28 January 2013

Settling In To Our New Home in Astana

Some friends of ours have just moved to Astana which started me thinking about the whole process of moving.

There  is something very strange about coming to your new home, it is where you live but it is strange and alien to you.  So – how do you make it yours as quickly as possible?  I adopt a system of making sure that everything is set out in the same way as every other home I have ever had.  Of  course not everything can be put in exactly the same place but by and large I try to make things as similar as possible. My kitchen is a case in point – my sister can come into a new home of mine and know where to find everything straight away without looking through hundreds of cupboards.  The cutlery and pans are usually to the right of the sink, the cooking oil is by the left of the hob.  My wardrobe is arranged in exactly the same way in each home as is my dressing and bedside table. 

When we moved to Astana I had to settle the children in quickly.  I moved many times as a child but I never got used to it, I would get nervous stomach aches and feel very unsettled.  This time it was worse because although I was not concerned about the move I was worried for the effect it would have on my children.  My mother would always try to minimise the disruption any move brought to our lives and I followed her system.  We packed the children's bedding in the excess baggage suitcases so they woke up under their duvet in one home and went to sleep in the same duvet that night albeit in a different country.  This feeling of home helped a lot.  I let them choose which toys came in our handbaggage/airfreight so they knew what they would be playing with when they got to their new home – some  old favourites and one new treat each.  When our shipment arrived (if that is the right phrase for boxes brought to a landlocked country) the children unpacked their own rooms. Strictly speaking given their ages  at the time we unpacked under their supervision but this gave them ownership of their new bedrooms and made them feel more settled.  Funnily enough I noticed they did exactly the same thing I did and tried  to replicate the layout of their previous bedrooms.

Even with all this it took our son some  time to settle into his new life.  At almost 5 years old he missed his extended family and while Skype helped he wanted to see his grandparents and his friends. When we went away from home for weekend trips he started fretting and asking if we were moving again.  Our daughter who turned 3 shortly after we arrived was not concerned at all;  I am not sure whether this is age or character driven, to be honest it is probably a little of both.  Starting school really helped to settle them, making friends and having them back home to play was a very important step in making them feel at home in Astana.

Click on the picture for more posts on the challenges of expat life.

Ersatz Expat

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