Re-relocation is a new term I came up with to describe the recurring relocation experience. As a chronic re-relocator I feel that in my last few relocation experiences I was mainly blessed by the comforting knowledge that ‘it’s gonna be all right’.
This knowledge is not always helpful, especially so when the challenges are piling up (like that moment I was standing in front of a blank faced clerk who refused to grant me my driver license on the spot, and instead sentenced me calmly to a week of no driving… With no prior preparation I was quickly drifting into the victimized state of an incapable immigrant). But we do have the option, as re-relocators, to stop at these moments, reflect back to similar past experiences, search for those pink tinted glasses and chant the mantra: ‘in the end, it’s all gonna be all right”.
And yet after all this swiping optimism, I thought it may be useful to try and sum up a few of the actions we took in the last month that made it a bit easier to re-relocate.
Prior researching – First and foremost it was the hours of research preceding the move. We read a lot about the country, the culture, a bit about the history. Asked our friends who used to live in here, interviewed whoever set a foot in Hong Kong. We came for visits, saw schools, strolled around neighborhoods. And once we found our favorite we dove down into studying it in depth.
Joining local groups – While researching, we used Facebook a lot. I know that trashing social media is a common practice, but to us, Mark Zuckerberg, is a dear friend. In my opinion, Facebook may be the most useful tool for re- and re-relocators. Running the name of our destination we found plenty of local groups we could choose to join. Some were dealing with furniture selling and swapping, others with school matters, some dealt with important social or ecological causes in our new area, and yet some were just a gathering place for people from the same district. It was there that we could get tons of the most relevant information (including our beautiful house), and it was there that we could move to the next item on the list –
Asking questions – and here’s where you leave your shyness out, proudly expose your fresh green state, admit your unfamiliarity with, well…, almost anything, and just ask. Using FB and forum groups to post your questions does not only supply you with the most current information but it also signals to other members that there’s someone new on the block. Someone who is vane enough to ask for help, open to hear a word of advice, and (hopefully) uses a language that shows respect to the experienced ones (who may have been new just as you only a couple of month ago). People like to help, and are happy to be on the giving side. As such, being in the receiving position serves as a wonderful opening to your next item –
Being open to new connections – in many articles a common recommendation is to ‘find yourself a mentor’. My take on it is ‘hug yourself some mentors’ (emphasizing the plural ‘s’). I know it’s sometimes tempting to curl under a blanket at the end of yet another hectic unpacking, errands running, adjustment managing day. Opening another box may seem like a much more reasonable idea than going out for a cup of coffee or a drink in the evening. And yet, those early days are a great time for creating initial bonds with people who may start as mentors, but with the right hug may well become your new best friends. So take a break, go out, open yourself (yes, once again), and start getting engaged in your new social community.
So I covered researching, getting engaged, making new friendships, and all the while asking many questions, and yet I do want to add here a word of warning. As you do all the above a pile of information will slowly gather on your desktop. Treat it with care, get familiar with it, learn it, but please – take it also with a pinch of salt… Common knowledge is based on personal experiences. And being personal these experiences are unique and change from person to person. What was right to one may not be right to another, and what was a scary experience for one expat may be an exciting new adventure to another. Keep an open mind. Our best buddies today are the locals in our new village by the sea. Before arriving we were warned that many of the villagers don’t like expats and that the communication with them is impossible. Despite all warnings we kept our minds open and are now hugged by a wonderful warm group with whom we’d might be limited in conversing, but we sure are feeling welcomed.
And one last item before going on my long mid-day phone chat – don’t forget the friends you left behind. Days may run, time may fly away, and yet it is important to find a moment to post an update (and here again I’m thankful to dear old Mark), send an SMS, or better – take the time for a phone call. These people on the other side are the ones who really know you. And even if your current lives seem new and different,
they are there for comfort, a hearing ear, and a virtual supporting hug.
Enjoy your new adventure!
By Dr Taly Goren, a long time traveler between nations and continents,
relocation specialist, parents groups facilitator, mother of two adolescent TCKs,
and the wife of a Hi-Tech Expat frequent flyer.