Ten (Not So Obvious) Ways to Tell an Expat is Moving

Are you sure we can't interest you in créme de cassis?
Are you sure we can’t interest you in créme de cassis?

Here in the global village of ExpatLandia, there is often a prescribed way to say goodbye. There are parties and coffees and more parties and lots of cake. Champagne flows pretty freely, even during the day. Books are signed and monies collected. Gifts bought. I’m sure it varies from place to place, but there’s a pattern which is almost formulaic. I’ve been here long enough to know Jo will bring the mackerel pate, Jill the avocado dip and Marta will buy something five minutes before she needs to be wherever she needs to be. It lends a bit of comfort to what can be an unsettling feeling. After all, it’s never easy to say goodbye, no matter how many times you do it.

All of that, however, only begins once a family has announced their move. For contractual reasons or just personal ones, sometimes people keep a new posting under wraps until the last possible minute. That said, most of us become fairly attuned to the little things which often indicate a move before the cute little paperless post “We’re Moving” announcement hits your inbox.

Here are ten to watch out for:

The donations, hand-me-downs and small items start to appear on bulletin boards, list-serves and flea market pages. Once the appliances start to get listed, you can assume the contract’s been signed.

The car goes in for an overhaul and tune up, the tires changes and all the dings and scratches get fixed.

They start to eat through the freezer meals in order to get rid of all the meat bought on sale, Bolognese sauce frozen for the future and the turkey the company doled out as a bonus two years ago.

We'll never get through this
We’ll never get through this

You go a casual dinner and your host’s entire bar is on display. They eagerly encourage you to drink cocktails made with rum or tequila and try to foist the unopened bottle of créme de menthe on you. (Don’t be fooled by the Brits and gin though, that’s just an everyday staple).

They start going to museums and concerts and walking tours, ‘exploring’ the city, all things which they haven’t gotten around to in the previous three years.

They start to get a bit cagey about planning future dates and won’t commit to anything beyond the end of the school year.

The “I have a friend looking for information about schools in Bangkok” type posts start to pop up on your Facebook feed.

They start to withdraw from their normal social scene.

More local vacations and trips than usual.

Conversations are suddenly full of all things they love about where they are or conversely, all the bad things about it are dragged out and rehashed.

Drink up, we can't take it with us!
Drink up, we can’t take it with us!

Some of these things are necessities, after all, no one wants to waste the booze the movers won’t pack. Others, like withdrawing a bit from friendships, even close ones, is a way to buffer the mixed feelings most of us have about moving on. Anything that is going to make a time of massive upheaval feel just a little bit easier.

Try not to worry too much though–we’re all just waiting for the official announcement on Facebook. We’ve been collecting money for your book and Royal Copenhagen mugs for weeks already ;-).





13 thoughts on “Ten (Not So Obvious) Ways to Tell an Expat is Moving

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  1. With cars and vehicles, I often saw the opposite … the not-absolutely-necessary maintenance put off, with the idea being its the next owner’s problem. The car won’t sell for $500 more just because I spent that on a tune up and a new battery one month before I left.

    Exploring the local area, yes I did exactly that at my stops. Played tourist locally plenty of times in the last couple of months.

    Withdrawing from the social scene, also yes. I shed the obligation I felt to talk to everyone I bumped into. From now til the exit plane ride, I’m only gonna talk to those I already know and like. There was also the discovery that maybe some people (gulp) did not like me as much as I thought, as once the news was out, some of them quit talking to me!


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