So, you get off the plane, all excited (but just a little apprehensive), jump in a taxi and head to your temporary accommodation, eagerly taking in the sights on the way. Forgetting their jetlag, the kids run around the apartment like dogs off a leash and you smile indulgently as you think “this has gone well” – until one of them says, “I’m hungry!” And you’ve run out of snacks. Reality kicks in – you need a supermarket. But where is it…and is it open?
No matter how much you research the place that you’re moving to, the simplest tasks can be monumental in size when you actually have to tackle them.
When we first moved to The Hague, the local supermarkets didn’t open on Sundays. In fact, virtually nothing opened on Sundays apart from churches, so finding bread and milk became a bit of a challenge. As for Mondays – shops opened at lunchtime and closed promptly at 5.30, so forget the jetlag – you had to get out and get shopping – once you’d discovered where the shops were. (By the way, bring your own bags – a requirement we weren’t aware of during the first expedition, but applaud!)
So, once you’ve figured out how to feed the family for the next 24 hours, what next? The relocation companies will only take you so far, and establishing yourself in a new community takes time. There is always a product or service you seek, but unless you connect with your community – expat or local, you’ll never be able to find it.
Fortunately with this move, I’ll be able to hit the ground running and I’ll have support. I know what to expect and I still speak Australian…but at some point we’ll need to find a doctor, dentist, hairdresser – the list goes on.
Deep down, I’m an introvert and loathe asking for help, but over the years I’ve had to overcome my fears and speak up.
So, when I’m at the school meeting the principal or having coffee at our nearest cafe (there’ll be one close by, won’t there…?), I’ll happily ask where’s the best place for a haircut or if they trust the local mechanic. Most people are happy to help and a few minutes of conversation can save a lot of wasted time and effort!