THE HARDEST PARTS OF MOVING OVERSEAS
So We Are HERE…Hip Hip Hooray
In August I made one of the biggest changes to my life and took the leap to move overseas, with my son in the middle of a pandemic, yep that's right. So, two months in and although still at the start of this amazing journey, what are the things I miss the most! In no order of importance, I'll make a list of the top ten things that I have missed since moving overseas and found the most challenging.
1. Family, Friends, and the time difference
Strangely, this was not the first thing that hit me but has slowly built up, after the adrenalin starts to wear off. I am really lucky to have great friends and a strong family base, so although I am halfway around the world, technology has meant we don’t feel that far away. Although the time difference is REALLY hard. There is no denying that you will miss some key people in your life. You will likely miss the familiarity and ease in which your relationships function. Building a new community, although great from a learning point of view, can be taxing and hard work at times. You will miss the friendships you have back home and the fact that they know you so well, sometimes too well. Make time to keep in touch, even if it is only a five-minute catch up here or there. It will really boost your emotional well-being.
It is exciting to see things that are new and to learn about a country, but when living in that country and trying to figure out your day-to-day, it can be draining. Simple things like supermarket shopping can be a whole excursion, using Google Translate. I have missed knowing where things are or what I like to eat. If like me, you move on your own, you may feel lonely in your lack of understanding within your new environment. Don’t worry however, once you are settled, this will pass. You will find the things you like and start to become more familiar. I now have a slightly better routine of shopping, know where I like to buy my basic’s from and when is the best time to go.
This one is a bit tricky for me, as there are definitely things I miss, such as particular Caribbean food that I can not get here, but I would be lying if I said that the food was so different from back home. Naturally, there are traditional dishes in a country such as Kazakhstan, but there are also a very wide variety of cuisines, from burgers to great pizzas, as well as boutique coffee shops with a delightful range of cakes. You will slowly find the places you like to eat, as well as where you like to shop. I will slowly build a list of these for Almaty, so check out that blog post when it arrives, which I am sure will only grow larger as we explore more.
Learning a new language is amazing, says the person that totally struggles. It is such an experience to be pushed so far out of your comfort and not understand a word that is being said. Luckily the people in Almaty are so friendly and helpful, anyone with a smartphone is happy to get a translator app out. But there is no denying you will miss the ease of conversation. I sometimes find myself just saying yes in Russian, as I have no clue! Wouldn't advise this… You will also find that an item is called something else and you will find no-one knows what you're talking about until you work out what it is called in that country. Then you feel like you have had a lightbulb moment! It is these little progressive achievements that bring a smile to my face.
5. Currency and Banking
Now this one comes with a time period. You will miss these things until you get used to the new systems. I have made a couple of shopping blunders, not understanding the prices or conversion. The banking system will irk you, again because it isn't the way you are accustomed to banking. Once you get used to these systems and understand them, you will be just fine. I now know, to double everything when looking at prices, as 2000 tenge is roughly around £4, give or take. Banking isn't too bad, that is until I do international transfers, but you work with what you have, right.
Okay again, time-related and I am still going through this process. The ease of shopping will be different. Given we are in a pandemic and Almaty is partly locked down, shopping has been a real challenge. We do not, I repeat, we do not have Amazon, for those that love and hate it. Shopping online isn’t as big here, as it is in the UK. You need to go to some shops for the things you want, (this is not to say you can not get things online). This is a little bit of a pain, as shopping after work with a young child is not ideal. You will miss knowing where things are until you find your flow, which I am currently still doing.
So traveling here isn't a big issue. We have Yandex, which would be the UK’s Uber. It is pretty simple to use but you have to pay with cash if you do not have a Bank Card from Kazakhstan. This is a little irritating, as small change is hard to come by at times and in what is becoming more and more, a cashless world, who carries money! I miss being able to jump in my car and go sometimes. However, for me, at the moment driving is not an option I want to explore.
Back home I know where the outlets are and where to find my reasonable deals. As a newbie and expat that information may not yet be available to you. I have missed this and been slightly aggrieved, knowing that I could buy items at half the price, but because I am overseas and imports are more expensive here in Almaty, I pay the higher price. That being said, there are things here that are way cheaper and therefore the expenses balance out.
9. Forming New Friendships and Communities
Going back to the first point a little. I hate ‘people politics’ as I call it, and anyone that has ever worked in a place of work will know they exist. The thing that I was slightly apprehensive about was navigating new relationships, not because I can't make them, but because the people you become friends with, you also work with, in many expat school communities! Luckily this has not been too big a deal, but can at times still be a little taxing. How to best navigate this, I am still in the process of learning, but what I have learned is, not to change who I am and follow my instincts. I can get on with everyone, but that doesn't mean we all have to be intimate friends. I am learning that I need to have down days, where I am alone to re-energise from the social aspects of expat life and new communities and not to apologise or feel like I am anti-social. If you need a minute, take it! However, within all of that, you will meet some great like-minded people, to form new friendships with and explore this adventure together. That part is amazing!
Now I have been really lucky, as I chose an apartment that I knew I could make feel homely for me. I knew that I could add some light and sparkle, with a dash of what I like. This I think was the biggest fear of mine, missing home. When looking at photos of home, I do miss it, but strategically I don't have any photos in my apartment at the moment to remind me of home. I know on my worst days, this will tug at my heartstrings. I don’t want to constantly be reminded of what I've left behind. In Almaty, there are some great apartments and there are also some ‘exciting’ properties, to put it best. The first thing I did on my very first day was to find ‘Ikea’ or at least the Almaty version. Yes, it sells actual Ikea stuff, at higher prices (import taxes), but I knew I needed to do this to make the place feel like mine. After multiple shopping trips, I actually love my apartment and feel like it is a place me and my son call home! Further with the uncertainty of flying home and Covid-19, missing home is an even bigger deal, as I do not know when I will see my friends and family again.
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