They say that being “ready” isn’t enough, that you need to be “prepared” for a significant change in your life and so I read up and researched everything I could possibly find on moving abroad once we made that final decision to do so. I also spoke to friends and family (and a few strangers, okay, basically anyone who would listen) who had made similar moves before and I questioned everything.
I received some really great advice and information along the way and listened to what made the most sense for us as a family. A lot of the information we received provided an insight into integrating into a new cultural environment, new schools, people, etc. however most of the information revolved around our physical possessions e.g. “sell your furniture as it’s likely to get damaged in transit” or “book this airline as you’ll be able to take more luggage”. Looking back, I’ve realised that very few emotions were discussed and maybe I didn’t ask the right questions but no matter how hard I tried to prepare myself for this move, nothing could have prepared me for the emotional rollercoaster that lay ahead.
We’re quickly approaching our 5 month anniversary living in Switzerland and whilst I absolutely love living here and wouldn’t change it for anything, it has not been easy. I also promised myself very early on that this blog would provide an honest view of our lives here and so I decided to list a few things that I have struggled with the most and lessons that I have learnt along the way. These are just a few things that I wish had come up in some of those earlier conversations.
- You will ‘forget’ how to cook/bake
Being someone who is always in the kitchen, this one has been tough. I’m still trying to figure this one out but the majority of my favourite (South African) recipes simply don’t work here. I’m not sure if it’s the flour or the butter but I have more baking and cooking flops here than ever before and it’s driving me insane.
The Swiss recipes work perfectly however the palate here is completely different and I often find myself craving one of the sweeter South African treats.
My tip to others: Keep trying. It’s also a good excuse to phone your Mom daily with requests for new recipes.
- Make a list of all the reasons why you love your spouse
This move, although completely new, feels vaguely familiar to the move we made all those years ago when we decided to first move in with one another. Given that neither of us are working and that we’re spending more time together than ever before, we’ve had to relearn how to be in each other’s space, what works, what doesn’t and how and where to compromise.
My tip to others: Make a list of all the reasons why you love your spouse and revisit it often.
- You will become a living, breathing contradiction
I feel happy yet sad, fulfilled yet lonely, smart yet stupid, at home yet foreign, angry yet at peace, and and and …
My tip to others: Be kind to yourself
- Out of all the people you will miss, you will miss yourself the most
It’s difficult to put this into words, but I miss myself the most. My old self. My confident self. The one who didn’t have to think twice before doing something and if I wasn’t sure of something I could just ask someone, knowing full well that I would be able to understand whatever was said.
I don’t have a tip for this one as I’m still trying to figure it out for myself. In some of the advice I received, people said that the second year is easier and my mantra has simply become “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time”.
- There is no logic in emotions
This one hit me like a ton of bricks the other day. I was walking through the airport on my way to catch a connecting train and I heard a whistle. The very same whistle that my Dad would use to get my attention when I was little, the same whistle that my sister now uses to call her boys. My head flew around as my eyes frantically searched for the source and whilst I knew it couldn’t possibly be one of them, my heart was convinced otherwise and when reality finally kicked in, I slowly turned around and walked to my train, tears streaming down my face.
It’s the little things like this that catch me completely off-guard and wreak the most havoc with my emotions.
My tip: Phone home often. Every day if needed. (Also, WhatsApp have an awesome feature that allows you to do group calls so I can now call my mom, my sister and my daughter all at the same time!)
- Your memories will become your most treasured possessions
It’s amazing how you can decipher between what’s important and what’s not when you have 4 cubic meters of space to fit 3 full lives into. For me, when I looked at the contents of my house, there was very little that couldn’t be replaced and there was so much more that we didn’t even need.
It quickly became clear that I was unable to part with the photographs and canvases that were displayed on my walls. These were all carefully packed into a container and, fingers crossed, will hopefully reach us by October/November this year.
My tip: Pack a few of your favourite photographs with you and display them throughout your house whilst you wait for the rest to arrive. Share new photos with family back home and encourage them to do the same. (My folks send me daily updates of themselves with my dogs and these are often the highlight of my day)
Sharing some photos of my most prized ‘possessions’ in life …
(Photo credit: Sugar Tree Photography)