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move

Family Travel

New Year, New Home, New Zealand

28 December, 2013

Today has been our last full day in England for a while. Tomorrow we fly to New Zealand to begin something wholly new. We don’t know what, but we have a few (billion) ideas.

The last week has been a bit emosh, to say the least. My heart jumps into my throat at the littlest thing- my nephew Hudson reading Ramona her bed time story, looking at photos that have captured fun moments from the last few years, saying weepy, snotty Goodbyes to friends who’ve been my besties since I was seven.

It’s been the most overdrawn goodbye in some ways. We began properly telling everyone that we were moving to New Zealand at the start of the summer, mostly through, er, this blog. *note to self- best to tell employers about such a big move before blogging about it*

Then we said Cheerio and galavanted about Europe, than came back with a broken van, then said Laters again and trundled to Spain, then had a leaving party last week, and now, after a million farewells and six months of preparing to go, it’s here for real, quick as a flash, the time to leave.

I fall in love with New Zealand when I’m there. I really do. I moved there when I was 18 and lived there until I was 24. I met Tim there and when Tim and I were having those hypothetical conversations with each other about the possibility of marriage (you know, “If two people had only just met but really loved each other should one, like, ask the other one to get married? It’s just for a friend…”) he asked me which place I considered home. I didn’t think twice. I’d lived in New Zealand for five gleeful years already, three with my folks about and two more without them, without any family at all; “New Zealand! I never want to leave!”

We left about 18 months later, in response to an urge I had to be close to my sister while she had her first baby. And we’ve been here almost seven years…

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My sister and I this week- matching blankets, coats and babies! (She is on her third now.)

For about five generations my family has been fairly nomadic- staying in places for just a couple of years at a time. Every generation, until us, have been ministers of religion, living all over the UK and the world for different vocational roles.

My grandparents, whenever anyone asked them what place they loved the most, which area they called home, would always reply, wherever they were, “Right here!”

I guess it’s in my blood a little bit, eh? This love-the-place-you-are thing.

20131228-194147.jpg My folks, this week.

Because right now I really feel I am tearing myself away from here. I feel like the London that I spent much of my childhood in has been in my bones all along. That returning to the neighbourhood I grew up in, and raising my girls for a bit here, has kind of unlocked a deep sense of home, a primal “This is my land! These are my people!” kind of thing. (Also, “These are my fried chicken bones! These are my fallen out hair weaves!” – not a patch of ground exists in South London free of these. But they weren’t actually mine, you see…)

We have just had the most wonderful 7 years here. We’ve made so many good, new friends and have rekindled old ones. We’ve had such a lot of adventures, riding our bikes, joining in protests, communal living, wandering streets, going to festivals, picnicking, swimming in rivers.

We arrive in New Zealand at 11:45pm on the 31st December- that is quarter to 2014! It’ll be weird celebrating the New Year with strangers around the baggage carousel (but I’ve had weirder, especially the one involving lots of elderly Scots and bagpipes.)

So, a new year and a new home, and lots of new adventures awaiting us. I just need to find out what a Zealand is, then I’ll get a new one of those too.

Have a lovely celebration yourself, and I wish you a great sense of hope for the year ahead.

*looks around the room at my family, has a bit more of a cry*

Parenting

How to be an Expat Parent

24 September, 2013

In the second of the series, How to be a _____ Parent we have the wonderful Emma of a Bavarian Sojourn giving some advice for those contemplating a family move. *gnashes teeth* Yep, I’ll be needing these in a few months!

This is by no means an exhaustive list. You don’t have the time to read one, and I don’t think I could write one if I tried, as I am still learning new things, even after four years as an Expat! This list is however aimed at those who have just undertaken their first move, or are seriously considering it – but if you are doing neither, it might give you some idea of what it is like. Enjoy!

  • Patience. Something you absolutely must have as an Expat parent. You will find yourself calling upon it almost every day!;
  • Research each new destination thoroughly. This will not only give you a good insight into a place, but will help you settle in faster as a family;
  • Take as much time as you need to make decisions about important things such as housing and schools. Don’t be forced into signing something by pushy estate agents, relocation consultants and the like. If something doesn’t feel right, it usually isn’t.
  • Help prepare your child for a new country with stories, films and books. We love Miroslav Sasek’s “This Is” Series. Whilst Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and the Sound of Music might not actually be factual, they gave our children some idea of what the countryside looks like in this part of the world at least!!
  • Bear in mind that the first few weeks of your new life will be taken up with hideously frustrating bureaucracy. It will soon be a distant memory, don’t worry.
  • Do expect strange but lovely gifts from your new neighbours. We were given bread and salt when we first arrived here – a traditional Bavarian house warming present – particularly welcome as we hadn’t then found the bakers!
  • If you are not on a work Expat contract, but are there for the long term, look at local schools as a good alternative to the International variety. Your children will be fluent in the local lingo in a matter of months (and this will help you no end!)!
  • Keep an open mind with everything. You will experience cultural misunderstandings from time to time, but don’t immediately assume that it is intentional (something I have to remind myself often!)…
  • Expect that things will be different to what you are used to, and you won’t go far wrong. Things might make more sense the way they are done at home, but you are not at home.
  • Expect the unexpected. From odd and often unnecessary doctor’s appointments that arrive in the post, to strange cultural playground rituals. It’s all part of the fun!!
  • Don’t imagine that Expat Parenting is not competitive, it is. From how many languages your children can speak, to the contents of their lunch boxes. You would be amazed!
  • Enjoy meeting people from thousands of different countries and backgrounds. Don’t just stick to Expat circles either, it can take more time to get to know the locals by attending local functions and events, but it’s worth it. Get to know your neighbours too, even if you can only communicate via sign language at first!
  • Prepare your children for how different basic things like birthday parties can be. Not every country celebrates with cakes or offers party bags for example! Likewise, if it’s your child’s party, don’t imagine anyone will know what on earth you are talking about when you suggest Pin the Tail on the Donkey or Musical Statues.how to be an expat parent
  • You will experience eye opening situations such as lit candles on classroom tables, School trips in almost -20 conditions, and forest schools in the snow. Things that could possibly make tabloid headlines at home – embrace the differences!
  • In the same vein, get used to super relaxed (or almost non existent – to us anyway) health and safety rules. This might sound slightly worrying, but it’s usually more refreshing than anything, and I am holding out hope that one day my children will thank me for their more free range childhoods!
  • Learn the language together. I don’t usually advocate watching TV, but it helps more than you think it could, and speaking the language will help you feel like less of an outsider.
  • Join online groups for your area, always helpful when looking for recommendations for doctors, dentists and the like.
  • Install Skype, What’s App and anything else that helps you keep in touch with home. And get the guest room ready quickly, you will be using it a lot!
  • But perhaps most important of all – enjoy yourselves! Start a blog, take thousands of pictures and experience absolutely everything you possibly can – for who knows these days how long such an experience might last? And on the days that you find things tough, remember that it’s more than likely than not that one day you will look back on it and laugh… Promise!