As prescribed by Paulina Constancia
This week we hear from 5 women about their experiences and expert advice on moving family. Having moved so many times myself, I know that moving entails a certain art, a certain flow. And the more often you do it, the better you get at it and the less stressed and anxious you get about the things UNKNOWN.
If you are just preparing for your family’s first big move, I guarantee that you will gain a lot of insight from the survival tips that these women have generously shared with us here on DDoA. If you are a veteran MOVER already, then for sure you will feel a strong affinity with these women and their experiences.
We start our feature in Bangkok where we meet with Clare White to learn from her vast experience and wise counsel on the topics of moving family and living abroad.
Name: Clare White
Home country: England
Current Country of Residence: Thailand
DDoA: Why is your family constantly moving?
CW: My husband is in the oil & gas industry.
DDoA: How many times have you moved already?
CW: This is our fifth placement. We have lived in Trinidad & Tobago (2 yrs), Mumbai (2 yrs), Cairo (2yrs), Singapore (2.5yrs) and have now been in Bangkok for one year so far.
DDoA: TIPS before leaving current country
CW: Do all the things that you wanted to do whilst living there. It is not the same when you go back as a tourist.
DDoA: TIPS Upon arriving at new country
CW: Take up all invites from other expats as well as locals. Go to the coffee mornings, play dates, dinners, etc etc. the quicker you have a network the easier the transition is.
DDoA: SURVIVAL TIPS
CW: It is important to reach out to others when you arrive. People will not always automatically approach you, so even if you think you look pushy or desperate, it is up to you to make friends and get chatting & organising.
What to bring/what not to bring?
Take over the counter kids medicine from your home country.
Explaining to your children that your family is moving again.
Children are very adaptable. If they see that their parents are excited about the move, they will be too!
Adjusting to new culture/communicating with non-English speakers
Accept that sometimes you will be ripped off or will look slightly silly when you do something wrong or there is a misunderstanding. Just smile (or apologise if it’s a wrongdoing!) and remember for the next time. Once you have learnt your lesson, you can enjoy watching tourists getting it all wrong and marvelling at your local expertise!
Settling/connecting/making new friends
As said before, never turn down an offer of meeting up in the first few months until you have built up a bit of a network. Also, make the most of introductions and any contacts your family & friends at home might have with people in the host country.
Housing/Schooling/ neighbourhood/Food options/Getting around (transit, errands), family activities
DDoA: Your easiest and worst ‘move’ experience? Your most ‘difficult’ move (because of friendships, neighbourhood, employment, etc.)
CW: Funnily enough our most difficult move was probably to Singapore. Being a first world country with most things available & in English, there is not the same sort of need to connect with other expats quickly. In countries with different languages & customs , it’s harder to adapt and other expats are more than willing to help out & offer advice etc. Also, by the time we had got to Singapore, we were so used to bartering, bribing and tipping, that we found it strange to be somewhere with regulations and proper rules!
DDoA: Your favourite country to live in. State reasons.
CW: All five countries have had their merits. We’ve loved them all for different reasons. Trinidad for being a party island, Mumbai for being culturally fascinating, Egypt for the desert trips & its history, Singapore as a family haven, Bangkok for its vibrancy.
DDoA: How does the constant move affect
CW: I don’t think they are yet old enough to realise that a move is not a holiday. Our eldest does occasionally ask when we will see some of his friends & our former helper in Singapore.
your family life?
We become a lot closer knit when we move as we are more dependable on each other. Our boys are very close because they rely on each other for friendship until they have settled.
DDoA: Please share 2 things you have learned from your constant move about people and life in general.
CW: The experiences you make as an expat provides you with a completely new insight on the world.
After living in a few countries & interacting with people from all corners of the world and all walks of life, you realise how small the world actually is. ( i.e. We bumped into people we knew in Trinidad at a pub quiz here in Bangkok ten years after we last saw each other!)
So do… as Clare White says – when you move overseas : embrace the things that you don’t do at home and reach out to others when you arrive in your new country.
I always enjoy reading about other expats’ experiences. Our family has been on the move for 15 years. Now we are in our 7th country. I still get excited about “our new home” every time we move but I don’t find it easier at all! In contrary: with kids getting older (we have 3 boys aged between 5 and 12) it gets more challenging emotionally. I know the drill and I know it gets better. But I never tell other, less experienced expats that it gets easier:-) xEwa
Happy to know you are enjoying the “Family on the Move” series. Thank you for sharing your own experience with us. After 15 years and 7 countries, you are still enjoying the constant family move and living abroad. Good for you!
Best regards from Singapore to you
and your family, P.