, assuming that the family would be happy to stay on without any discussion.
These are big questions to ask yourself, and you may not have all the answers immediately. And for some, how you feel may change over time too. Ensure you and your partner (and your kids) talk often and that the communication lines are open. Make sure there are ‘no surprises’… although that’s not always possible in a global life!
Are you about to move abroad, download my cheat sheet ‘5 Steps To A Successful Transition’ – https://www.expatparentingabroad.com/steps
Expat Parenting Abroad