I reached out to a British woman I met in Cyprus who now lives in Warsaw but used to live in Paris to ask her about schools. Then I got in touch with another British women who lived in Copenhagen before me (she moved to New York and I gave her some tips), and now lives in Paris.
The British friend from Cyprus who used to be in Paris but is now in Warsaw is soon moving to Ottawa. So I promised her I would hook her up with the folks I know from Copenhagen who are in Ottawa.
Next I got in touch with an American woman and a Kiwi by way of Oz, both of whom I know from Denmark who now live in The Hague (though one is soon moving to the US) to see if I could hook them up with a Brit who came to Denmark via Qatar and is now going Dutch.
Den Hague? Check!
As I was tapping out messages and typing requests, I was astounded at the sheer size and capacity of the global network that hums along behind the scenes. And no one’s the wiser.
Forget the movers and the shakers, the back room deals and the golf club promises, there is a whole lot of dealing going on in FB messenger chats, closed social media groups and list serves. Got a question about moving your goods from Singapore to Seattle? Post a question and you’ll have sixty-four answers within five minutes, from the container companies who will break your Great Aunt Agnes’s china to the ones with the hunkiest haulers. Want to know how the schools in Entebe compare with the ones in England? No problem. I guarantee you someone has the answer.
In a lifestyle in which your whole world can turn upside down with one layoff, one big oil company buyout, one dream job offer, information is currency.
And let me tell you, there’s a whole lot of trading going on. It’s like those old-fashioned telephone operators sitting in front of octopus tentacles wires, connecting one party to another.
Signing the contract is the easy part. It’s the rest that haunts your dreams. Having to move is hard. Moving to a country you’ve never been before, not knowing where to start? That’s paralyzing.
There’s a village out there. And it’s organized and on social media. It’s a whisper network of expats, mostly women, out there helping other (mostly) women. Not for money or fame or fortune, not even for the golden goose of an expat package, but just generally out of kindness, and a desire to help, and the kinship which comes with moving to a country not your own.
That ready-made global community at your disposal–it gets lost in all the wheeling and dealing, the packages, the glitz and glamor (as if!) of moving abroad. But its important.
Information and advice about schools and sports programs, neighborhoods, where to find gluten-free groceries for your celiac child, where the best cardiologist is for your son with a heart problem. How to get around, where to go, what to do, where to stash your mother when she comes for a visit. Buy or lease, take off your shoes or not, what do I need to bring with me from home, how are the OTC drugs??
I have an eight year old, a three year old, and an incontinent terrier, where’s the best place to look for a house and doggy diapers in Dubai?
I need to fly back and forth to care for an ailing parent, where’s the best place in Uruguay to secure an au pair who drives, cooks Thai, and speaks Mandarin ?
Don’t get me wrong. A package is nice. But so is having a list of schools to look at before you hit the ground, especially if it means you can cross a few off your list. A paycheck is necessary, but on the ground advice about which neighborhoods to skip and which to put on your wish list? That’s the real deal.
All of the things which help smooth the transition, which help keep the nibbling anxiety at bay. Schools, housing, childcare, doctors. Tips and tricks. Advice and areas to avoid. Dos and Don’ts. Musts and Mustn’ts.
It’s all there. Yours for the taking. Or the asking. You just need friends in the right places. Or friends who have friends who used to be in the right places who might know someone who might know a gal.