The Decision Dilemma

Standard

canstockphotocropped

Home is where the heart is. A cliché with a lot of truth. But what if your heart is in two places, or more? This post unpacks some of the considerations for expats attempting to reach a decision on their long-term future.

The journey of an expat begins with a full case, bags of anticipation and a pocketful of trepidation.

It can also lack a little foresight.

As while many go on to create an amazing life that better suits, leaving behind strong roots can result in both homes feeling incomplete.

Even those who decided before departing can find this reality presents a predicament.

Because, while a great privilege to be able to pick a country to reside, having more than one possibility can, for many, create an emotional divide.

The result is the common phenomena of expat ambivalence. Where caught within the confines of two minds, long-term plans linger in limbo and decisions are difficult to decipher.

It’s confusing and complicated because;

Pros and cons don’t cut it

While the overseas pro list is often longer, the home pros are stronger, making it impossible to compare. Long pros don’t compensate for the longing you feel for family. And so for life-changing decisions it becomes clear that comparing lists blurs the emotions behind them.  So then you move to mulling over what mirrors your values. However….

Vying values

Basing your toughest choices on your strongest values is a robust approach. But when your most defining values are divided it’s a catch 22 making reaching a decision difficult. For example, strong family values with loved ones faraway contrasting with, say, a relaxed attitude at odds with the rat race of your birthplace. This classic case of dissonance can cripple even the most compos mentis of minds. So if your values are also split, it might be also worth assessing…

What’s right for you

Whether simmering under the surface or intermittently intense, every expat experiences an element of guilt. Sorrow at leaving loved ones behind, regret they’re not part of your present, and worry what the future holds without them. It’s therefore important to consider, if no-one got hurt, what would you do? But then again, this is difficult when you’d be hurt too. So maybe you could try…

Visualising your future

Perhaps the easiest and most effective method of deciding what your heart desires. If it rings true that picturing yourself in one place years from now is impossible to do, it may be your truth calling. Because reality begins in your mind. So a lack of visual projection may be a sign that it’s not what you’d like to find in your future. However, if you can imagine both, or none, then realise…

Not deciding is deciding

Being undecided, but not acting, is ultimately deciding. Consider if you are undecided in your head, your heart is deciding instead. Trust it, go with the flow, live in the moment and wait until you ‘know’ And  if you finally get to that place, remember…

Owning your decision

Both options undoubtedly have their challenges. Repatriating is almost certainly harder than expatriating, and remaining an expat will always elicit a little emptiness. However, when we make a big decision we create, sometimes subconscious, reasons to reinforce it. Through cognitive dissonance, we minimise any regret we may have.  So, consider this; when you choose, eventually your psychological sanity switch will flick and you’ll convince yourself you made the right decision. Even if you didn’t!

So, when an expats mind is split, there really is no simple solution.

Because it’s not just deciding where to live. It’s deciding what you can live with and exist without.  It’s facing being far away from family forever or turning your back on a way of life you now know to be better.

And wherever you land for the long-haul you’ll forever carry a little extra baggage. The ‘what ifs’ of a life you once knew, or for an important part of your life that changed you.

But ‘what ifs’ mean you had options.

So while your case may end up a little battered and bruised, you will never regret that it was used.

If only you could just unpack it.

Find me on facebook: UpsideDown

Advertisements

Nightmare Neighbours

Standard

Australianspiderimage

Spiders, snakes and sharks…oh my!  Is the reality of being neighbours with the wildlife down under really as bad as you imagine? This post describes what it’s really like living next door to some of Australia’s notorious natives.

Growing up, I had a reccurring nightmare of a giant hybrid spider.

The ‘Dr C Wasp’ was half giant spider; half giant wasp, who visited in my sleep when the spider catcher (aka my dad) was away.

Armed with a red plastic racket, my mum would attempt in vain to kill the ‘Dr C Wasp’ while my sister and I looked on in terror.

It was indestructible.

So, twenty odd years later, when moving to Australia, I thought of the Dr C Wasp.

Was my nightmare about to come true?!

Because while Australia is known for its hot weather and stunning scenery, it’s also known for it’s unusual animals and creepy crawlies.

And with scary spiders topping the topic of conversation prior to the move, I was feeling uneasy about encountering an eight legged Aussie.

But are they really that bad?

Here is a rundown of some of the notorious and nightmare neighbours, or housemates, you’ll have in Australia.

The nasty neighbours

Spiders. The neighbour you dread bumping into. Redbacks, whitetails and huntsmen. I’ve come face to face with the ugly blood suckers more times than I care to remember. It has tended to happen a few times a year, and has done absolutely nothing to quell my fear. However, the thought of them lurking in the shadows is moderately tolerable, because, contrary to popular belief, they don’t hunt down humans to feast on. And, chances are, if you do get bitten, you’ll live.  [1]

The lurkers

Snakes. The neighbours you know are there but thankfully bumping into one is rare. In urban areas the chance of catching a glimpse of one is slim to none, while on rural land it’s not uncommon to hear their rustles in the bushes. But again, it’s ok because they don’t intentionally hunt down humans. Which buys you some time. To run. Fast. [2]

The scary neighbours

Sharks. The neighbours waiting for someone to step on their lawn so they can launch an attack. You might want to tread Australian water carefully with these petrifying predators at sea. They kill an average of three people a year, and injure many more. And while the risk may seem low, unless you have a death wish I wouldn’t go more than waist high. I personally prefer to paddle. [3].

The famous neighbours

Kangaroos. The notorious neighbours everyone wants a glimpse of. But while tourists hop off the plane expecting a kangaroo to bounce by, these eminent emblems tend to skip around out of town. You’ll find plenty of ‘roo’s on roadtrips, or at their local hangouts (parks and woodland), and can usually get a close up look. But while mostly mild mannered, it’s worth knowing they have a good right hook, and will throw a paw punch or powerful kick if intimidated. [4]

The noisy neighbours

Birds. The neighbours with a perpetually prominent presence. From the striking cockatoos, paraquets and galahs to the more common magpies, crows or plovers; the birds in Australia are proud and loud and not at all intimidated by humans.  [5] Their distinct calls will stir you from your morning haze, and you’ll be confronted by the backyard birds everyday; and want get out of their way. It’s not uncommon to be chased or attacked in chick season. And attempts to feed the ducks will see you ganged up on by a gaggle of goggle eyed geese.

The party animals

Possums. The lively neighbours bringing the house down every night with their antics. Messy, noisy and destructive, they sleep nestled in the trees throughout the day, and come alive outside your house at night.  [6] They’ll scurry across your rooftop, scramble across your fence and scare the life out of you on a regular occasion. But while to many a pest, I’m particularly partial to the placid party animals, with ‘Paul’ my part-time pet.

The layabout stoners

Koalas. The neighbours that when you attempt to chat, you get little back. You’ll be fascinated when you first feast your eyes on one, but quickly bored when you realise they do nothing more than gorge on gum leaves. And while a myth they get high on eucalyptus, they are low-energy lazybones who crash out for up to 20 hours a day! The magnificent marsupials (not bears) can be found in captivity all over Australia but it’s far more satisfying to discover them in the wild in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria or South Australia.[7]

There are of course many more wonderful creatures you could come across; emus, wombats, wallabies, platypuses, goannas, kookaburras, quokkas and tasmanian devils, to name a few.

Thankfully, the Doctor C Wasp isn’t one of them.

But, whether feral friend or foe, the quirky creatures down under are part of what makes Australia so unique.

And with a little space and understanding, it’s highly unlikely you’ll have any problems with your new neighbours.

You may even become good friends.

Find me on Facebook. UpsideDown

[1]  http://www.spiders.com.au/

[2]  http://www.australiangeographic.com.au/topics/science-environment/2012/07/australias-10-most-dangerous-snakes/

[3]  https://taronga.org.au/conservation/conservation-science-research/australian-shark-attack-file/2014

[4]  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ciDAfhhSgns

[5]  http://www.birdsinbackyards.net/

[6]  http://www.birdgard.com.au/articles/top-10-facts-about-possums

[7]  https://www.savethekoala.com/about-koalas/interesting-facts

[8]  http://www.birdlife.org.au/bird-profile/emu

Dream Come True

Standard

mumsillouette

Pregnancy and becoming a new mum is not always as we expected. It can also come along when we least expect it. This article is for anyone imagining, planning or adapting to motherhood.

For as long as I can remember, I dreamt of having a baby.

It’s the ‘someday’ dream many of us share for when we’re financially stable, settled and established. The ‘pot of gold’ after our fun and freedom.

And as I approached my thirties, my thoughts turned towards starting a family. But when an Australian adventure unexpectedly arrived, any ideas for a baby were pushed aside.

So it came as something as a surprise when, after a recent relocation to Melbourne, I fell pregnant with our daughter. With my partner still temporarily in Perth, and family and friends on the other side of the world, it couldn’t have been further from my imagined journey into motherhood.

Nevertheless, I was over the moon. After all, my biggest dream was about to come true!

The next few months were a hectic scramble of my partner moving over, finding somewhere to live and preparing for our ‘bub’. And after a long nine months, and a difficult, drawn out birth, I was lucky enough to experience that intense rush of love. I was besotted.

But that was just the beginning. And there were some things I definitely wasn’t expecting:

Post childbirth body

Seeing my body immediately after childbirth was a shock. I was unprepared, and I panicked. So, when well enough, I went on a diet and exercise rampage. And while I lost the weight, the rest took a lot longer to bounce back. Rather it slithered its way, arriving long beyond my daughters first birthday. But, despite some lasting legacies, I made peace with my body perhaps more than before. Because making a little person, makes you a little different. It’s incredible. And that makes your body incredible too.

Feeling the loss of your old life

When you welcome a new child, you bid farewell to your old life.  And while a new one has just begun, in the beginning, exhausted and with no time to myself, I sometimes wondered what I had done. But as you watch your child’s character appear, the appeal of your old life disappears. Everyday becomes a little adventure filled with love, laughter, and surprises.  And you’ll wonder how you ever lived life without it.

Life becomes fragile

From your first steps outside to their first steps into the world, life becomes a danger zone with you permanently on high alert. For a while, I worried how I was going to live with the worry! But it becomes second nature to assess safety risks in every environment you enter.  And while terrifying at times it’s enlightening too. Because, when life feels fragile, you start to hold dear every moment we are here.

You’ll relive your childhood

Being responsible for a childhood can bring up memories of your own. You’ll consider how you want them to experience theirs, and relive how you experienced yours. For the bad, it’s an opportunity to confront ignored emotions, and for the good, replicate treasured, often filed away, childhood notions. You’ll also understand you are the centre of your parents’ world, which is hard to comprehend until a little person is at the centre of yours.

Intense emotions

Motherhood brings out the beauty and the beast. Able to warm the coldest heart, and aggravate the calmest mind, one minute you are crying tears of adoration, and seconds later, tears of frustration. Yet conversely you’ll also feel the calmest you’ve ever felt. Because you see what really matters. And with your life occupied by a child, time and energy become precious commodities you’ll spend wisely.

You’ll question your identity

When you stop doing all the things you used to do, you may wonder what it was you believed to be you. Your prior version of ‘me’ can be subconsciously wrapped up in your career, social life, looks or hobbies. And while some become defined by ‘mum’, I questioned why I defined myself at all. Because if you can change so drastically, what else can you be?

So, having a child is much harder, and yet far more fulfilling than you can imagine.

It also comes with some surprises.

Because while the dream that you had does come true, it’s not all blue skies and sunshine, but a splattering mess of colour, grey clouds, thunder and lightening too.

And somewhere in the middle of the rainbow, you’ll also find you.

Find me on Facebook. UpsideDown

Land of Oz Lingo

Standard

Surprised-Koala3 (1)

Eh, what did you just say?! Communicating overseas can be challenging. And, while English, the wacky words down under can cause a lot of confusion! This is for anyone who would like to get a better understanding of the lingo in the Land of Oz.

Lay in the Australian dentist chair; numb gums, white knuckles and dribble down my chin, I sat up and apologised, as we British do.

 ‘Im sorry for being a wet lettuce’

The dentist and nurse fell about laughing. Because, believe it or not, ‘wet lettuce’ is not part of Land of Oz lingo.

If my face wasn’t so fat from the filling, I would have laughed too.

For those not familiar, wet lettuce is a northern English term describing someone who’s not very brave. Which, when it comes to the dentist, I definitely am not.

It is communication that is perhaps one of the biggest challenges of moving overseas. Particularly if you have to learn a new language. But, in the English speaking South Pacific, you might assume it would be smooth sailing.

And for the most part, it is.

But quirky British idioms and the wacky words used by the Aussies commonly create linguistic-language barriers.

Australian vernacular is a smorgasboard of shortened words and o’ing (arvo, righto, servo), rhyming slang and bewildering sayings that have proved a never-ending source of conversation starters, awkwardness, and entertainment.

Their questionable figure of speech can, at least the first time, render you speechless. For instance, a small talk convo could potentially go like this:

Friendly Aussie; ‘How you going’?

Grumpy Aussie; ‘I’ve got the shits’

Friendly Aussie; ‘No dramas’

You see, the grumpy Aussie is just in a bad mood.

The cuisine can also cause a little confusion. My once beloved crisps are, chips, and crappy ones at that, no Quavers or Discos here, standard chips; hot chips, sweets; lollies, courgette; zucchini and the aubergine an eggplant.

Crucially, unless you want the sneeze-inducing variety of pepper on your sanger, you’d better get your tongue around capsicum.

It also took me a while to realise the Aussies can, at times, find my accent hard to understand. But when lunch is lanch, no; na, mum; mom, bus; bass, down; darn and duck; dack too, I strongly suspect this is down to our difference in opinion on what constitutes an a, o, and u.

There is also some diversity in the footwear department.

At home, wellies headline the shoe show, to their gumboot counterparts down under which are more of a once-a-year wonder.

Unless you live in Melbourne!

And while UK flip-flops rarely see the light of day, Aussie thongs are worn practically all year long. On the feet of the men tucked up tight in their budgie smugglers.

But, while some things induce a belly laugh and others prompt a groan, my favourite word of all has to be the bedding.

Because they call it Manchester. Meaning every night I am, in theory, snuggled up at home.

Find me on Facebook. UpsideDown

Walking the red dusty road

Standard

roadsideassitancerequired

Moving overseas is incredibly exciting at first. But when the dust settles, will you be glad you made the move? This is for anyone considering emigrating, those who wish they hadn’t, and those who have never looked back.

Sometimes I wonder if moving to Australia was the biggest mistake of my life.

I love Melbourne, but crave being closer to my family in the UK.

My partner wants to stay put.

So, after four and a half years, being so far away is, at times, a source of pain, pondering and panic.

As a result, I often ask myself; would I have gone down a different path knowing what I know now?

Our journey down the yellow brick road to Oz began in early 2010 when the British company I had been working for was taken over by an Australian owned organisation.

A conversation with my partner went something like this;

Me ‘We’ve just been taken over by an Australian company, imagine if I got the opportunity to work there, would you want to go?

My partner ‘Imagine. That would be ace; definitely’

Me ‘ Ideally it would just be a 12 month contract, because then I’d like to come back and have a baby

My partner’ I’d never want to come back’

Me ‘I couldn’t possibly stay for longer than a year or two, I’d miss my family too much’

My partner ‘Well I’d want to stay’

Me ‘Yes but I want a baby eventually and want to be near my family when I do’

Row started heating up.

Me ‘What are we even arguing for? This is never going to happen!’

Both laughed and went out for lunch.

A few months later, an internal job opportunity landed at my fingers (aka my inbox). I applied and was offered a twelve month contract in Perth, Western Australia.

I really ought to develop my psychic abilities! Or listening skills, given the writing was on the wall – in thick permanent black marker pen!

Nonetheless, we embarked on an incredibly exciting adventure to the other side of the world.

Ten months later I got another offer from Melbourne. Two months after that, I fell pregnant with our now two and a half year old daughter.

So two cities, three homes, one baby, and countless ups and downs later, do I have any regrets given the uncertainty of the road ahead?

The answer has to be no. Here’s why:

  • Following your heart: Australia was one of those rare opportunities that fills you, above everything, with utter excitement. It was meant to be. And, despite some of the fears and loathing that stem from the outcomes of that decision, it couldn’t have been any other way.
  • Living life to the full: While I may have been shielded from some emotional pain, I would never have attacked life with the same enthusiasm that moving to a new country, or city, inspires. And, though eventually routine sets in, that ignited spark for life remains.
  • Meeting people from all over the world: While at home I was happy to spend my time with the same, lovely, life-long friends, saying yes to the opening of an envelope in the early days led to meeting a ton of people from all corners of the earth, and a ton of fun. The wonderful, the weird and the ones that will last forever. I also learnt lots about myself along the way.
  • High highs:The lows are lower too if you’re homesick like me, but even after all this time, Australia’s natural beauty (the beaches, the sunsets, the stars at night) still leaves me exhilaratedCombined with great weather, cool cafes, beautiful parks, rooftop bars, wineries, and much more, makes every weekend during summer like a mini-holiday. It is, in the voice of an Aussie, ‘awesome’!
  • Personal growth: Perhaps the most profound change of all. Self-sufficiency, self-awareness, resilience and courage.  When you’re alone in a new country or city and have no-one to rely on but yourself, you develop an inner strength and independence that makes life less daunting, and anything seem possible.

So, while the path has been tougher than I imagined, the walk along it has been positively life-changing.

Because it’s the stumbles and falls during the rockiest routes that help you navigate life’s most challenging terrain, leaving you feeling you can tackle almost anything.

Above all, at some point along the path, you invest in a sensible pair of shoes with a tough sole, durable material and strong laces tied up properly in a double knot.

And new shoes are always a good thing.

I just sometimes wish I could click the heels of mine together and be right back where I started.

Find me on Facebook. UpsideDown