Making a move is tough for most people. It involves change and as most of us are creatures of habit, change can be rather uncomfortable. I have often been told that along with death and divorce, moving is one of life’s most stressful activities. Obviously there are various degrees of moving, from seemingly small changes to major life-changing ones but the one thing they all have in common is the need to prepare for them. Whether it be moving suburbs, jobs, cities or countries the element of preparation is unavoidable.
As for our move it’s been a rather daunting one. My husband Daniel got offered a job in Auckland, New Zealand last year October and here we are – 3 months and 1 week later – trying to fathom how to live life here, all the way on the other side of the globe. Now I know many people have made big moves like this before us and advice is freely available on 7 million Google sites, but until it is your turn to pack up, get up and make the move, grasping the realities of it all remain rather foreign.
Along this fast-paced journey of ours, I have jotted a few things down that I hope may alleviate someone’s stress, somewhere out there and may provide support to you knowing that you are not alone!
I’ve briefly touched on the need to plan but this is something I can’t emphasize enough. A move of this magnitude requires a lot of administration and forward thinking. I have always been a very organized person that mostly doesn’t forget important events but when the pressure starts to mount, forgetfulness can set in. Whether you have a year to plan or only a few weeks, I would recommend making organized lists of what needs to be done along the way. Arriving in a foreign country in a totally different time zone and trying to make calls home to banks, insurance companies etc will really dampen your mood.
Now this really should be general knowledge but just in case, let me enlighten you – a move is EXPENSIVE! We were really fortunate that most of our relocation was paid for by Daniel’s company but there were still many unforeseen costs that cropped up along the way. Some of it will even be reimbursed to us down the line but when the time came, we needed to have the cash to pay some things upfront. Your budget will dictate if and how your move will take place. ‘What will it cost to ship your house contents over’ or ‘what will it cost to replace home contents over there’, ‘what are the price of visas, medicals and flights?’, ‘what deposits are required on house rentals’ ‘is public transport adequate or will I need to have money to buy a car’ are questions you really need to ask yourself. What I found really helpful for New Zealand were two websites in particular ‘trademe’ and ‘PriceMe, where you can virtually find the prices of nearly anything new or used for sale.
Just know that if you haven’t got any savings in store and are planning on working off your already stretched salary to afford everything, you are probably not going to cope. Having a good idea of what things were going to cost us from the onset, really gave me peace of mind and realistic expectations along the way.
- Clear up contracts
The minute I knew we were actually leaving, I started calling up all my providers. From medical aid, gym contracts, insurances to cellphone contracts, home fibre and lease agreements, all of these have specific clauses for cancellations. For the most part I was able to set a termination date but for something like a phone contract it is a bit trickier. It’s helpful though to know what you will still need to pay for once you leave, so that it can be taken into account in your budget.
- Join a Facebook group
A friend of mine that had moved to Australia recommended that I join a group on Facebook for the city we would be moving to and I am so glad that I did. It helps not to have to bump your own head at every turn and take into account what others have experienced along the way. I joined ‘South African’s moving to Auckland’ and knowing Facebook, there are bound to be loads of these groups for most other cities out there. I did my own research at first because having to spoon feed people is just irritating in my opinion, but I got great recommendations along the way and could ask questions whenever I hit a roadblock.
I was fortunate to make this move with my husband and I realize that it can be such a plus to not have to do this alone BUT the emotions you experience along the way fluctuate. We had days when he would be so excited for what lay ahead and I would be an emotional wreck thinking about all we were going to be leaving behind. Communicating how you are feeling to your partner, or in the case that you are doing it alone – to friends and family, is important to take stock of where you are at and what level of support you actually need. Like with most emotions in life, bottling them up leads to far more frustration than what is necessary. (I’m sure this point will be more welcomed by my female counterparts).
- Get an adapter or 2
There is nothing worse than getting to a foreign country and not being able to communicate with anyone at all. We arrived in Auckland with no adapters for our phones or laptop and it sure made life more stressful. To make matters worse I spent an entire day running between hardware stores, corner cafes and even an electrical shop to find NO adapter for an ordinary South African plug. Needless to say my plug got chopped and replaced very quickly, but that in itself requires some tools you probably won’t be carrying around in your luggage.
- Notify your bank and medical aid provider of your departure
So on previous travels abroad I have always remembered to do these quick but very important tasks before leaving the country. With all that was on our minds though notifying the bank that we would be travelling, first to Sydney and then to Auckland, didn’t even occur to us. Not great when you arrive somewhere and try to use your credit card only to find it won’t allow you to pay for anything. It raises your heart-rate and could leave you pretty stranded but it is SO avoidable, so put this on the ‘just before we leave’ list.
- Know the countries restrictions on duty free products (and don’t just trust Google)
Some of the cheaper purchases in South Africa are cigarettes and alcohol and so when travelling abroad one tends to factor these items in on one’s ‘shopping’ list. I did a quick Google search on Australia’s restrictions and made sure we were within the 50 cigarette and 3 bottles of wine limit. Halfway through the flight we receive cards to complete for boarder security only to be told the limit on cigarettes is actually down to 25. Now this may not seem like a big deal if you don’t smoke but TRUST me when I say it is pretty sad to have anything taken away from you at boarder control. Needless to say, many a cigarette was lost to the toilet dustbin that flight.
- File your paperwork carefully
When it is time to say goodbye and the big day arrives try to have all your paperwork neatly sorted, in some sort of file, prior to the time. We had copies of our work visas, passports, ID’s and international driver’s permits ready to go. We all know the sentiment of feeling like a criminal – even though you know with all your heart that you are not – at an airport (thank you Boarder Control Australia). When officials at the airport want to see your paperwork, it is a relief to have everything you need ready to present to them. Oh and one more thing, have the address of where you are staying on-hand because you will need to fill it out on some or another form.
- Don’t let it absorb you
There is SO much that goes into a move and before you know it you are sitting in a foreign country and it’s all done and dusted. The emotions hit me far harder than I ever imagined, especially in the final few days leading up to D-Day. It’s exciting and scary and very, very difficult to say goodbye to all you know and love. Try to not get so wrapped up in the actual move that you don’t take the time to see the people you need to see and spend time with your special souls. After all, there will always be more efficient ways to move and better ways to do things but we all get to the other side somehow or another!
So having given you all this advice, I must just finish off with this… Great preparation does not always guarantee good execution. Try to come to peace with the fact that things WILL go wrong, despite you doing everything in your power to have things fall into place at the right time it doesn’t always happen. As we speak, we will most likely be camping in our future apartment (that we still haven’t secured) for a month or two, while we patiently wait for our delayed container to arrive. You will either let it drive you mad or realize it’s all part of the process –you learn to adapt and be more comfortable with change.
P.s Pack a pen in your handbag, fanny pack, backpack, flip file or wherever it’s easy to reach – it’s never fun having to borrow someone else’s. J