Tag Archives: marriage

To Move or Not to Move – the Relocation Decision

Relocation Decision

Decisions, decisions...

It took us around two months to make the final decision about relocating to Geneva.  At the time, of course, it felt like much longer. 

Every week, in fact, nearly every day, I was:

  • – weighing the pros and cons;

– list-making laced with gut feeling;

– asking for advice and ignoring it;

– searching online expat chat forums for clues. 

With all of the discussions, alternative views and justifications, with all of the gentle nudging to find out what the children thought of it, I felt I had aged ten years by the time we came to the conclusion that we were indeed going to move. But I realise that we were the fortunate ones.  We could take our time to make a decision we can all be happy with.  Many other families do not have that luxury.  They are forced into a decision in a matter of days.  Sometimes it’s a stark decision:  a matter of ‘go abroad or lose your job’.  It’s becoming less common now, as companies begin to realise that not involving the spouse in the decision-making process can lead to the failure of the overseas assignment and premature return.  But it still happens.

We were even luckier in that we already knew the positives and negatives, the lifestyle and the bureaucracy of the place we are moving to.  We had already spent 18 months there in the past.  Unexpectedly, that made our decision harder: there were no rose-tinted spectacles to entice us with an idyllic image of our new life abroad.  We knew just how hard it would be to find suitable accommodation, a place in a school, have the children adapt to a new language, change the car licence plates… There was no honeymoon period for us, with its gentle ignorance.  There wasn’t even much nostalgia for our life there 4-5 years ago, as in the Pays de Gex a few years can bring in phenomenal changes and doubling of the population.

So what do families contemplating relocation abroad find most useful when making up their minds?

1. Talk to others who have made the move.  Not just the ones who are still living there, but also others who have moved on.  Ask lots of questions, both online and off.

2. Focus not just on the practical aspects of the move (important though these undoubtedly are).  In the midst of all the hustle and bustle, take stock of your resilience as a family.  Be honest about any weak points in your relationship with your spouse, with your children, because they are likely to be exacerbated during your time abroad.  Can you change as a family and would you want to? 

3. If you do ask friends and family for advice, be prepared to ignore it.  There may be hidden agendas and partial views at work there.

4. If at all possible, visit the country and town you are planning to live in.  Of course a weekend trip in glorious sunshine in June is different from seven months of winter, cold and darkness, but if you still hate the place when it’s at its best, then you know you are in trouble!   Yes, it would be madness to marry someone based on the first impression, but you cannot ignore that instinctive reaction either.

5. Rely on both your reason and your intuition to make sure you come to the right decision.  I’ve seen many cases where families make long lists of pros and cons, decide that the pros outweigh the cons and rationally they really ought to go… but even as they start making the preparations for their departure, their hearts just get heavier and more distressed.  A certain amount of grieving as you say goodbye to your current life is absolutely normal, but if there is no excitement whatsoever, no lightness of heart and quickening of pulse, then maybe your decision was the wrong one.  Be sensible, by all means, but be happy too.

It’s always going to be a leap of faith, just as much as a marriage.  Because, even if a marriage is (intended to be) permanent and your move abroad may not be, you will be changed by it.  You and your family will never be quite the same again.  And that is my only nod towards a certain Royal Wedding.

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Marrying abroad

While chatting to a Russian friend the other day, we remarked on the number of international marriages we have seen failing lately.  (I had written a blog post about the challenges of international divorces and it struck quite a chord with many of my acquaintances.)  We were wondering why that might be the case.

The easy explanation would be that – in our East European countries, at least, and possibly even more so in certain Asian countries – marriage with a foreigner was perceived as something aspirational, glamorous, a great opportunity to get out of the country and make a life and career for yourself.  For both men and women. Although the  image that most readily springs to mind is that of good-looking young women hanging off the arms of weedy expats with no obvious qualities other than their thick wallets.

Fast forward a few years and now that the more basic needs of Maslow’s pyramid have been satisfied (security, warmth, food, the chance to be treated with respect or at least civility), perhaps the appetite has increased for those higher-level needs.  We no longer want a secure provider, but a soulmate.  We no longer crave the narrow two-bed flat in London but a detached house overlooking the sea.  Which, by the way, some of our former classmates back home have by now obtained!

Life abroad, marriage abroad, has disappointed us.  But we cannot go back – we have been away for too long, we no longer fit in, people back there treat us with suspicion or greed.  We now want the lifestyle, the wealth and the ideal partner. 

But there could be another explanation:  Could it be that our partner has tired of us and our foreign ways?  Or that we have over-adapted to our host country and they can no longer see the quirkiness and uniqueness in us that they originally fell in love with?  Did both partners enter the marriage thinking more in terms of national stereotypes rather than the actual indvidual?

I know I came to the UK expecting to find the perfect English gentleman.  Or a tall, dark  Norwegian (my favourite ‘type’ combined with my favourite country but, sadly, almost an oxymoron).  Luckily, I found my husband, who confounded all those false ideals and expectations.  Nor did he find me to be the typical Romanian lass (whatever that might be).  So we had to make it up as we went along.

I’m sure we both occasionally revert to national stereotyping when we get cross with each other (especially with each other’s families) but most of the time we rejoice that we are neither fish nor fowl and enjoy living between worlds.  Which is probably the secret of success – we live in a neutral ‘third’ country.

What is your experience of marrying abroad?  Would you agree that it’s a taboo to admit the ‘selfish’ reasons for doing so? Do you think there are always some false expectations and stereotypes going on there? 

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