Friday, September 4, 2009

Our New Zealand anniversary!

This week, we realised we’d been living in Auckland for a year!
Yes, it has been 12 months since we were belched off a very unpleasant Qantas flight and into the Brave New World that is Auckland.
I still remember the drive to our temporary city apartment. C. was so exhausted he fell asleep, and Miss 6. was so excited she kept describing everything as ‘funny.’ Including my husband’s boss!
After a quick shower and change, we ventured into busy Queen Street, where C. almost stepped into a puddle of vomit, and then dramatically announced this had been the Worst Day Of His Life. And we wondered: Had we made a massive mistake?
But as the weeks passed in a blur of house-hunting, car-buying, setting up bank accounts and settling into schools, we soon began to enjoy our new home.
And 12 months on, we have no regrets. Kiwis have been marvellously warm and welcoming, and living overseas, even just across the ditch, has been enriching for us as a family. We’ve enjoyed learning about different cultures, trying new foods, and exploring this breathtakingly gorgeous country. We’d do it all over again in a heartbeat.
The worst thing about relocating a family overseas is missing your other family. We all miss our family and friends back home, and have our moments we feel homesick and sad. But we’ve been lucky enough to get home occasionally, and have really enjoyed getting visitors from time to time!
And of course, we hate not having pets – though regular readers will know we now have a kitty visitor who calls on us whenever she is hungry, thirsty, or in need of attention. So we get in a pet ‘fix’ every now and then with her.
Yes, moving a family overseas is huge – but it’s also exciting and fun. Here are some of the things we’ve learned:
· Get your kids into school/daycare as soon as possible. In NZ that’s tricky, because you need to live near your school before you can enrol! The minute our kids were in school, they settled down and relaxed. Okay, so it wasn’t quite what they were used to, but they were back into a routine and generally knew what was expected of them each day. That gave them an element of control over their lives, and gave us time to do the stuff we needed – like unpacking and dealing with red-tape - without stressing out the kids.
· Help make the move as ‘normal’ as possible. After arriving at our apartment, we immediately went out and bought soy milk, Milo, and a few other ‘comfort’ foods that we knew they would love.
· Stay in an apartment rather than a hotel while you find a permanent place to live. It’s not just about saving money (though that’s a help). After a couple of nights, eating out got boring, and the kids just wanted to chill out in front of the telly, like they would at home. Having a kitchen, meant we could cook up simple family meals like bangers and mash, instead of going out to eat every night. Not to mention, enjoying cereal and milk or toast in the mornings.
· Organise communication as soon as possible. It took us three weeks to get internet and phone at our new home, and I went slightly bonkers in the process!
· Reconsider a ‘relocation consultant’. They are expensive, and although my husband’s work kindly paid for one for us, to be honest, she wasn’t much help. She was a couple of days too late to take us on our tour of rental places (we found one ourselves in the meantime) and gave us horrendous advice about the best places for us to live. Worst of all, she didn’t tell us stuff we REALLY needed to know: Like registering for a doctor as soon as possible. (You need to be with a GP for at least 3 months before qualifying for reduced rates for visits and medication), and bringing in medication the family needs that is unavailable or hopelessly expensive here.
· Try to do most of the house-hunting legwork without the kids. Ours found it stressful and fairly boring being dragged from one place to another, but having just arrived, there were no family or friends to babysit, and we didn’t want to have them babysat by a stranger. Yes, they can still have a say if you like, but once you’ve narrowed it down.
· Obviously, your kids need to travel with any extra special toys, like teddies. Then, when the moving dudes arrive, make sure you set up their rooms first. The kids were at school during moving day, and when they got home, they got to add the finishing touches, and unpack their toys to their own satisfaction. .
· Bring photos, albums and pictures. We left many behind, thinking we wouldn’t have anywhere to put them. But the kids would have preferred to see familiar pictures in their own new rooms, and they constantly go through the photo albums we did bring.
· Let them have their home comforts. Miss 6 always has vegemite sandwiches for lunch, and Mr 8 likes his Tim Tams. It’s comforting for kids (or adults) to be surrounded by things/meals/drinks that they know. Luckily in NZ that’s easy, and their favourite things are readily available.
· Don’t trust the airline to deliver when it comes to food and entertainment. We were seated too close to the TV screens on Qantas for the kids to be able to watch the movie, and they ended up fidgeting and arguing for most of the flight. And the tiny pack of crayons and activities they were given was the same as they’d had on two previous domestic flights, so they lasted about, oh, all of five minutes. And don’t get me started on the food! Now, the kids always travel with a small backpack with DS games, activities, books and snacks. (Note: Not too many snacks, as you’ll have to bin any leftovers when you reach your destination). Usually forbidden treats like chewing gum works a treat. Also, I carry my laptop, and the kids watch movies and play games on that if they’re bored.

Has anyone else got any tips for relocating a family overseas?


Juli Ryan said...

These are great tips. Well done!

Honey the Great Dane said...

What a great post! So informative and comprehensive and I'm sure very helpful to anyone contemplating a move, especially with young kids.

We don't have kids so we didn't have to worry about some of the things on your list but a lot of the other things did apply. I'd like to add that I think getting friendly & chatting to the locals really helped in terms of everyday practicalities like the best supermarket to shop for quality & value, where the nearest late-night pharmacy is, etc...stuff that the "official channels" or even people like relocation consultants often don't tell you but is actually vitally important to helping you settle in and reduce stress! We found some of the most useful information from word-of-mouth. And most people are incredibly friendly and helpful when they find that you're new arrivals (well, in NZ anyway!)

I so agree about the photos. We did something similar when we went to live in Sydney for a year and left most of our "sentimental" stuff here to reduce on freight charges & space...but really regretted it. They may not be vital practical things but they do really help with your emotional well-being. :-)

I would say also for house-hunting, it really helps to actually walk around the neighbourhood on foot. We discovered this when we arrived here - some streets look so lovely when you drive through but you're cushioned from a lot of stuff in the car and it's not until we walked through that same street a lot later with our dog that we realised it's very dangerous due to cars using it as a short-cut and speeding through or the huge trees which looked beautiful from the car actually dropped leaves everywhere which clogged the drains and everyone's gardens...nightmare if you actually lived on that street and had to sort it out! Those kinds of things. So with our next place, we're definitely doing to take our time and walk through the neighbourhoods, rather than a quick drive through!


Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

Happy Anniversary! Isn't the first day always the worst? I felt the same way when I arrived in Japan and I thought "at least I have a return ticket". Thankfully it got better hehe

amber said...

Thanks for the tips. I can't believe it's been a year for you. Love to catch your blog. No interestingly shaped fruit or veg in this one I see, ha ha. Catch ya later.

MrsDesperate said...

Thank you ladies for your insightful comments. And don't worry A., I have a post coming up soon just for you. (Okay, for me. But I like to pretend other people have a similar fondness to unusual shaped-food to me ...)

merinz said...

Good to hear that you are enjoying NZ. Good tips.

Anonymous said...

We made a photo album for our daughter, with pics of family members who were far away. She was very young - a tiny baby when we moved, and a small child when we came back - and we wanted her to know what her grandparents, aunts & uncles and cousins looked like! It helped her when we talked about them too, she was able to point to their pictures. On a trip home we found she didn't treat them as strangers, so perhaps it worked.