So I’m ‘leaving on a jet plane, don’t know when i’ll be back again’ and because of this I need to pack up what I call ‘home’. It doesn’t sound like a big deal and I admit to not giving much thought when others have packed up and moved but I’ve come to realise that moving countries requires packing house and then some!
Because we’re heading away for an indefinite period of time we need to decide one of four things when it comes to sorting our stuff. Do we: send it to France (airfreight & shipping cost a bombshell, with one quote standing at 80kg= $900!!!!!!!!!); store it at my parents (which have very limited space); sell it to make a buck or two; or simply give it away. This is no easy feat, especially if you’re like me and you find sentimental value in the most ridiculous things (by putting my books into storage, I actually feel like I’m locking my friends away!). The other predicament that presents itself while packing is wanting to get things packed asap but realising that you still need to use them.
Then there’s wading through the murky waters of the insurance industry. I don’t mean to be cynical but geez, you almost need to be a lawyer to get down to business with the insurance industry. I know what I’m looking for and for some reason, this either frustrates or confuses the customer service reps that I’ve spoken to. Yes Tower Insurance guy, it was great that you came to my house to provide quotes but NO that doesn’t oblige me to sign up with you. As for ANZ and Westpac, putting me on hold for 20 minutes at a time, passing me on to 2 different people just to get a generic quote, seriously?! And Cigna, after watching your adverts with Michael Jones over the years, I had high expectations. And they weren’t met, neither by your policy nor your customer representative. But ASB, thank you. Thank you for your exceptional customer service and thank you for providing me a quote in the click of a finger.
This is all just the start. Thank god I got my visa sorted in due time. That in itself required a million sets of documents requiring me to venture here, there and everywhere. And then there’s IRD. Thanks to the current government, I’ve got to make compulsory payments of X amount/annum towards my student loan. In other words, irrespective of whether or not I earn an income, I have to pay a crapload of moolah because a minute number of Kiwi’s left the country and conveniently forgot their student loan obligations. Now I’m not saying I wouldn’t pay it at all. But it shouldn’t make a difference whether I’m in New Zealand or outside, if I don’t have an income nor own any assets, then how on earth am I supposed to make those exorbitant payments? By taking out a bank loan? Credit card? Yeah, real clever plan. Having said that, we shouldn’t be paying craploads for our education in the first place. So I guess it is a case of the chicken or the egg re- student loan repayments. Moving on, I’ve still got to cancel all of my current accounts/contracts and update all of my details to ensure mail is re-directed. It is imperative that all my official documentation is up to date and that I have several copies on hand, particularly as French bureaucracy is merciless (so I’ve heard). On top of all this, our previous flatmates left 6 weeks earlier than planned and it has proved difficult to replace them with people who are happy to take over our lease. This in turn has left us with a houseful of furniture/wares to get rid of and up the creek with half a paddle!
And no, it doesn’t end when we get to France. It only becomes more difficult when I don’t speak the lingua franca.
We have to organise immigration appointments, a medical checkup for immigration, transfering my drivers licence, compulsory medical and liability insurance, setting up bank accounts, buying a car, finding a home, setting up phone, electricity, internet, registering with a doctor, applying for jobs. And there’s probably a load of stuff I haven’t considered. Also, keep in mind that I have no idea how the French system works, or the appropriate manner in which you should speak to people in order to get things done (coz apparently there is a way).
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not having a woe is me moment. I realise how ridiculously fortunate I am to be in a position to move halfway across the world where most people in this world find it hard enough to feed themselves or their families. So no, I’m not throwing a pity party. But I don’t know if people realise the logistics of it all and by virtue of this, feel it needs to be said.
This brings me to my pet peeve. When people find out I’m moving to France, instead of validating my thoughts and feelings they find it hard not to impose their expectations of how I should feel about it. Apparently its a ticket to paradise (think almond croissants and chanel handbags raining from the Parisian sky alight with fireworks from the Eiffel tower). Its hard to demonstrate my complete excitement when I’m dealing with everything aforementioned but thats not to say I’m not excited. In fact, I am so excited for the opportunity but it has nothing to do with the stereotypical image of Parisian life. I don’t care about standing underneath the Eiffle Tower, shopping on the Champs Elysee or stuffing myself silly with croissants after visiting the Louvre. I am more excited about spending time with my husband’s family. I am excited to explore the variation of cultures, food and customs that exist within the borders that make up France. I am excited to discover and learn new things and most of all, I am excited to grow, as an individual and with my husband.
We are not going on hoilday so I shouldn’t be expected to act as if I’m going on holiday. I’m leaving my life in New Zealand. I am leaving my family and friends and I am moving to the other side of the world, to a country where I don’t speak the language. I need to be as prepared as I can be. I’ve known plenty of people who prior to a big move completely ignored the reality or whom fooled themselves into thinking ‘it’ll all be fine while suppressing the worry, fear or anxiety that they might have had. I’ve even met people who never considered their language in-ability to be an issue (and thus, becoming an issue). I don’t want to set myself up to fail, so instead of being naive about this move, I choose to be realistic about the challenges that face me.
So instead of leaving everything to the last minute – as my husband would probably have me do! – I chose to start dealing with (or stressing out about) packing now. This way, when I board the plane to France in 3 weeks and 2 days time, I will have allowed myself the time and space to consider my reality. Cool, calm and collected. The inverse would see me naively chilling out, pretending that everything will work out without any effort or planning and then running like a headless chicken onto the plane. Nah thanks, sounds stink to me.
And so I return to the packing…..tape. check. scissors. check. boxes of all shapes and sizes. check.