How many of us, when we began our adventure into expat land, really thought through the implications of our agreement to move ourselves and our family overseas? I know that when my husband asked me if I thought moving to Singapore was a good idea, I did not think far beyond, “Yay! I can leave my job without actually having to find the gumption to quit.”
We have been very fortunate in our travels and very blessed by my husband’s employer. He has been working for the same company for the last twelve years. From the very beginning we have been treated fairly and all our needs have been met. I remember meeting a lady in Shanghai who realised, after they had signed the contract, that they would need extensive medical insurance since the cost of using the international clinics was incredibly expensive. I was astounded as all my medical costs were covered and I was being flown back to Australia to have my first child. It was my first insight into some of the pits expats unintentionally fall.
There are other less obvious questions which are very rarely posed. For instance, how long will we be gone? I never asked that question. We left Australia when I was 24 and I believed that we would live overseas for the majority of our lives. Twelve years in and I no longer agree with my 24 year old self. In fairness, she hadn’t even begun to factor children into her overseas plans.
How many years will we spend in each location? This did become an issue for me as I began to realise that it took the kids and I are good eighteen months to feel settled. We have been in Copenhagen two and a half years and it is now that I feel very cosy. You know, as we begin to plan to leave.
Will we always rent or should we buy a house? Should we have a house to stay in when we’re on home leave or stay at our parents? Do we need a car wherever we live? What school will we send the children to? How far from the school shall we live? Can someone look into the future and tell me where their best friends will live?
A lady I know is leaving Copenhagen this weekend and I feel that she might agree with the title of this post. Copenhagen was not what she signed up for. Most of the people I know do eventually fall in like with Copenhagen (others fall head over heels) but it can take some time. Especially when you were perfectly happy where you were. When Copenhagen was broached as a possible move, I recall that I may have hung up the phone in my husband’s ear. I thought I was perfectly content in my life in Singapore and I was not happy to give it up.
When you reach your breaking point and realise that you did not agree to THIS! What do you do? How do you redefine the informal verbal contract that you agreed to when moving overseas sounded like a grand adventure? How do you say this next step in your career can not happen because I am miserable?
How do we begin to renegotiate our lives?