What It’s Really Like Moving a Family to Another Country
Did you know we sold 95% of our things, left our beloved golden retriever back in the states and moved across the pond to London in 2016? It’s been a part of our story for the past three years and you may have seen bits and pieces on social media, but we often get asked “what was that really like?”
The one advantage we had in moving to the United Kingdom is we speak the same language. I can’t comment what it would be like to move to a country with the dominant language not being English, which would involve a whole other adjustment. Before we moved, I think we would have said the language was the last of our worries. This is until one stressful adjustment day when I walked into the grocery with only one diaper left for our daughter and asked where the diapers were located. The lady looked at me very strange and asked what I meant. Someone heard her and said “Nappies! She means nappies!” I was then pointed to another store, because this one didn’t sell diapers, nappies, whatever they are called. A Target-like store is hard to come by in the city!
It’s those funny differences that can add to stress when you’re getting used to a new culture. Word differences or meaning in words doesn’t seem like a big deal until you’re on the other side of saying something completely wrong and embarrassment sets in. But the thing with kids...they don’t even notice. They adjust quickly to it and make fun of you when you say “you have something on your pants” (which means underwear here) and they reply, “Mooooom...it’s trousers!”
The kids also adjust much quicker to making new friends. They run into a park straight up to a child they’ve never met and begin playing. It would look pretty weird if we as adults did this! “Hi my name is Maya and I’m looking for new friends, will you play with me?”
I’d get a few looks for sure! When you pick your family up from living in an area where you have a deep support base of friendships, it’s really hard to remember how to make friends. You compare your new friendships with ones you’ve had for ten years and wish you could get to that trust and deepness level quickly, because you crave those friends who just know you. You have to remind yourself that those friendships you had before took years to develop, and it all takes time.
As the kids come home from the parks, from school or activities and tell you about their day, it’s bedtime that can be the hardest. As their heads begin to hit their pillows, their minds seem to wander to the places of missing where we used to call home. This is when we hear about missing our dog, Luna, or wanting to see their grandparents. It’s when you hear “I miss our old back yard where we grew tomatoes,” or “I wish we could just go to the lake this weekend with GaGa and PaPa,” or “Why can’t we just fly back for a few days at Christmas?”
They share what’s right in front of their mind and as you tuck them up, pray with them and talk, you as a parent start to feel guilty. What did we do to these kids? Why did we up-root them and change everything they had ever known?
It’s a mental battle that still comes up after three years, did we mess up our kids by moving them to another country? Isn’t it every parents’ fear that you’ll do something to hurt your child’s development, confidence, or they'll have bad memories of a certain portion of their childhood?
As much as it might come up still in those hard moments when they ask for something they miss, or they are struggling with something we know would be different in the states, we’re reminded that they are also growing and stretching in areas they would not have had the chance to if we didn’t move.
We don’t want to live in fear we’re messing them up, rather switching that narrative in our heads to ask what can we do to help guide them in what life is here. How do we help them see the areas they can grow and the challenges they can take on? What are the opportunities we can help them see?
It may be different, but we really do love living in London. Our family is thriving in a city atmosphere and we all continue to learn so much about other cultures, poverty, art and what is means to live in a place with it all mixed together.
Yes, it has been an adjustment moving overseas, but we’ve tried our best to take those frustrating bits and the things we miss and turn them into opportunities. We want to embrace what is new, be present and delight in this place we now call home.