When you actually agree to move abroad, the clock starts to tick and the countdown has started.
You make your lists, tell your family and friends and a date goes in the diary.
First thing to do? Book the removal company, even if you do not know where you are staying, you know when you are leaving! Order packing cases, parcel tape and bubble wrap. Now book your flight. Prepare for sleepless nights thinking about the things you have forgotten to do.
You are now moving house and country, there will be a different climate, culture, language and you have a new job to start. Advice comes thick and fast for ‘The Big Project, the task, actually picking up your life and moving it, in my case to the paradise island of Mauritius.
People know Mauritius as a fabulous holiday destination. Well, it is so much more than 5 star hotels and palm fringed, white sandy beaches surrounded by a turquoise lagoon under a fabulous blue sky!
You know where everything is where you currently live, this is what you will be leaving behind, local knowledge. There is support all around for you from friends, colleagues and especially family. You know where the shops are, where your doctor and dentist are, the supermarkets, shops, cinemas, theatres, the gym, how to travel, book things, pay for services and get things repaired. This is familiar and what you take for granted .. until you don’t have them!
Where do you get advice in the country you are going to and who do you listen to? I asked people who had been expats, family and friends, and their advice was excellent but not specific to where I was going.
“Don’t turn down any invitation, you never know what you may experience or who you may meet”
The internet was of course a source of information, some of the international removal companies were great but one website stood out not only for advice but also for support, both before and after moving.
I joined this website which has immediate access to expats living all around the world. Having registered as a potential expat specifically for Mauritius I now had access to people who had already done what I was going to do. This was invaluable, easy, free, immediate and totally up to date unlike many travel websites or blogs.
Information I needed concerned basic but essential things like:
- How do I get a work and living permit?
- Do I need a visa?
- How long does it take?
- How do I open a bank account?
- What is the health care like?
- Where is a good and safe place to live?
- What is the public transport like?
- Can someone recommend a Lawyer, Accountant, Doctor, Chiropractor?
- How easy is it to buy a car?
- Where do you sign up for a mobile phone, internet, tv?
- What is the process for importing your belongings and tax implications?
The beauty of the expat website is that there is practical advice before arriving and after. This was a great help to me.
I was lucky in that my new work colleagues went out of their way to help me too, not everyone is that fortunate. Moving on your own is a little bit more challenging than as a couple or a family but that is the same wherever you are relocating.
The day came for the boxes to be collected and there it was, my life condensed into nine cardboard boxes ready to be despatched, by Thompson Airlines I later discovered, 6,000 miles away to this beautiful tropical island.
I flew to Mauritius two days after the boxes were collected. It was very exciting to see the boxes being delivered … having paid just under £3,000 import tax, all refunded after my work permit was issued by the BOI, 19 days after arriving.
It was a bit like Christmas opening the boxes, many things I had forgotten I had packed. Not one thing was broken, not even these New York Parade cows!
Every box had been opened by Customs, the contents checked against the itemised spreadsheet showing quantity and value, then repacked and resealed. I checked eight boxes and ‘I still hadn’t found what I had been looking for.’
Talking to other expats in your own language can be very rewarding, relaxing and supportive. http://www.expat.com offers forums and messaging to do this not only with people of your own nationality but also expats from other parts of the world. Organised events and meetings allow you to socialise with other families and people like yourself to share experiences as an expat and make friendships.
“How, where, what, when?”
These are the questions that become more urgent when you are alone abroad, in a different country and you don’t know quite what to do. Colleagues, neighbours and other expats can help you, so can the locals who in my case have been truly exceptionally friendly. Their support and advice together with the opportunity to make friends with others like yourselves has been truly great.
Ten weeks have flown by.
I would like to thank all the people who have been so kind and helpful to me whilst I have been here. I am thoroughly enjoying the Mauritian culture and way of life … but their driving needs improving and the traffic jams are worse than I had expected … but it gives me time to listen to the odd podcast …
.. and to think about what I am going to cook for dinner. I certainly miss the familiarity of the shops I used to frequent and the brands on sale, I have not recognised a single brand of chopped or peeled tomatoes in any supermarket yet. Only two types of potato are on sale, potatoes or sweet potatoes. Hang on, there are three varieties of this!
The weather has been very hot, even the locals say it is hotter than usual, well over 35 degrees and not below 20 degrees at night. Its essential to drink lots of water and the occasional ice lolly.
There are so many brands that are unfamiliar, it is difficult to choose. You can always ask an expat but I prefer to buy a few different packs or tins with varying prices and see what they are like. Microwaveable rice, ‘cooked in two minutes in the microwave’ is not on sale anywhere. The amount of space given to rice is incredible. Here is a small selection of packs of rice and these are only the 5kg packs!
And finally, my second goat story of the year. On the way to the supermarket on Saturday, three goats crossed the road in front of me.
Then, in the supermarket I noticed this …
After ten weeks, which have flown by, I have learnt a lot, achieved so much, seen so many things I had not expected and met some really good people. It has not all been plain sailing, or snorkelling for that matter, but enormously rewarding. I impatiently look forward to the next adventure and experience; it cannot come quickly enough.