Yes, I know Buddha only taught four noble truths, but I don’t have his powers of concise thought..
1. It sounds far more glamorous than it is. The leisure industry has been brainwashing us for years about the wonders of travel, whether domestic or international, focusing our attention on the turquoise sea, the golden beaches, the breathtaking landscapes and beautiful people with their fascinating culture. They spend less time discussing the language barriers, healthcare issues, traffic jams and isolation from your support network which consume most of your new shiny life abroad. It’s real life, after all.
2. Support from your employer is never as good as you are led to believe. Fewer than 50% of employers offer relocation assistance, and when they do, the emphasis is getting you and your belongings to the new location as quickly as possible. How you survive once you are there is your own business. Destination support is usually an outsourced part of the physical move, and the variation in quality and service is immense. We have had everything from “What more can I do to help?” to “What do you want, flowers??”. Sadly, the latter was obviously sarcastic, because I have yet to be buried under a deluge of blossoms.. Here’s a checklist of what to expect from a good one..
3. Finding paid employment is usually more difficult than you anticipate. If it takes you less than three months just to get all the paperwork finished, the kids to school, find your bearings and manage to shower once a day, you are better at this than I. My main barriers are the ever changing school schedule, endless volunteer requests, navigating the legal requirements and trying to explain on my CV why my qualifications are not valid, why I move every 3 years, and how exactly that is an advantage to the prospective employer. I’m finally self-employed, but it’s taken me ten years. (For those of you who are wrestling with this conundrum, check out Jennifer Bradley’s website. She’s relocated, so she understands..)
4. Your spouse / partner will rarely give you the support you need. It may sound harsh, but I’m betting anyone who has relocated will agree with me. For one, the partner is starting a new role, and are having to adapt to their own changes in the workplace. Secondly, they are buffered from reality by a) the work environment and b) you. Unless you experience firsthand the sense of isolation and bewilderment that moving to a new place creates, it’s difficult to understand, especially when the spouse is a tangible asset to the company, whereas you appear to be more of an encumbrance, logistically speaking. The good news is that you will discover you are stronger than you ever realized, and will make lifelong friends who help you find your feet.
5. There is more paperwork than you can ever imagine. If you are embarking on an international assignment, you have the passport, visas and employment authorization documents to deal with before you go, and with rental agreements, driving licenses and dual tax filings to look forward to when you are there. Then you have the school applications, education transcripts, health insurance and medical provider information, pet licensing and financial services.. And you needn’t be smug if you are on a domestic move – any savings in the passport / visa / driving license area are more than made up in any home sale or purchase. I know; I have bought and sold in California…
6. You have more clutter than you ever realized. ven if you move every year. We went to Kenya with a D sized container.. We returned with a 20′ container, and let me tell you, Kenya is not the shopping capital of the world. I was smugly telling my in-laws how I used to be a pack rat but now I don’t collect anything, and their eyes drifted to the three dogs, three cats and a goldfish that we have accumulated across three continents. Touche.
7. None of your furniture fits. Or, for that matter, the bedding, the appliances or your clothes. Your house may look the same, your needs may be the same, and you might have ruthlessly maintained your high school weight, but the dimensions, the voltage, the climate and the style will all look hopelessly out of place. Which brings me to my next point..
8. You become a master of the art of reinvention. Better than madonna, in fact. So far, my credits include bartender, nurse, college lecturer, events organizer, therapeutic riding assistant, retail sales associate and now this. I have bought clothes from Saks Fifth Avenue, and the secondhand market in a Kenyan slum, and gone from brunette to blonde and back to brunette, which means my driving license is never accurate. I have learned two things; if you don’t try, you’ll never know, and the longer the title, the smaller the pay.
Now it’s your turn.. what are yours?