Six Sanity Saving Tips for Moving Abroad with Your Family
By Megan Rivera
Megan recently moved continents when she upped and left Austin, Texas for a new life in London.
As a pro in moving abroad with a family, we asked for her six tried and tested sanity-saving tips on starting a new life in a different country.
It all started over a year ago on an ordinary Tuesday evening. I was five months into my very difficult, Kate-Middleton-style-pregnancy. As my husband and I sat down for dinner in our Austin, Texas home, he casually asked: "So what would you say if I said we could move to London?"
Well over a year later we decided to take the big leap so that my husband could pursue an opportunity at his company. Here we are, with a beautiful 9-month-old girl named Leighton and our 13lb dog named Franklin living in London. It took us a long time to get here and the road was neither linear or easy.
We lived in five different temporary housing situations in between our home in America and our new flat here. But needless to say, we’ve arrived and we’re grateful to be here.
We are still getting settled into our new flat (I'm sitting on the floor as we speak. Our furniture should arrive in a couple of days!) and there are still many logistical things that we need to take care of.
However, in the short time that we've spent in London, we have learned a lot about how to handle a move like this and what to expect.
If I had to do this move all over again, here are six pieces of advice that I would give myself on moving abroad with your family and keeping your sanity:
1. Pack your Patience
My husband is arguably the most patient man in the world, but unfortunately, I was not graced with as much of that particular quality. As a mother, I am working on this and I know that it will come in handy for those toddler years (and of course, all of those other years too)! When moving abroad with a family and trying to settle into a new place (and especially a new country!), things take time.
Finding a flat is not instant and you will have to wait for necessary background checks and payments to go through. Furniture takes time to be delivered (as demonstrated by my current seating situation) and getting unpacked and finding a place for everything will be a process.
Your little baby needs you, so give him/her the time and attention s/he deserves, even if that means that you have to leave that lingering suitcase unpacked or order takeout one more time. This situation is temporary. Soon enough, you will be settled, but you can't get these precious days back.
2. Come Prepared
Especially if you’re moving internationally, you will need practically every document since your own birth to prove that you're allowed to live here. You will need these documents for your child as well, and she will need to have her picture taken for her passport, global entry, and visa (yes, even if she's a little baby and yes, it’s adorable).
Bring these documents to every important meeting, because you will need them all! Also, think about how you will pay for things, especially for your first large flat deposit. Look into local payment cards like Pockit or find a bank that lets you withdraw cash for free. This will come in handy while you're waiting to get a bank account (we cannot open a bank account until we receive our first utility bill for our flat).
3. Be Yourself
This is a big one and of course, something I have to remind myself of everyday. Prior to moving here, I was definitely concerned about how people would react to my American accent. However, since coming here, I've realized that I cannot control how others perceive or react to me. I've found that most people don't seem to bat an eye because I'm from America and some are even interested in finding out more!
My policy in all interactions is to be genuine, inquisitive, and polite and people usually treat me with the same respect. I want my daughter to see that there is a lot that you can learn from others in your everyday interactions, so even though I'm naturally a shy person, I'm pushing myself to ask questions and chat to the locals when we're out and about.
Set up efforts to connect with fellow parents and like-minded individuals. You will have to put yourself out there and get out of your comfort zone, but it will be worth it.
So far, we've joined a Facebook group for people from our home state, messaged with people we've been set up with by mutual friends, and searched for events that we would enjoy on sites like Billetto and Time Out. I am also connecting with other moms through Instagram and my blog. I know that it will take time, but it is very important to me that I build meaningful friendships. Parenting is hard and sometimes it takes the support of others to get through the day.
5. Establish Routines
Our children need to know that even though they’re in a strange new place, you're there for them and they’re safe. Establish a routine them and stick to it as best as you can. It may be tempting to blow off a nap to go sightseeing or stay up late to go to this weekend's biggest event, but right now, your whole family needs to get settled and most importantly, get some sleep!
6. Have Fun!
Laugh. Play. Sing. Dance. Things are going to get stressful, but remember that your baby can sense this from you. Remember to take deep breaths and find joy in the simple things, like placing your baby in moving boxes.
No matter where in the world you are, you will always have each other. Keep having fun together as a family, whether you're on the tube, waiting in line at the bank, or sitting on the floor waiting for your furniture to be delivered.