20 January 2016

How We Dismantle Our Expat Life Step By Step

Expat life is a constant round of goodbyes and hellos.  We left Malaysia for the final time on 8 December and this is a post I wrote while we were in the middle of the relocation process...  Our time in Malaysia, short as it has been (18 months total), is now coming to an end.  We were very lucky to be able to live in both East and West Malaysia and really get a sense of this country and its people.  

Pantai Bungai
Goodbye Malaysia
That very piece of luck, however, meant that we were never really able to settle down in one place.  I remember the day, in Sarawak, that I finally thought ‘I have life here licked’, was the day Mr EE called me to say that his company were relocating us to Ipoh.  We knew our time in Ipoh would be short and we were expecting to move to KL in mid 2016.  While we are always happy to move at the demands of work we felt that life here was just that little bit too unsettled.  A few months ago Mr EE was invited to speak to the management of a school in another country about going over there to run it.  Neither that country nor a move were really on our agenda but we decided to look into it.  In the end the prospect of some few years stability looked attractive and we decided to take up the offer.
Of course expat life is also all about hurry up and wait and we did not get the final confirmation of timings until quite recently, schools usually want staff to start in September meaning you typically have between 6-9 months notice of a move but the new place confirmed that they want us as soon as possible, and that means going back to the UK (we were going on holiday anyway thank goodness) to sort out visa applications.  Not wanting to have to fly back for just a few short days to pack stuff up we decided to get as much of the move sorted out  as we could before we go to UK. 

So I am in those last few weeks of a posting – a limbo land where parts of life (school, work for Mr EE) continue as normal while we watch other elements of our life disintegrate around us, not yet knowing quite how they will be built up again at the other end.  I am at the stage of choosing the bedding and clothing to use based on what will be shipped and what will be packed to come with us and we are eating some bizarre combinations of food as I attempt to use up as many store cupboard goods as possible (the other night Mr EE and I ate a gourmet meal of Nutella sandwiches with Malteasers and white wine!).

Goodbye Blue Raja
The other day we sold our car; we fell in love with our comfortable if ancient Pajero nicknamed the Blue Raja (yes he is green but people who have seen the film Mystery Men will get the joke) and it was a wrench to see him go.  Not least because I now have to drive Mr EE’s company car and the final few weeks will involve juggling our very car based life around having just the one. 

I have been making arrangements for our shipment and in a few days from writing we will watch as our life gets divided down into boxes.  Master and Miss EE will have only their colouring pencils and the toys they can fit in half their hand baggage.  We will no longer have our books or DVDs (thank goodness for tablets and kindles)  and Miss EE will no longer have a bed, playpen or highchair, will have to be watched like a hawk at all times when she is not in her pushchair and will have to sleep with us (she has a tent style travel cot but, unlike her brother and sister who never invented this particular game, has been known to take it zorbing around the bedroom).   We have no float so I will have to cook on a single pan and we will eat off paper plates with plastic knives and forks and we will all sleep on a cheap pillow and with a basic fleece blanket that we can leave behind.  All the comfortable trappings of our daily life will go and we will be campers in our own home.

See you later pets

The other arrangements we have had to make are for the care and transport of the pets.  Our vet here in Ipoh has offered to keep them for us.  This is a perfect solution as they will stay in the climate they are used to right up until the move.  They will stay together and they will not be in kennels and our vet can make sure that their vaccinations (Perdie’s are due while we are away) are maintained and that Bessie who is over 100 in human years is cared for if she gets sick.  We will miss our furry family members though (I cried when I dropped them off) – life is never quite right without them and Bessie is old enough that I worry every time we leave her. 

So as I type the car, the stuff and the pets have left us and I sit in a house devoid of character and the things that make our life our life.  We will have just a few days to revisit what we enjoyed about our time here.  Eat at favourite restaurants for one last time, go on a special walk or enjoy a spectacular view for the last time.  We have to take the opportunity to fix this chapter of our lives in our minds forever, the mental photographs will have to last us a lifetime.

Goodbye - will we ever have a view like this again?
The hurry up and wait, the cycle of goodbyes and hellos are the basic facts of expat life.  This feels like the 100th time I have done it and while we want to go, we are all excited by the move and a chance to settle in one place for a few years we are all of us sitting here watching the comfortable rituals we have built up over the last 9 months slowly disintegrate before our eyes and are wondering what will replace them and when.  All we do know is that while some of the pieces will be the same, enduring through each and every move, some will be very different indeed and it is our job to make them fit together in a new design. 

So, as all expats do time and again we will raise a toast to the next step of the adventure.

Click on the picture below for more posts on the challenges of Expat Life.

Ersatz Expat

Posted as part of the monthly #ExpatLife linky hosted by Amanda of the excellent Life with a Double Buggy.

Expat Life Linky


  1. All the best for the next leg of your journey. I think the limbo time is probably the most difficult for an Expat when things must resume as normal, but also preparations for what is ahead must be made. A tricky time indeed!

    1. IT really is isn't it. I used to get psychosomatic stomach aches during moving limbo when I was a child. Luckily I have managed to get over that now.

  2. I love Malaysia, love most of south east asia in fact. The food...oh the food. When we moved out of Indonesia we were so heartbroken it took us 2 years to get over it! Pls do share your stories at the Practical Mondays Link Up too:)

    (Where have to moved to btw?)

    1. Thanks so much! I will look out for your practical mondays link up :) We have not moved yet or at least Mr EE has moved and is in post but the children and I are still sofa surfing in the UK waiting for our visas to come through and the pets are marooned in Malaysia for the time being!

  3. Wow...moving is hard enough when it's just you, but a whole family? All the best, and thank you so much for posting this interesting, eye-opening post for #ExpatTuesday!

    1. Thanks! I am still, months on, sofa surfing with three children while waiting for the visas to come through. It has been a pretty horrid move.