The benefits of relocating - can moving abroad change you for the better?
Maybe you’re considering relocating, but uncertain if the benefits will outweigh the hassle? Perhaps your partner has been offered their dream job, but you’re not sure what’s in it for you?
From my experience, relocating is a challenge. It takes courage, persistence and a lot of effort. This is particularly the case for the non-working or accompanying partner (usually, but not always female) who often takes the responsibility for adjusting not only herself to the new situation, but also the rest of the family.
However, what if relocating promised to boost your confidence, enhance your creativity, and create more meaningful relationships – would that persuade you to take the plunge?
Lisette Olsson, mum of two has relocated three times, once for work, once for love and once to improve the quality of life for her and her family. Here she shares what she has gained from relocating, and why she thinks it’s a risk worth taking!
Where have you lived? And where are you living now?
I was born in Holland, but when I was 10 my family and I moved to Vienna in Austria. After two years, we moved back to the Netherlands to a different location. This was a decision made by my father who felt it better to explore somewhere new, than to go back to where we had been before and struggle to fit back in. In my twenties I moved to Glasgow in Scotland to be with my now husband. We moved to Montreal in Canada for my husband’s work and I’m now living here with him, and my two boys.
What have you gained by relocating?
As a child I loved going across the border [to Germany]; another currency, a new language, a different way of doing things. Travel has always been my passion so I made it my career as a luxury Travel Agent.
A global perspective
The opportunity to live in different countries has fuelled my interest in other cultures. I’ve become more open minded and welcoming. When my son gets an invitation to have dinner with a Korean friend, and I know he’s there at the table with a French Canadian and someone from Iceland, I can’t wait until he gets home to question him on all the details. I’m super excited about this exposure to so many different cultures. It fascinates me!
Knowledge of languages
When we moved to Vienna I spoke no German and I really struggled initially. However I persevered and by the end of two years my German was pretty good. It was through this experience that I realised I had an aptitude for learning languages. I now speak four languages!
The move to Montreal [with my husband and kids] has brought togetherness. We are a stronger team, and we are all much healthier as a result, physically and mentally.
Confidence and adaptability
Moving around has made me more adaptable to new situations. I have more confidence to take a different path, to deal with uncertainty and not to know what the future holds.
What have been some of the challenges you have faced in relocating?
The biggest challenge of moving around a lot is that I don’t know where my home is any more. As part of an international marriage there were two places that we called ‘home’. Now, my children’s home is different to mine and I find this a challenge.
For now Montreal is home, but it’s not permanent. In the future I think we will need to look to find a common place, somewhere that’s neutral, somewhere we can all identify with as ‘ home’
What has helped you to manage the challenges?
A good marriage has helped me through.
What else have you done to help yourself adjust, integrate, and make the most of your relocation experiences?
I make sure I socialise in different circles. I spend time with fellow expats and my husband’s work colleagues and their families, but I also built my own circle of friends through clubs and sports classes.
I love tennis so I use this as my starting point. I join a tennis club and through this I meet many people, including locals. Nothing beats local knowledge.
What have you learned about yourself, and others by moving to, and living in different countries?
I have learnt I can make a house a home in many different places. Where ever I am living I focus on creating a good base from where I can expand my life and meet new people.
When you move around you have the opportunity to meet lots of different people. I’ve learnt how to build relationships quickly, but also to let go and accept that not all people stay with you for your entire life.
What would you have missed out on if you had stayed in one place?
My marriage to start with! But also some amazing travel experiences, and the opportunity to share those with my children.
What advice would you give to other women who are relocating as an ‘accompanying’ partner’?
Before you come, start with an open discussion with your partner. Ask yourself “Is relocating something you both want?”, “What expectations do you both have of the experience?” You (as the non working partner) need to be in it wholeheartedly because it’s not easy.
Once you’ve made the move, show passion to locals, a willingness to learn, and learn the language to bridge the gap. Someone will always reach out to you.
If you’re thinking of relocating but would like to speak to someone before taking the plunge, please get in touch