How you rate certain aspects of the new country you've just moved to greatly depends on where you're coming from. Your own cultural background determines your priorities, and how you rate a country can be quite different from someone else living in the same country but arriving from elsewhere. Here is a look at what determines your happiness as an expat.
The older your kids are, the harder it is to tell them what to do, and that includes moving. But it doesn't mean you shouldn't do it. Evading what seems hard is not a good recipe for life, and moving away from all that you know, perhaps even to an entirely new country, might be the greatest opportunity you can give your children (and yourself). When is the best time to move abroad?
There are hardships for expat children. But has anyone ever stopped to look at the one HUGE upside? They get to celebrate every holiday tradition they've ever come in contact with on all their travels. I know this, because I'm one of the elves (also known as mothers) working tirelessly behind the scenes to make it all come together.
Moving is always a lot of work. Moving internationally is even more work. And moving day is the day when most of all that work seems to come together all in one instant. Sometimes, the weight of it all cannot be expressed and is easier to appreciate in pictures than in words. Here is my moving day - or rather, a series of moving days spanning years - in pictures.
Since you've moved before, you have thought ahead and equipped yourself with a black Sharpie to help label the boxes, because from experience the packers' labeling isn't exactly helpful when you get to your new place and wonder which "kitchen supplies" box has the knives and which one the spices. And what the hell room they meant with "lounge." It's Moving Day.
Having lived as an expat at least once in your life will make you a more well-rounded person. Of this I have no doubt. To become such a person, you have to have an open mind. And to have an open mind, you have to be shown, again and again, that your preconceived notions about places and races and cultures are probably wrong. Or if not completely wrong, so at least very incomplete.
When a friend recently stressed out over a looming relocation, I wanted to offer some comfort. "Trust me," I said, "it just takes a little bit of time and you'll feel better. I know, because I've done this a few times." And then I asked myself the obvious question: how many times had we moved? I came up with seven, and three of those were moves to a new continent.
There is something about expat life that is particularly hard for the children. The fact that you start over and over and over again. As Hannah Montana so aptly put it, it's a climb. Or maybe it’s more like Groundhog Day. You start at the bottom every single time. Making friends. Getting the school to know you, to understand that you're not totally stupid.
"What is the cost of living in South Africa?" This is the question I am asked most often by people contacting me through my blog (behind "How safe is South Africa," of course), and it is the one I most dread. Because it is very difficult to answer. Firstly, because we are a family of six with very different expenses from, say, a young couple without kids living in an apartment.
Being an expat and having the opportunity to live in an exotic place might sound like a dream come true. But it's not always easy being an expat. Aside from all the big hassles moving entails - packing up your household every few years, finding new schools, buying a car, and - this might be the hardest of them all - finding a new hairdresser, there are the little inconveniences too.