We have now just started our third expat move and it occurred to me that the process of moving abroad is now a much easier than our first move, principally aide by technology. Our first expat experience began in 2007 when we moved to Dubai. This was before the introduction of smart phones and Facebook was in its early stages. Social media had yet to be fully involved in our lives. As the husband had moved ahead of me to start work and find a property all communication was done via emails, expensive phone calls and texts. Research into living in Dubai was completed before we went thanks to purchasing an expat guide to living in Dubai and reading it from cover to cover. Since Dubai is a large emerging city with a huge expat community there are a few publications that are very useful. This also meant that there are many expat sites offering a variety of information. However, this is not the case for moving to an island. The information on expat websites are a bit hit and miss and you become grateful for whatever morsel of information you find. When we moved to Barbados the information about living there was a lot harder to find online.
What did expats do before the internet? It must have been so difficult to discover where to go to set up house, where to shop, what bureaucracy you will face with the utilities and how to meet up with other people. I shudder to think and salute you, expats who have gone before us. The pioneers of our transient world!
Researching your new future home is fairly easy with the internet and various expat sites with forums to post any questions you have. It will vary from place to place though, with larger cities and countries having more information. The information is gathered from various expat websites but that can be a bit hit and miss as well as a bit dated.
Finding a house can still be just as troublesome though. If you thought dealing with an estate agent/realtor was a challenge in your own country just try dealing with one remotely! We were very lucky this time and had friends in our new country who were kind enough to visit the various properties we were interested in and advise us on areas. However nice a house looks online you can’t be sure of the neighbourhood and how far it is from the beach.
Getting around your new country has never been easier with navigation apps on your phone. There are a couple but the best one so far is Waze. It will show you a few short cuts and after a while you can turn it off, reassuringly telling the voice that you have selected, that you are glad for the assistance, the time you had together was great, but you no longer need them. The best thing about finding your way around a new island is that you cannot really get lost. All roads will lead to somewhere and once you see the ocean, you soon get your bearings. I often just go for a drive with a vague idea of where I am going just to get familiar with the roads and see where I land up. I have a girlish excitement about a new landscape, the island attractions as well as new shops and bars to visit.
Keeping in contact with friends and family is so much easier thanks to Skype, Facebook and other social media. No longer do you have to endure short, expensive phone calls but can chat for ages via Skype. It’s fantastic to have a face to face conversation with your friends on the other side of the ocean. Facebook allows you to keep in contact with friends and family around the world, posting photos of lovely sunsets and a glass of rum punch or two. Nothing like sharing your beautiful island with your friends. Especially in winter…mwah ha ha! It’s a fast way to lose friends! Or to gain visitors seeking solace from the cold weather.
However, all this technology for survival and living is all well and good, but it solely depends upon the telecommunication available. Our internet speed in Barbados was slower than when we left the UK in 2007. Not quite dial up, but not far from it. You can be subject to more power cuts too. Always have your Kindle charged! Or take a beach day.