Expat Stories…

One of the most useful ways to get helpful information and support about moving abroad is by listening and learning from other expats and their first hand experiences of moving to a new country.

So we have compiled interviews from Expats all over the world who have made the bold decision to move abroad.

We hope that by listening to their personal stories you will find inspiration and tips and tricks about how you too can make the move abroad.

So before you know it you will be living your dream life abroad!

1. Brief Description of Self…

Julia and Reed, with 3 boys age 15, 14, and 8 at time of move.

I’m English, my husband is American.

I’m an embryologist who ran an IVF centre in the UK for the last 15 years, completely broken by years of over work at the time of moving

2. Where did you move to and from

From the South of England to Mallorca.

3. Who moved with you…

As mentioned above, in addition to bringing our Mexican aupair for the first 3 months – the idea being to help with the kids transition as I would continue to work during the move and also to help us with the initial Spanish language barrier.  She did indeed prove extremely helpful in those first few transitioning months.  She also met her future husband in Mallorca during that time and now lives in mainland Spain with him!

4. Why did you decide to move abroad?…

Both of us had lived and worked abroad in our 20s, and Reed being an American in the UK was already living in a foreign country.   We wanted to expose our kids to new cultures and an adventurous and exciting life, but reality had got in the way.  Running my own business for many years had  always prevented us from moving anywhere, or even taking much time to go on holiday.  I was frankly jealous of constantly hearing about other people’s time in the sun on holiday. 

I’ve also been ashamed that I’ve never learned a language and figured it would only be achieved by immersion in a new country. I transitioned to a remote job in 2020 which was life changing after 15 years of a 40 mile daily commute. However, my older 2 children were, according to every authority already  “too old to be moved”. When it dawned on me that I could do the job from anywhere we knew it was now or never (too late wasn’t an option!).  However, we realised we’d have to leave our 15 year old behind to finish his GCSEs.  If we waited for him to finish his exams, my job circumstances would likely change and I’d no longer be able to relocate.  That decision was hideous and although he was delighted by his new found freedom, I couldn’t ever make my peace with it.  It was my biggest challenge during the first 9 months of our relocation.

5. How did you go about deciding what country you wanted to move to?…

My job was based out of SE Asia, so all plans to move had been focused on Singapore.  However, after doing the job successfully from the UK, my company said it was no longer necessary to re-locate me there.  We continued to research Asia for a while, before realising that our eldest couldn’t join us.  Hence, we shifted to closer to home in Europe so at least he could visit for holidays.  We wanted to give our kids, and me, a language.  France was the obvious choice, but it’s not known for being welcoming.  We love Italy, but had heard it was challenging beaurocratically.  We looked at Greece, but recognised the language would be a barrier and the international schools were only near Athens.  So we narrowed the choice to Spain.

Not knowing Spain well we needed to drill down on a location.   I’d been to Ibiza and loved it, and also heard Mallorca was beautiful (although never been there.)  I’m from the Isle of Wight, my husband is from Vashon Island in Seattle, hence we’re island people!  I only knew that I wanted a beach life for my family and a pool – We started to look for international schools combined with beaches – Mallorca kept coming up in the searches.   We didn’t have much time to make a decision so we naively thought we could start somewhere and keep moving if it didn’t work out.

6. What did you do before you moved that helped you prepare for the move abroad?…

I spent months applying for a visa due to Brexit making our entry almost impossibleWe gave notice to kids school and on our rented house.  The house we owned had already been rented out during covid.  The visa was so complex, drawn out and expensive, it felt for months like I was trying to make a mountain of sand stay up with one finger.  My main focus was putting in place support networks for my eldest son who would be staying at boarding school in the UK and spending weekends with my parents.  I had also recently started a new job and didn’t want them to feel I wasn’t giving 100% to my work.  Hence, I carried on working without any time off throughout the move, which in retrospect was stupid and added to my family chaos.  

We had aimed to move Jan 1st, hence childrens schools and houses had been terminated before Christmas.  We hadn’t considered that the immigration office would close at Christmas hence our visas hadn’t come through by 1st Jan.  We had to move into my Dad’s on the Isle of Wight and by 10th Jan the school term had started and we were still homeless, school-less and visa-less.  As the visa outcome was in no way certain I started to assume the worse and began to look at putting my children into my own childhood school.  The visa finally arrived on 12th Jan, we collected it in London and flew out the next day.  When we arrived in Mallorca we simply couldn’t believe we’d made it – it had been so hard to achieve.  That was an amazing high which lasted a number of months.

7. What was the most challenging part of leaving and moving?… 

Not having a visa approved after I’d taken my kids out of school and moved out of my house.

Leaving my eldest child behind at boarding school.

8. What actions or choices made settling into your new country easier?….

My eldest son moved to join us 9 months later which allowed me to feel peace and focus on being together in our new homeTaking an air b&b house for the first 2 months allowed us to get the lay of the land before finding a place to live. Doing a  recon visit a month before we moved allowed us to visit the schools on our short list.

Mallorca is so international – which we didn’t realise prior to the move.  This has meant that we and the kids have met people from so many different countries we’re getting a truly international experience.  As the common language is English, it’s made the transition a lot easier for everyone.  (however it means we’re annoyingly still not fluent in Spanish).   Meeting others on a similar journey has helped to not feel so isolated, but although there’s 100s of others in the same boat, family and work life don’t allow much time for making new friends which is a shame.  My youngest son had a birthday party with 10 children.  There were 10 different countries represented by those children – which made our choice to move there feel very validated.

9. What has been the best part of moving abroad?…

The climate, the sea, the kids constantly saying thank you to me for changing their life so much for the better.   Our kids being able to go into Palma easily – the free bus system in Mallorca means the kids are constantly on the move and now so independent.  Previously I had to drive them everywhere in the UK.  Hearing the kids speak Spanish to their friends.  Seeing really old friends as everyone  comes out to visit you when you live in Mallorca!  But that also has it’s down sides as all local socialising goes out the window through the holiday seasons whilst everyone has visitors.

10. What has been the most challenging part of moving abroad?

No support network of old friends –  those I called my surrogate mums that would be there for my kids when my logistics repeatedly imploded.  I made 4 or 5 lovely friends in the first year but sadly each has since left the Island – this new life of course means that those you meet are transient, as are we, but that makes forming friendships harder.  Making friends is kind of like dating, you have to identify someone interesting, start flirting with them cautiously and only with invested time and effort do you get to any level of true friendship.  One year in you’re only still in the flirting phase, but really starting to feel like your falling into comfortable friendship.  For that to end repeatedly when you are in a phase of needing to lay down friendship roots I’ve found very hard. Watching my children struggle with new schools, challenging friendships and being the outsider.   But that would happen in any new school.

Language – walking into a store and not being able to tell someone “I like your jacket” – lack of small talk, not being able to make quick connections with people, before each phone call or interaction feeling your language barrier adrenaline surge – I’ve found that the hardest.  The cost of moving has been astronomical.

One year after moving I was made redundant, so looking for work whilst living remotely has been awful.

I was disappointed in myself when I realised that actually I don’t like being really hot all of the time!! I’d never been on holiday long enough to get bored of the heat and the sea before!! Now we’ve worked out that spending the summer in the UK and America works best.

Mosquitos – all the time, until at least November.

11. What do you wish you would have known before you left or what would you have done differently ?…

If I’d have known how hard it would be I guess rationally I wouldn’t have done it, although I know I still would, because I embrace chaos!  But it has indeed been chaos and has cost us every penny of our life savings.   A rational person would say it has been the biggest mistake our family has ever made, I still stand by it’s the best thing ever for the kids.  For us parents it really has been challenging – my husband hasn’t been able to work in Mallorca because of our visas, I’ve not been able to earn enough to support our frugal life, but the kids are still in heaven and still frequently tell us it’s the best decision our family ever made.  My eldest is now applying for Uni in Madrid and Amsterdam – him being confident enough to know that he can go to any country to study is the biggest reward for me.

I wish I’d know that :

1.I would finally get bored of going to the beach and swimming!  I’ve always been obsessed with the beach – now, after visiting about 200 different Mallorcan beaches I can safely say I’ve got that out of my system!  And now I wish we’d maybe moved to mainland Spain where it would be cheaper and we could also go further afield and ski (with the money we would have saved if we’d not moved to the most expensive area of Europe!).

2.That being hot and sweaty all the time is actually not nice.

3.How expensive housing in Mallorca – I stupidly thought I was the only one who’d realised Mallorca would be a beautiful place to move – along with all the billionaires who want a third home and a lovely place to bring up their kids.  If I could do it again I would have chosen somewhere my children wouldn’t always be comparing our humble surroundings with those of the mega rich!

4.That we wouldn’t want to move again – I’d thought if we didn’t like it we could keep on moving, as that would be part of the adventure.  But changing kids schools is brutal and after 5 schools in 2 years I just can’t do it to my youngest child again.  They’ve formed wonderful friendships in Mallorca and I don’t want to break that.  Hence it’s Mallorca for a good few more years yet!

5.That a life time of “stuff” is a burden and storage is astronomically expensive.  We had to move all of our stuff to my dad’s barn as it was too expensive to store – I now see it wet and covered in mold – I know I loved everything there, but no longer know what it is.

12. What person, website, resource or app was helpful when relocating abroad?…

My best friend Kaaren had lived in Andorra for a year with her family and before that Spain for 4 years.  She was my constant source of “keep going it will be worth it for your kids”.  Most others told us we were mad.

I used a few facebook groups for questions before we came out, but to be honest, we just put our heads down and pushed on blindly through.

When we arrived I used school WhatsApp groups for general questions, but it wasn’t easy.  I felt very embarrassed asking questions as I felt everyone else was already so established, it’s only now I’m 2 years in that I realise most of the people on those groups were probably in the same boat.

After about 6 months I asked a bunch of women out for dinner as it was my birthday.  They all seemed so delighted I’d asked them – one telling me she’d lived here for 6 years and still didn’t really know many people.  That’s when I realised there were so many others like me.

13. Please provide any other information, or thoughts not included in the questions above…

 Someone told me Mallorca is a dumping ground for wives – as there’s so many boat and plane industry employees who go off for months at a time leaving their families.  Now my husband is having to work in America – I’m understanding the sentiment, although I’m still happy to be here!

Someone else said that those that make the jump to a new life are perhaps searching for something that’s missing.  That’s certainly true for me, but again I think that makes for an interesting person!!

We’ve found those that we’ve met are always truly interesting – to make the leap takes a special kind of person – most of the couples are multi-national – ie. One partner is born in a different country to the other partner, and all of them have a fascinating story of why and how they got here.

Wanting to move abroad but don’t know where to start?

Grab a copy of the workbook that walks you through every step of choosing your perfect country to move abroad, and before you know it you will be living your dream life overseas! 

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