Life changed almost a decade ago, when we packed our son and our dog and some of our stuff and moved all the way from Up Over (Switzerland) to Down Under. Not only have we settled in very well but we’ve now also become proud citizens of this Australia.
Nature is important to the author of A Momma’s View. Moving to Australia with her husband and kids meant a unique lifestyle: the wide open space, beach and mountain landscapes. This expat family offers a vision of how to feel at home in the other half of the world, and makes us think about “homeschooling, health and fitness, being an expat, kids and just life in general”.
How was Sandra before becoming an expat?
Less grown up, I’d say… And I had a part time job which I’m unfortunately not able to do over here anymore. No hard feelings though. I picked up other things that make me happy and I had some really great freelance jobs here in Australia too. I guess the experience made me more mature and definitely more independent. I was a very different Sandra before the move. In a way I’m glad I could leave her behind and morph into who I am today.
If I’m not mistaken, your life plans completely changed after meeting your husband. Could you tell us a little more about this transition and how this adventure has brought you to Australia?
Not in the first place really. We both worked in the same area which was sports (management and media) so we traveled a lot. A move out of the country was not really in the picture. I guess everyone’s life changes to a point when meeting your future spouse and when you become a parent. In that sense: Yes my plans changed. Suddenly there was not just work in the picture but a family. Our situation made this easy though. With him then being my boss it allowed me to have the freedom to be a mom and work without really leaving my child or losing my position. I had the best of both worlds by spending only just about 1 1/5 days in the office (and him working from home, staying with our baby) and then working from home. Then a lot changed business-wise which lead to our move overseas.
Many families have doubts before moving to a new country because of administrative problems, finding a home, health insurance, being out of your comfort zone … How was taking this big step?
Oh, I can totally see why. Everything is very different and I highly recommend to look into things. Really look into things. Don’t just brush over them. We moved “unsupported” so had to figure all of the things out by ourselves pretty much. Having said that, there were some simple guidelines for us to follow which helped to a point. Both of us have been to Australia and the city we moved (Melbourne) before and sort of knew what to expect. And we had friends who moved just about 12 month prior from the States to Melbourne. They were amazing. We were able to stay with them before finally moving into our apartment just under a week after we arrived. And we were only able to move into our own place that quickly because our friends did the inspections of the places we found online for us. She was amazing! She also left us a long list of where to find things and how to approach other things best.
But we had to solve the issue about opening a bank account, getting utilities and insurance by ourselves and that was an adventure. You need bills in order to open a bank account. But you need a bank account in order to rent a house, get landlines or a proper mobile phone contract. It was a bit of a puzzle to solve but eventually (thanks to the tip of a guy working in one of the mobile phone providers) we found a quick and easy way to get it all sorted.
I can see the issue again in the remarks a friend of mine makes after moving to Ireland. And I’m for sure glad I’m not there anymore…
What has it meant for you to change job, friends, language, habits… Has been the adaptation difficult?
With moving to Australia I automatically became a SAHM (stay-at-home-mom) which I was aware of and was looking forward to. What I was slightly worried about was the fact that my 3 year old son did not speak any English and how that would affect him and making friends for him. I knew though that we will be fine. I’m a very social person and don’t really struggle with meeting people and I guess if you are out there with a dog and a child you always find something to start a conversation with others. There was an entire group of expats that were involved in the project my husband moved for and one of the partners decided to get us all together. That definitely helped because we all got along very well, we were all easy going and in created a safety net in our minds. We knew there’s a group here for us. A group of people who are in the same boat and understand what kind of issues we might struggle with. People who had no family here too.
I made some really great friends out of this group but at the same time I met other people who turned into close friends very soon. It’s all about being open and not shy away from making new contacts.
Could you tell us about your mother expat experience? How to raise your children abroad?
Does it sound wrong if I say just the same way you would before moving abroad? I guess we are the odd one outs as expats because our move was initiated by us and we always planned to move for good and stay in Australia. That’s why we could properly settle I guess. It must feel very different if you know that your stay is limited. No matter how long it is. You can’t really grow roots. So the approach was pretty much the same as it would have been back in Switzerland. With the difference that we suddenly had a new option: Homeschooling.
I see that you are greatly concerned about the education of children and alternative schooling (Montessori schools or homeschooling), in your opinion, is this a good option for expat children?
For us homeschooling was a great option and Montessori or Steiner schools would have been just next on the list. In Switzerland we might have not considered Montessori or Steiner and homeschooling is not allowed. But the public school system where we lived was really good and is pretty good in general still. So you don’t really think of other options. Looking at some of my friends (real life friends and blogging world friends) experiences I guess those options might really help in certain situations, maybe you want to check out their experiences on their blogs “Desert To Dublin” (anyone in Ireland: Please help her!) and “Estelea’s Blog”. I’m not the kind of person who tells others what they should do re their kids or their kids’ education. Homeschooling needs to be right for you and choosing a some kind alternative system like Montessori and Steiner too. Being abroad challenges you in a different way and maybe different systems might work better for the time being. But you also need to consider what will happen when you move again. Something we never had to consider as we knew we would stay.
So many changes and enriching experiences but… What do you expect about your longterm future?
Our longterm future just became easier when we became Australian citizens a couple of months ago. It just gives you that calming feeling that whatever you decide in the future is your decision and your decision only and you are no longer depending on Visa’s. You are no longer vulnerable by shifts in politics or work, at least not visa-wise. We all have dual citizenship now and that provides you with many options if you need them. As I said: We have settled here. We have friends and roots here now. I don’t think we will shake this up any time soon.
Having said that, I guess after moving abroad and building everything up again from basically scratch you also know that you can do it and that you will always be able to do it. The world kind of got smaller. If we suddenly decide that for whatever reason we want or need to move abroad again, we know that we can do it. We know what have to deal with and where the tricky little issues hide.
Most of all we know that all we need to make it work is us. Our family. All we need is us. And I guess that’s the most important thing this experience taught me.
If you want to know how the adventure of A Momma’s View continues: A Momma’s View !
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