The Reality of Relocation


The Reality of Relocation is now slowly sinking in.

That reality is like cold water in my face every morning I wake up and find myself in a surrounding not yet familiar to me. It is a very pleasant view to wake up to ..but still…it is new, it is foreign and it is something to get used to as I realize it is not the same place where I woke up the past four years. The serious need for curtains (unless you are a wanna-wake-up-5 am-type person) is also a reminder of how much still needs to be done around the house.

Like … finding a more permanent home to some things I have arranged so far.

Things will take time to take shape in our new destination. Setting up the TV, printer and changing the plugs might make you feel like you are plugged in and connected again….but then comes the more subtle parts of finding your way into the heart of  the new place you call HOME in the broader sense of the word.

New routines need to be established to conform to social schedules and schooling requirements.

We are the new family…but so are many others. And when you are in a big community, nobody does a drumroll everytime somebody is new – it happens all the time and not everybody notice. Not that I expected it. I actually enjoyed hibernating for a couple of weeks having no pressure to dress up, speak up or show up.

There are many differences to each location you move to as an expat. And the difficulty with comparing postings come in when you take into account that with every move, every member of the family is at a different age and stage in life to where they have ever been with the moves before this one. It is thus not fair to judge a place by how you settle in…because YOU are different. And getting along easier might mean the place is easier, or it might simply mean you are more experienced.

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There are certain things that are not coming out of your own, but are being imposed on you by the destination. And my first experiences here certainly resonate with my anticipation before coming….and that is that expats are a close-knit society to the extent  in which they need each other. In a place where things are extremely difficult, even those who like doing their own thing, are open for some form of community for the sake of having a support structure for their own survival. If, however, you end up in a place where you can find things easily and do not need to depend on others so much in order to create your own comfort, then people tend to be less interested in others and more mindful of their own business. Every one for themselves and survival of the fittest. None of this tribe business where one goes to hunt and bring in the food for the rest!

These are early days, but if you pay close attention to your new world, you can pick up the signals a society sends, very early on. To some extent there is a certain mould in each place and I feel it very evident here.  One tends to gravitate towards fitting into that mould – again for your own sake of survival and sanity and popularity. Or you can be yourself and be your own – depending how hard and how strong you are and how convinced you are of your own well-being being the way you are.

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Those are choices to make. Choices we are now making daily as we figure out who we want to be in this next phase of our lifes.

Every child you take along on your expat rendezvouz also have to chisel out their new “me”…and as a parent you feel for them and what you have imposed on them….. seeing a strong, confident child come home with a tear in the eye when the experience of the day was that awkward moment when you stand in the lunchroom, tray-in-hand, and realising you have no place to go sit and nobody is asking either and reality sets in – I am new, I am alone, nobody knows me and life has been disrupted from the one I knew so well. Breaks your heart when you wipe that tear …..

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Luckily that can all change in a day as they have done this before and they push on and work their way into others’ circles…. and a happy smile the next day was proof of that.

But each of them is so different as there is an older child – who noticed a kid by himself,looking all sad and lonely and despite being the new kid, he consoled the “other new kid” by asking him if he is okay and managed  to get the other one’s chin up. Not worried about his own circle of friends, confident that it will come… And then the other side of the spectrum – a 5 year old, who comes home after day one and talks about her two best friends she now has – but when asked what are their names, she has no idea who they even are…..and mommy knowing that those same two best friends a 5yr old can make in a day, might make her cry again the very next day…but that’s ok as she lives for the moment and life is good……and it makes you realise that there is probably a tipping point for children too….. again depending their age and stage. But in the end they will all be okay and they would have again learnt from this experience – as we all do. They will grow and so will we.

Yes – we are savvy expats, but perhaps not savvy and prepared enough to have avoided the million mosquito bites I got in week 1 which then dictated my wardrobe choices for the first week…. or not savvy enough to have avoided the 40 dollar taxi ride to take us to the other side of the street…..or experienced enough to know whether we would find a taxi home from the school meeting while the typhoon signal is hoisted…and realising that you scramble around to find your way between a million forms, mails and acronyms from school, which would soon be such familiar  turf that you will laugh at the mere idea that you at some point struggled to keep it all together.

Early days indeed…some days good….where I simply don’t sweat the small stuff…

And some days not all good…

as there is inevitably a sense of loss that is still very close to the surface.

A loss of familiarity with your surroundings, a loss of order and structure in your life that has not yet taken new shape and mostly a sense of loss of familiar faces and friends who filled your days every day… definitely the loss you feel most severely – and as a small consolation prize facebook has stepped in for that loss to some extent.

Forward we go…

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5 responses to The Reality of Relocation

  • Sue says:

    Loved your comment about Facebook filling a gap in the relocation void. I can so relate. When I was in Russia it not only kept me connected , it kept me sane!

    • Ilze says:

      Definitely Sue ! Say what you want about the evil some people see in facebook !! It sure keeps us connected… I remember those days without it…endless mails to keep everybody updated !!!

  • Elli says:

    These days will pass and soon you will be turning circles around hk in no time! Sometimes we r hard on ourselves and expect too much . I know this bc I’m this way! So remember, you’re lucky to be in hk and not somewhere like a tier 3 city!!! Hugs to you from Seoul!

  • Saori says:

    Nice article! I guess many people go through the same stage as you are now.
    I recently moved to the new place near SFS, but I still need to adjust myself into the new neighborhood which I haven’t really explored before…
    New place – new environment, new people, new of everything…
    As for me, my lovely family and friends keep me moving on to the next stage : ) Also, I noticed that I need little bit of confidence in myself to move on.

    You will be just fine! Cheers to you!

  • Yvonne says:

    Loved what you wrote and can relate! Things are not getting easier – only on the surface. And as children go older their relationships seem to deepen and not easily replaced. I know you all will be fine because you all deserve a circle of friends! Chins up and enjoy exploring the new and strange and even sometimes uncomfortable!

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