Moving abroad: a leap of faith into the unknown

Guest blog by Nina Huygen

During my studies a had lived abroad, and a was sure that one day, I would do so again in my professional life. So when my spouse got the opportunity to go abroad for his job for a few years, I didn’t have to think very long. Let’s do this. A golden opportunity. Although it wasn’t for my job, it would be good for me to take it easier for once. There’s more to life than work, work, work. I had come to realize this even more after sickness and death of beloved ones. So: let’s go!

My husband would go ahead and move a little over a month before me and the children. This way, his predecessor could teach him the ropes of the trade, while back home, I could round up my job as director of a non-profit organization. We had the movers come weeks before our move, so our belongings would arrive well in time and my husband could settle in on our new ground and prepare our coming. I was looking forward to a smooth transition.

“Luckily, one doesn’t know everything beforehand. Otherwise, one doesn’t even begin certain things…”

Those last weeks were quite hectic. Running a household on my own. Saying our goodbyes to friends and family. Working until practically the last day before departure. Three days before take-off, there was a farewell symposium at work. I boarded the plane in fifth gear. I had managed it all on my own and was proud of it. This adventure would be a success.

Luckily, one doesn’t know everything beforehand. Otherwise, one doesn’t even begin certain things. Like moving abroad. When the plane landed, I shifted back to first gear – literally. I had longed for a change and some peace and quiet, but my new life happened to me in ways I couldn’t have imagined. And I didn’t like it one bit.

I had allergic reactions to the mosquito bites. My beloved husband and oldest son tried to help: ‘Don’t scratch and the itch will go away in no time.’ Yes, for you two maybe. If only they could feel what I was feeling. The itch would come in waves and kept me awake at night. I could strangle them after their well-meant advice.

And the heat! In no way was I prepared for the encompassing, ceaseless warmth – even at night. It felt like a suffocating blanket and had a paralyzing effect on me. Every step took so much energy. I just wanted to sit and do nothing. The heat of the tropics is quite something else than the soothing warmth of southern Europe. And half of my fancy summer wear: it stayed unpacked in the suitcase. Way to warm to wear.

And all that time for myself I was so much looking forward to? It didn’t happen. I had underestimated the amount of time that goes into rediscovering a new routine and finding your way around. Simple things like where to go for groceries and how to drive to the store, it absorbed quantities of time and energy. Where the hell could I find a garage? (Very necessary, considering the condition of the roads). And the bureaucracy! Getting a working internet connection (your lifeline to home), opening a bank account, waiting in line to pay your bills in cash (because of no local bank account yet)… It all was so time consuming. And boring.

And on top of all that, the container with our stuff – and the toys!! – had not arrived on time but was stuck in some port in another country because of strikes. And I didn’t have daycare yet for my 2,5-year-old. After a few weeks he was totally bored with the same toys. And with his mother. Well, this was totally mutual. I was climbing up the walls. My good faith and mood were dropping. My husband came back from work after a fruitful day at the office, opened the fridge and got an ice cold beer. “Ah, such a good life we have. So nice to be home. I don’t need to go anywhere.” And he stretched out and relaxed. While I couldn’t wait to have a change of scenery. But I didn’t know anyone else than the cleaning lady and the cashier. I was ready to strangle him – yes, again.

Yes, I good life it certainly was. For him. Working in an air conditioned office (leaving you with energy at the end of the day), having meaningful conversation with grown-ups and a meaningful job. While I was playing housewife and chauffeur. It was not the expat life I had imagined for myself. I was disappointed in my life and in myself – for not taking it so easy.

“Moving abroad is a leap of faith into the unknown: it’s scary but exhilarating. No guts, no glory!”

If it had been possible, I sure would have packed up my suitcase and run, those first few months. Back home. But I didn’t. Fortunately. Yes, all beginning is difficult. But of course, it all worked out in the long run (well, almost everything). I have learned a lot about myself. The children have learned a lot more than they would ever be able to learn out of a textbook. It’s been an unforgettable life event for all of us, that I wouldn’t have missed in the world. I can sincerely say so now.

Luckily, one doesn’t know everything beforehand.  Moving abroad is a leap of faith into the unknown: it’s scary but exhilarating. No guts, no glory!

This guest blog is written by Nina Huygen. Nina (45) gave up a management position in The Netherlands to move with husband and kids to Bonaire (Caribbean). After a difficult transition she enjoys her new life, working as interim-manager.

Are you about to move abroad or facing difficulties in settling in? Contact us to see how expat coaching from Feel At Home Abroad can support you or read about our coaching packages.  Or read Martine’s blog: Five tips for mental preparation when moving abroad!

Tackling stereotypes abroad

Tackling stereotypes abroad Blog by Kriti Toshniwal Stereotypes, we have all encountered them. And as expats abroad, we encounter them more openly and perhaps more often. As an Indian woman living abroad, I have encountered several stereotypes. Some of these were...

read more