Compiled by Beverly Brar, Champion for Nigeria, in Lockdown in New Delhi
What would it be like to live in Paris? Madagascar? Kathmandu? Should we think about taking an overseas posting? What about schooling, health care, getting a job? WBFN has always been a good source of information for spouses with such questions – but now you can join us in conversation with our members who already live in such places.
One of the ironies of the Covid 19 lockdown is that, while staying home, we have discovered that we can successfully use video calls to connect our Worldwide Community, and chat with our members whether they are in Bethesda or Beijing!
Virtual hangouts have enabled WBFN members around the world to share our experience of the pandemic, starting with our members in Beijing. Over the weeks, members in 14 different countries have discussed what we have learned in lockdown, heard from experts on how to cope with the grief of losing our normal lives, and shared tips on home schooling. Members in Kathmandu told us about their experience of organising a project, together with staff, to supply lockdown essentials to a local NGO that rescues girls from sex trafficking (https://maitinepal.org/).
We are now enjoying weekly virtual visits to members in different locations and learning about their lives there. What fun to be whisked away for an hour to Paris, and hear that wherever you live, you can pop out for a coffee within walking distance. To Antananarivo (Tana), Madagascar, where the weather is never too cold or too hot, and delicious French food is available in the restaurants. To Mozambique, where someone asked our Champion not to show us her sea-view as it would make us jealous!
This new weekly series is full of practical information to help relocating families learn about the kinds of housing and schools available, medical care and leisure activities, and how a spouse can find work. Our members give tips and insights that can only be learned through relocating to the country. In Mozambique, take a house on recommendation, as having a good landlord who will take care of repairs will make your life much easier. In Paris you don’t really need a car, as it is so easy to use public transport and you can enjoy walking. But don’t try to walk around in Tana – there are few sidewalks and a lot of traffic.
We can also ask questions. What’s the quality of food like? What do you do at weekends? How have the children settled in? Expatriate life comes alive through the experience of our members living it. Even if you might not relocate to one of the countries visited, there are glimpses into common expatriate experiences that, after six relocations, make me nod my head as I listen. It can take time and patience to deal with all the paperwork, the shops have mysterious food items, it’s important to treat your domestic staff well and a good idea to learn the local language, if you don’t have school-aged children you can make friends through activities such as walking or craft groups, and WBFN members already living there can provide the best support.
These sessions are being recorded and will be on the WBFN website. We hope they will be an invaluable source of information for families thinking of relocating, or even just a fun change from the same old surroundings during Covid restrictions. Do join us on our global tour!