Usually before people make huge life changes there is some level of discussion. Some conversations about how things are going to go. How this change will affect your life and the lives of those who love and care about you. How this massive life change will change the course of your life and the life of the person you're dragging along for the ride. Usually.
If you're Johnathan and I, the two idiots who moved to Switzerland in 30 days, exactly none of that happened. We didn't even discuss if he would take the job or not. Honestly. We never actually talked about whether or not he should take the job. It was a forgone conclusion that when a special department of the UN calls you say "yes I'll be there in 30 days!"
There was plenty we didn't talk about before we moved. Hell, we didn't even know when the national holiday was (surprise, it was the day after we landed!) We felt pretty irresponsible for a loooong time. We met a lot of expats who seemed to have their act together. They had it all figured out, they have everything back home sorted and weren't flying by the seat of their pants. But then...after a glass or two of wine we would discover they were just as irresponsible as us. We learned there are things that almost NO expat we've met talked about until they were forced to (I'm sure there are plenty of expats who HAVE had this conversations, we just haven't met any yet...)
We have a funeral list. It is very short. We know that sounds terrible. But after Johnathan's grandmother and then my grandmother died within our first 6 months here (his grandmother passed about 6 weeks before mine) we had to sit down and figure out whose funeral we would go home for. Neither of us were able to get home for our Grandmothers funerals. We knew both would understand but at the same time we were confronted with the idea that we would have to make these decisions again and next time we would be a little more prepared for it. And no beloved family we will not tell you who "made the cut."
On the flip side we also have a wedding list, this too is very short. It consists of three people with a footnote that states all other weddings will be on a case by case basis. The three people are our unmarried siblings...although if the three of you could get together and have a good ol' fashioned cult style mass wedding that would be super appreciated! Just think of all the money everyone would save!
Money money money money money
Becoming an expat is EXPENSIVE!! No one warns you about that so I'm warning you about that. Every expat experiences this financial slap in the face but no one talks about it. And this has nothing to do with living in Switzerland and this has everything to do with rebuilding your life from scratch. In our first 6 months we spent close to 10,000.00 on just getting ourselves settled. That's things like our first months rent, staying in a hotel for almost 2 weeks before we had a place to live, that's getting basics like something to sit on, something to eat off of, something to sleep on. Paying my parents back for lending us our damage deposit. That's getting our cable and phone set up. That's getting pantry basics and other consumables. That 10 grand included stuff we didn't even realize we would need like transit passes or train tickets to IKEA so we could buy stuff. We felt like we were hemorrhaging money. Huge life changes come at a cost and in our case we could actually put a price tag on it.
I just conferred with Johnathan (the knower of mathematics) and he would suggest in our first year we spent 20,000.00 on settling. After the first few months we started upgrading things. You need to remember we bought stuff quickly and in desperation. Not an ideal situation because as my Oma Regina told me once, "buy cheap buy twice." We were sleeping on a futon mattress on the floor for the first 4 months. Then we got a bed. Then we got something better than a futon for our living room. Our TV sat on the floor for the longest time until we found a TV stand we could agree on (I never knew Johnathan had such strong opinions about TV stands...) 20 grand is a lot of money no matter where you live in the world.
Further to that we learned that there are expats that have something called an "emergency fund." Then we learned there are other adults who have such a thing. As I said earlier, John and I aren't very good at being grown ups. We never realized how important an emergency fund as an expat was until we saw friends having to make suddenly and unexpected trips back home. Sudden and last minute trips home are expensive and the money needs to come from somewhere and that's what emergency funds are for apparently. We are happy to say we have one now...we haven't had it long BUT we have one now!
Home again home again
Oh visits home. You vicious family politics nightmare you. As an expat Fastest way to spend a lot of money and disappoint almost everyone you know is to go home for a visit. We love and hate visiting Canada. We love being in a place where everything makes sense. But we hate the burden put on us by others about seeing us. We have actually had people demand a visit from us who haven't communicated with us the entire time we've been overseas. We've driven two provinces over to see people. We've arranged meet ups in bars, hotels, restaurants and airports. We've had knock down drag out fights about how much time everyone gets with us. We've played the numbers game. We've played the "who has the most elderly relatives game". We've played the "who haven't we seen the longest time game." It's exhausting. Going home is exhausting. It's not actually a vacation for us. It's a chance to reconnect and be with the people we love but it's never enough time. And we're always running from one thing to another because we just want to cram it all in. And if you have ever felt like you've been shorted on time with us on a visit home please know that we know. We're aware and we're sorry.