Relocation is an exciting move to a new country or places whether it is due to a new job in the family that requires you to move or seeking out a new life in a totally different locality. I have moved twice in the past 6 years, both to China and Malaysia (where I’m residing now).
Both times create different experiences for me but let me tell you that relocation is not easy.
If you are moving away due to a job and the company is willing to help you to move, half of your battles are gone. But I’m not here talking about the moving part. Its the aftermath of getting all your stuff from home to creating a new home, settling down, finding new friends and then now what….
Each time I settled down, have my house in order (cupboard full of canned food and cleaning devices), all my clothes are in the wardrobe (not in boxes or luggage) and I sort of done being a tourist (seen all the touristy places I wanted to explore), now comes the big question of “now what happens”.
What happens now?
Do I find a dance class and continue learning how not to step on my feet like I did when I was back home? Or do I hunt for a new book club to share what I have not been reading for the past 3 months due to my relocation? I always find myself in limbo.
Making New Friends
A lot of the relocation articles will tell you to embrace the new culture and make some new friends. It sounds simple but it is not exactly that simple. You may think I complicated the process and overthink too much. I have friends both locals and expatriates.
You tend to bond with the expatriates a lot easier because you are in the same boat. You share the same grievances about the weather, bad traffic and pollution. You share your limited resources about where to get the best home food, the doctor who is able to prescribe the same kind of meds you had back home or even the easiest way to send parcels back home.
You are each other’s emergency contact. You did ad-hoc babysitting duties for each other. You brought soup for the other when she’s ill in bed. You watched each other’s home when the other is travelling. You clicked, you bonded and then… wham!
Your support system is gone because she had to relocate somewhere exotic like Dubai, Brussels or Malta. And it’s not like they give you ample notice to prepare your little heart. It’s literally like I’m telling you we’re going away for good next month.
For good means forever because you’ll never see each other until one of you make the trip halfway around the world (FaceTime doesn’t count because virtual hugs don’t work for me).
So I balance my friendships with my local friends (I love them all) but they fit in different pieces of puzzles for me. They are the experts when it comes to where to get the cheapest groceries or how not to get rip off at the car workshop. They are unable to understand fully the turmoil of expatriates’ lives.
Sometimes, we know we are placed on a pedestal because we are not living like a local (with the expatriates’ lifestyle). We are “supposedly living it good” so we shouldn’t complain.
The Constant Unknown Factor
We, expatriates, lived in a constant unknown where and when we will move next. Like my case in Shanghai, I don’t know when my company see fit to pluck me off where I am and fit me into other parts of China where my skills are needed the most. It’s like being a chess piece being moved around where skills and budget make the most sense in squeezing out the best of you.
Same goes for my situation in Kuala Lumpur, my hubby keeps saying (the past 2 years) we need to plan our way home because our little one needs to be planted in the Singapore education system eventually. As much as I love to place my daughter in an international school here, it is way too costly to see her whole education path here.
In addition, the support system is a big pull back home. Our parents (her grandparents) is getting older. They always try very hard (and frequently) to fly over (45 mins flight) to spend time with us quarterly. We do FaceTime every fortnight so they get to talk to her. But like I said, virtual hugs isn’t the same.
Your Home Not Your Home
With repatriation a possibility, it is hard to think of the house you are staying at your home. That’s very true with my hubby.
He’ll never see the place we are staying for the past 4 years as his home because it is a rented space and he’s not the owner. He can’t renovate or hack any walls he wishes, he can’t paint the walls from white to blue because he wishes so, the only minor thing he can do is to hammer in a nail for our paintings. That part drives him nuts because he is a handyman.
As we are paying rent every month, it is hardly an investment. I’d love to have a place where we can finish paying the mortgage and say this is our home for good. The same roof that we can retire under.
I’m still extremely grateful to have the experiences as an expatriate. I love it and I make the best of what I have. It is just not as easy as a lot of folks think it is and whatever amount that comes in that expatriate package your company offers you, will never be enough to compensate what you missed back home.
Anyone facing the same blues like me? Come and share how you deal with it right at the comments below.
For relocation stories, I love writing these:
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