How can I feel better about moving countries?
July 2, 2011 1:20 AM   Subscribe

I'm moving countries in 30 days and I am freaking out (to put it mildly). How can I make the most of the time left in my home country and prepare for the new one - while not being mean to my partner or my family?

I don't want to go... Well okay, yes I do, but it feels like the bad outweighs the good. I'm generally being miserable about it right now. I've never moved cities before, let alone from New Zealand to London and I'm scared. Why? Because I'm not one of those happy go lucky kids on their OE, I'm in my mid twenties and I was pretty happy with my life here. I'm fretting the most about the job hunt to come and being away from my family & friends.

My boyfriend is a bit older, is English, misses his family and has been in NZ for 10 years.

I feel like I have most things organised for the move, and we have a week's holiday in Paris before arriving in England. But still I keep snapping at him and being childish about the move, but I did agree to it and want to stay together. And it's all paid for...

Is this natural? How can I chill out about moving to the other side of the planet? If you have you done this, do you have any advice for me? Thanks.
posted by teststrip to Travel & Transportation (14 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
It's totally natural. When I first moved to the UK it was only meant to be for a year, but I was so freaked out that I very nearly came straight back home at the first problem. I was a mess. Looking back, I have no idea why I was so freaked out because I knew that it was a great move, but I think just parking up in another country takes serious resolve and energy, and I was just short-circuiting a little. Totally give yourself some credit, this is a Big Deal and you are handling it well! I suggest that you just try to accept how you feel at the moment, focus on the parts that you are really excited about, and spend time with your family and friends without stressing.

If it's any help, my relationship with my family back home got 10x stronger after I made my move, and my friends and I plan weekends away when I visit home and we have a brilliant time.
posted by ukdanae at 3:16 AM on July 2, 2011

It totally makes sense to be freaking out. It's a big change.

Things to help you calm down: Don't pack in lots and lots of activities to the last month. Think about who the key people are in your NZ life, what the most important things are to you about NZ. Spend some calm time with those people and in those places. It's really tempting to try to meet every single person because you're stressed out in an "OMG I'm Moving SOOO Far Away and WHEN will I see them?????" kind of way. But really, it will just stress you out more if you try to fit it all in.

Remember that, especially with technology these days, you can stay in touch with whoever you want to. Facebook is actually quite fantastic for maintaining that loose social network, even in a far away place. So you kind of know what's going on with the people who you wouldn't necessarily have made a lunch date with, but whom you enjoy chatting with when you run into each other at the grocery store, or wherever. Facebook can become the grocery store.

Another thing to think about is: Are you angry about the move because "there's more in it for him than there is for me"? It's natural to feel a little resentment about that, because obviously, he's going home, you're moving away from home, etc. Try to focus on what can be good about this for you. Think about what led you to agree to the move. Think about how much fun it can be to start up in a new place.

Good luck. Don't push yourself to "make the most." Do the non-stressful things that actually allow you to enjoy the month pre-departure.
posted by bardophile at 3:29 AM on July 2, 2011

Can you start the job hunt now? Get in touch with some agencies in your field, discuss possibilities with them? They probably won't put you forward for any jobs until you get over here, but it might feel like you're taking a positive step. I'm assuming you have your visa all sorted out? [I don't think the job market is great here; it's not unbelievably terrible though. Also, I've never heard anyone who wasn't a NZer say that NZers have a good reputation with UK employers. On the other hand, no-one thinks of us as "immigrants stealing all the jobs", either]

When I first moved to the UK at your age, the scariest thing was arriving in a strange country on my own (well, that and my brother sending his friend to the airport to tell me that he (my brother) was "in hiding" and I couldn't stay at his house....and me falling for it). So you won't have to deal with that, your boyfriend will know what to do and how to get through Heathrow and into London. The hardest thing was dealing with the flight: there are plenty of good threads on AskMe that discuss how to do this. But you'll also have a week in France to settle in, first, which should help you get over the jetlag and so on.

Your friends will still be there when you get back, and as others have said it isn't far if you really need to go back, and Facebook is a great way of keeping up with what they are doing.

London is big and scary compared to NZ, but you don't have to experience or engage with it all at once. If you concentrate on getting settled into a neighbourhood, that shouldn't be too difficult. You've got readymade contacts with your boyfriend's friends, but you could also come to a MeFi meetup or consider similar sorts of things.
posted by Infinite Jest at 3:42 AM on July 2, 2011

Apart from the boyfriend part, your story was mine a few years ago: mid-twenties, never lived outside NZ (outside Auckland, even), generally quite happy with my life.

When I first arrived, I had no job, almost no cash (the exchange rate at the time was NZ$1=30p), and hardly any luggage (my excess baggage company messed up, leaving all my work clothes & jumpers on the tarmac in NZ while I shivered through the early stages of a UK winter). I was staying with some elderly relatives whom I didn't really know and didn't really get on that well with, and within a month I was ready to pack it in and go home.

The thing that turned it around was getting a job, getting independence and starting to enjoy the UK for what it was. Once you start looking at it from the point of view of what you can experience and do, your perspective will change completely. If you can start the job hunt now and get a few interviews lined up, one major stress will be eliminated. The other complication was getting a bank account set up; it took a bit of to-ing and fro-ing but it got there in the end.

Skype is fantastic for keeping in touch with the folks back home, and I have a bolt-on service with O2 which gives me absurdly cheap calls back to NZ.

Here are some of the things you have to look forward to: If you studied Classics or history in school, you can go to the British Museum (for free) and see the sculptures off the Parthenon. In the British Library, you can see a copy of the Magna Carta. You can visit the homes of Shakespeare and Wordsworth. There's a church on every other corner and half of them are medieval. There are castles all over Wales, proper castles with battlements and moats and things. The fields in the countryside have these incredible dry-stone walls instead of number 8 wire. If you come up my way (Liverpool) you can visit John Lennon's house. You can get a train to almost any city or town you like, and they are often quite clean. The pubs are fantastic and there is an amazing range of beers. There are public rights of way all over the countryside; you can quite legally walk through all manner of fields. There are theatres all over the place. The radio and TV are miles ahead of NZ. There is an actual Sheriff of Nottingham. Remember the end of TV shows like Rainbow? The dome-shaped building they traced out after the credits is St Paul's Cathedral. You can go and see it in London. The Houses of Parliament are there... how brilliant is that? Not to mention the fact that Europe is just down the road (the distance from London to Moscow is about the same distance as Auckland to Sydney). There;s a reason so many of us come to the UK.

Whatever you are into, the UK has it in spades. I wish I could stay here forever myself.

Good luck!
posted by nz_kyle at 4:03 AM on July 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

... but if you do need some practical suggestions on what to do while you wait:
  • Get a few certified copies of your birth certificate, degrees / diplomas, passport. Some places need to see your original birth certificate as well so be sure to pack it
  • If you will be working in an industry where you might need to have a criminal reference check (e.g. anything involving children) you will need a list of addresses where you've lived for the last five years, along with the month in which you moved in and out. You may as well compile it now
  • Brush up on NZ. The poms are always asking me about history geography, politics, climate, the health service, population density, etc and I usually have to cobble together a few half-forgotten things from school. Having a few facts up your sleeve makes one look a bit more knowledgeable
  • If you have lots of electronic things, take a 4-way power board with you; then you only need to have one UK/NZ converter
  • If your NZ music collection is small, you may like to stock up now. Having a few kiwi songs on the iPod was a good way to relax when I felt homesick
  • Be aware that people generally tip about 10% in restaurants. Threw me at first!

posted by nz_kyle at 4:42 AM on July 2, 2011 [3 favorites]

I moved from Iceland to Denmark for a few months this winter. I met with a consultant / advisor once. It was really useful. She has lived for a long time in Denmark and is well versed in all the little things related to moving - how the big things work, how the small things work, what bureaucracy-related stuff you need and how best to do it and in what order.

The information is probably all online, but it's SUPER useful to meet someone face-to-face, talk, ask questions as you think of them, and write it all down. Very quickly and effectively fills in so many of the blanks and doubts, very confidence-inspiring, and time-saving. See if you can find someone local that has lived in the other country and ask if you can meet with them. Some might charge consulting fees, some might accept a nice restaurant dinner as payment, and some will do it for the enjoyment of it.
posted by krilli at 4:49 AM on July 2, 2011

I just found out on Monday that I'm going to be moving to London (from Seattle) in six months, because my husband has a very good job here. I have begun the process of freaking out myself, and I have a lot longer than you do to try to appreciate my home country before I leave it. I've visited London exactly once, though, and I cannot deny I am really looking forward to it, beneath the "oh no how do I move my pets where will we live and dear god paperwork" dread. nz_kyle makes some very good points, and being able to spend as much time as *I* want to in the British Museum (rather than having to leave when my less historically-inclined husband got bored) almost makes up for the inconvenience by itself. Have you ever been a bit of an Anglophile? Play that shit up. I find a lot of British media more entertaining than the American stuff, especially television and comedic F/SF (what have we got to equal Douglas Adams over here?). Focusing on that, and on my morbid fascination with plague pits, helps me.

I'm not looking forward to leaving my friends either. I finally managed to move out here less than a year ago, from Baltimore, which was approximately the worst place ever. I'm happy here. I'm in the same city as most of the people I care about most. I've built a life, and I had plans to stay here for the foreseeable future. So I understand that part. And perhaps I feel more attraction to the UK than you do anyway. But there really is a lot that's amazing about the place. (nz_kyle's contribution listed several of the things I'm consoling myself with, including the trains and the Welsh castles I only got to see from the window of one on the way to Dublin.) I would suggest focusing as best you can on anything you find attractive about your destination. I would also suggest visiting any places in NZ that you have an especially strong connection to, as I will be in the States over the next few months. And try to relax and enjoy your time with your friends. If you're having the same problem I am, feeling a bit guilty about 'ditching them', just know that they probably won't see it that way. This is what I am trying to do.

I hope this goes well for you. And I'll be watching this thread, because I've been considering posting one much like it.
posted by Because at 5:59 AM on July 2, 2011

Hi... I've gone through what you are going, too

I actually turned to my family completely. I spent as little time as possible out of home. I planed little dates with my sister to do things we loved to do, and with my parents.

But I'm not gonna lie to you, it was pretty sad. We would be having lunch at our favorite restaurant and we would end up crying our eyes out, or we would be watching our favorite movie, and I and the same thing would happen again.

I think you are making a huge sacrifice for your relationship, and your boyfriend will probably understand this behavior. Try to explain to him the things you're feeling and I'm sure he'll understand. He's been through it after all.

Also, prepare for a horrible season of melancholy when you get there. I cried night after night for a long time. It's been almost 3 years now, and although I miss my country and mi family, I'm very, very happy where I am now (and I know London is awesome, so I'm sure I would love it even more over there)
posted by Tarumba at 8:42 AM on July 2, 2011

The irritable, snappish thing is totally normal. A few years back I went to Italy with my parents and sister -- a long-awaited, much desired trip of a lifetime. In the week or two leading up to the trip we were all so snappish and cranky with each other it was just absurd. If, while we were at the airport, you had told us we could get all our money back and just go home, we might have been strongly tempted to take you up on it. And that was just a 2 week trip!
I've been that way for nearly every major transition in my life -- it's kind of an approach-avoidance issue. I do best in dealing with other people when I let them know what's going on -- it's not that I don't want to go, it's just that I'm having some ambivalence. I'm sure I'll be fine when I get there, and that I'm sorry if I get a little jerkish at times when the ambivalence gets the better of me. Just being aware of what's causing the irritability makes it easier to control my reactions.
posted by katemonster at 8:44 AM on July 2, 2011

it's completely natural to feel that way, even when it's something you actively want.

how to feel better:

start planning your first visit back - i wouldn't recommend anything under about 6 months, but it will be really helpful to have a known date for when you get to see your family and friends again, even if dates end up changing.

brush up on the stages of culture shock. they *will happen* to you, and you'll be better off knowing in advance.

if you get along with his family and friends, lean on them for support. and think about how wonderful it will be to get to know them!

figure out the top 5 NZ things you can't live without and find a source for them. these days you can find nearly everything online, and it'll be reassuring to know you won't have to live without your Vegemite (or whatever you love).

think about all the *new* amazing foods you'll get to try!

research the area you'll be living in, and find stuff that excites you. personally, i love "Tired of London, Tired of Life" for offbeat ideas. but be sure to check the usual Londonist and TimeOut suspects as well. look forward to playing tourist on the weekends.
posted by wayward vagabond at 8:57 AM on July 2, 2011

Some perspective from the other half of the equation - a decade ago I was the boyfriend with the cool foreign job and my girlfriend (now long-gone) who'm I was really in love with both decided to take the opportunity.

I'll start with the bad part. She found it much harder than I did - because I had an exciting new job and she didn't. Now - we did move somewhere where it was HARD to find a job for her, and we were young, and there were obviously other relationship reasons for leaving.
Better communication and listening on my part (because she did talk) would have possibly saved things - but that's long in the past.

Now the good. In general, on moving away from friends and family.

I was scared too. So was she. In the end, though, we got to TRAVEL. I've had an adventurous life (by my standards). You're moving from NZ to England. I don't know what travel in and out of NZ costs, but once you are in the UK, travel around europe is cheap and easy - you have so much old-world to see in your spare time, easily.

The internet is beter than it was a decade ago - it's so much eaiser to stay in touch wiht friends and family back home. VIdeo, digital photos (those were new 10 years ago remember....). Take advantage of that. Get some internet. Get on skype or whatever and talk to your family as often as you like. Ensure they can talk to you. It really really helps.

You will get hit with a wicked homesickness at some point as Tarumba said. That's what it is. It's natural. Be prepared to deal with it. (It doesn't take a move that far to make it happen, either.)
A trip home won't hurt either. You'll be excited to be home for a while, then you'll miss your "new" adventure filled home.

My advice in hindsight? Keep a journal, explore, explore, explore. Take advantage of your new location and cultures. Go bounce all over europe in your spare time. Take lots of pictures, see stuff. Meet people. The world changes - things that are here now may not be here later.
(When I was there, the Euroe hadnt been introduced. I have buckets of coins from all over europe. Unfortunately my cash bills I'd saved from here and there were stolen in a larger theft)

From a relationship point of view - communication is key - that's all I can say there.

And if it's really not for you? That's up to you.
posted by TravellingDen at 8:58 AM on July 2, 2011

You can get from London to anywhere in continental Europe via train.

It's an unbelievably fortunate opportunity when you consider how much you have to spend on a plane to get anywhere out of Wellington (and I know a thing or two about spending stupid amounts of money to get anywhere; I'm from Perth).
posted by Talez at 12:18 AM on July 4, 2011

Response by poster: Now on my to do list: get the parents set up with Skype, visit my favourite cafes, go on a photographic mission before we leave, look up some castles, start a journal, get a power board and some tunes.

This is all really great advice, thank you all.
posted by teststrip at 6:47 PM on July 5, 2011

See also this thread today about bank accounts.
posted by nz_kyle at 3:16 PM on July 7, 2011

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