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ANOTHER SORT OF EXPAT CHECKLIST

When you move internationally, there are a lot of things that you have to consider- the finances of the move, the changes that you and your family will have to cope with and the cost of living in a country (both emotional and otherwise) when family, friends and community are located far away.

Yet there are other things that you may also need to think about and these things don't normally feature in any sort of expat moving list. These include issues as varied as:

Space
The question of space is not something that is normally included in any thoughts about moving but it may be worth considering. Adjustments to different concepts of space can be quite difficult.
As an Australian who moved to Hong Kong we left wider open areas and moved instead to very, very dense urban living. Additionally, instead of having a large garden with trees, we had to adapt to apartment living. Our first move from Australia to Hong Kong entailed moving from a four bedroom large terrace house to a two bedroom tiny apartment. And tiny, in the confines of Hong Kong does actually mean tiny. Two of us couldn't stand in the kitchen at the same time.

Country/city ratios
Many times people will talk to me about how I coped living in a dense urban environment whilst in Hong Kong. Yet Hong Kong has an extraordinarily high level of open and green spaces. Around 60% of the island is green and with country parks dotted all over the country. Hiking is a very popular pastime. Yet on the other hand, here where I currently live in the UK, I am in a notionally greener environment, yet the climate precludes me using this gorgeous landscape for many months of the year - rain, coldness or the early darkness in winter months limits its use.

Sunlight
Sunlight also plays a role in expat moves. Are you a person who needs brightness as part of their lives? Do you know if you do? Many people who are used to a darker environment (and the shorter days that come with winter) find that a move to a brighter country is an easy move. The opposite though can hold true if you are not used to a gloomy daily outlook you may suffer.

Pollution
Do you have any breathing or skin issues that may affect how well you do a move to a polluted area? A friend of mine who moved from Hong Kong to Shanghai found the move quite an easy move - another friend who moved from Singapore to Shanghai found it a very tough move indeed.

HobbiesDo you have particular or specific hobbies? A keen gardener may have a harder time in a dense environment than someone who kills all their pot plants and shrubs with kindness. I assumed that I would have spent more time on water based activities in Australia than I would in Hong Kong yet this was not the case. In Hong Kong I was part of a long distance swimming club, I rowed dragon boats and I paddled outrigger canoes. I did none of this in Australia where one would assume that the environment would have encouraged this sort of pursuit.

Time zonesOn a slightly stranger note, times zones can play a role. Where we now live means that I have a very tiny window of opportunity in which to call family or friends - otherwise either they or I will be asleep. This window makes it very difficult to actually call people on the phone and I find that I tend to spend most of my telephone conversations in a form of telephone tag. "You are probably asleep right now but I just thought I'd call and say hi" or "I am going to bed in the next five minutes but I just wanted to call and say hi before I go."

Ridiculous conversations but at least people know that I have thought of them. The difference between an eight hour plane trip and a 22 hour plane trip can also be substantial both in terms of time and cost as well as the accompanying stresses on ageing parents as far as regular visits are concerned.

Strange things to think about but issues that can affect how well you make the transition!

Dr Amanda O has been a trailing spouse for the last eight years.

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Posted 14Oct05