A friend of mine once told me I was addicted to change. And while I do like some stability in my life, it is true that I get lost in the excitement of a new beginning every time I hear we are relocating.
By now you must be thinking “But moving is so hard!” or “Exciting, yes, but what about my career/family/life?” among other things. I hear you. Relocating is challenging and pushes us out of our comfort zone. I’ve been there, but bear with me for a second and allow me to share a different perspective.
During my first relocation I was young, single and so naive. My work at the time was sending me to India and I “had to go”. I saw the relocation as a chore that needed to be done.
The beginning was a disaster. I expected the most populated country in the world to change and adapt to me. (Remember I said I was young and naïve?) I struggled with everything and I spent most evenings regretting my choice.
Food was too spicy for me. It was hot. I didn’t speak a word of Hindi. I did not understand some cultural references and the list goes on and on.
I was counting the days to leave when I realized what was wrong. I was a guest there and I had the choice (and responsibility) to “blend in” and make my existence more bearable.
So I decided to give India a chance, or better said, I asked India to give me a chance.
I started watching Bollywood movies to understand some cultural references, eating Indian food, making friends. I learnt a few phrases in Hindi and to my absolute awe, saw the immediate change in people’s treatment. I was trying and people saw that. I had the fortune to meet my husband there. He was on his first assignment for the WBG so I kind of knew a nomadic life was in the cards.
I left a part of my heart in Delhi when we left and I was never the same.
With each subsequent relocation, I became more appreciative of the amazing opportunity we were given.
I didn’t have to, I got to move around the world, and that can be a priceless opportunity if you decide to take it as such. After all, we control how things affect us and I choose to make the best out of it despite the struggles moving countries involve.
Since India, we have lived in 3 other countries and there has not been a place that I haven’t enjoyed wholeheartedly and that hasn’t taught me a valuable lesson.
My kids are young and I know that once they enter their teenage years, relocation will be tougher on them, but how many kids have had the chance to pet a lion? See the cherry blossom trees is full bloom? Live the celebration of Senegal becoming African’s Soccer Champion?
Our current assignment (Dominican Republic/ Haiti) has so far been our easiest relocation. Maybe because we are Latin Americans or because we arrived ready to soak up everything these nations have to offer. Maybe because we decided it would be so.
Now you must be thinking “So you are telling it is all about having an open mind? (some might be rolling your eyes as well )
The short answer is no, that’s not it. There are some amazing tools that will make your life easier and your relocation smoother:
Make social media your best friend: Search for “expats in …”, “parents in…” “golfers in …” and such groups on Facebook. Join Internations. Follow Instagrammers that share local attractions, restaurants, spots to visit. Algorithms will play in your favor: the more you search, the more suggestions you will get on the direction you want to go. Having an active social life will make you feel like you belong.
Visit Tools to Move and take advantage of everything the site has to offer. From relocation tips to information on how to assist your family during these changing times.
Join the Family Network if you haven’t yet (wink). Ask all the questions and some more. We are here to help, support and welcome you and your loved ones. Your Local Connector is an amazing resource to start your social life as well! They will also be your support system when in need. I always say that we don’t need help until we do!
And talking about help, ask for it. If you know someone who has a WhatsApp group of people that could fit your interests, ask them to add you. Ask your relocation agency if they have any tips to help you navigate the local challenges you might be facing. Get in the parents’ groups at school (if you have kids) and ask the local parents for information/guidance. Do not be embarrassed! You will be surprised at how much people are willing to get out of their way to help you.
Because “Knowledge is power” as Francis Bacon would say, Google search your new destination and learn all about it. You will be more prepared for your arrival and time there. Reading about the local cuisine, for example, will help you order at a restaurant once there. Read the reviews of the schools where you are planning to send your children so you know what to expect. Show them pictures of the campus. Watch YouTube videos. Creating some familiarity before arriving to your new destination is key.
Make a list with your family of the fun things you found online and you would like to try. Start your new assignment with the excitement of the new places to go, food to try, museums to visit.
Learn the language. Even if you don’t become fluent, learn the important words: Please, thank you, excuse me and a couple of phrases that you use often. Those go a long way. Duolingo anyone?
And lastly, and this one is the most important to me, lower your expectations. If you have low expectations (or even better, none!) you will be pleasantly surprised. This is what happened to me with Santo Domingo. I was not expecting to live in the amazing place that it is. We found a bustling city, with lots of green areas, lovely people, delicious food and amazing beaches 2 hours away.
However, if all of those fail, (and even if they don’t) you can always send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know how we can support you. Even if you are not a member yet, we will not leave you alone!
We are happy to help making your new relocation a bit easier if not, the experience of a lifetime.