Monday, December 26, 2005

Another Expat's perspective

I recently got an email from a Dutch Expat based in the US on his experience of making a transatlantic move (in response to my "Moving to Belize Guide") Seems that many issues are not just relevent to Belize......

Hey Simone,

It's interesting that you write about moving to Belize and the'hardship' it brings. I have to say that having moved from the Netherlands to the US, I have similar experiences.

A lot of things you mention in your 'Moving to Belize Guide' apply to any regular long-distance move, i.e. What happens in a medical emergency? The US has plenty of hospitals, but try and figure the medical system out here, if you're used to the Dutch semi-free's very confusing.

As for your 4 points:

1) Money is often spent at a ridiculous rate when moving internationally. An apartment in the DC area is more than twice as expensive as renting in Holland for less space. Add to that the extra month of rent ahead and a very late first pay-check because you need be reborn as a new tax-payer and money leaves a lot faster than it comes in.

2) The need to be clear with yourself. I notice a lot of other 'expats'complain about things they could have seen coming. Lonelyness, homesickness, trouble getting used to 'weird'/different habits, language problems. One that struck me, is the problem of where to get things. At home you know what stores to pick, but when moving across an Ocean you lose that whole reference field. Drugs sold in US supermarkets can be prescription only in Holland. Liquor however is harder to get in the US (depending on the state you end up in). And what do you do when your car breaks down in the middle of nowhere on a high way, and you don't have a cell phone (yet) or automobile club membership (yet)?

3) People have a harder time with climate change than they expect.During my first Winter in Ohio, I caught a fever. No problem I'm a big boy, I can handle that. Just go get some oranges and life will be fine. However, doing so in -15C is quite an experience if you're used to living in a country where -15C is a one time a year low.

4) A lot of your safety networks falls away. Visa trouble? Nobody to turn to. Loose your ATM card & want borrow some money from a friend, mom or dad? Not here. Catch a bad cold? You need to make friends first before they do any shopping for you.

I arrived inWashington on Sept 3rd 2001. 8 days before 9/11. Very hard to get through a day like that without any real friends of family.

Anyway, I am sure moving to Belize has more and very different issues, but it was nice to see someone express the "negative" or "overlooked" sides of moving far away from home. Let's be clear that I don't want to be a whiner. Overall, it's a very rewarding experience and I hope to stay much longer in the States, but between all the great experiences have been some tough times too. I 'll keep reading your blog with great interest and am looking forward to reading the next instalment of your 'Moving to Belize Guide'.....

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