The workspace is evolving, and more employees seek opportunities to work where they want to work, whether on a beach in Bali or a hometown in Europe.
An employee of NEI Global Relocation who counsels relocating families on their journeys to new locations decided it was time to return to France with her husband and two young children to be closer to family. As an experienced relocation consultant, and because the relocation was self-initiated, she felt that she knew what had to be done and wanted to share the experience – so she kept a journal of the transition. But even with all that experience, some things were eye-opening.
She began her posts on LinkedIn six weeks before the actual relocation to France. We hope you enjoy her journey.
Milestone 1: Decision to Move
Being an expatriate and a Relocation Counselor for NEI Global Relocation, I felt very confident in considering a move back to France. After all, I work with assignees daily, and I know what to expect. Let me start by saying there is a big difference between changing countries as a couple and repatriating a family of four with two small children. The thought of repatriation with children ages three and eight weeks old became a huge undertaking, and with that came anxiety.
For instance, childcare in the U.S. is straightforward. You find the daycare you want your child to attend, sign a one-page document, pay your fees, and then you’re all done. In France, it’s not so easy. There is no school on Wednesdays! It takes what seems like a lifetime to find a nanny; you sign countless documents and open a file with France’s Public Service. And now, the actual process begins. My brain – fried.
Milestone 2: Shipping, Heartbreak, Pets
Now that I feel like I have a handle on daycare, it's time to start the shipment process. Being well aware of the challenges of the shipping industry, my husband and I decided to sell everything that we could and donate the rest.
I thought this would be the easiest way to save on costs, but our three-year-old daughter cried every time something left the house, breaking my heart. I did not realize the impact would be so much for her. So, we turned this into a game. We are now "camping" inside the house, and she is happy again. It is easy to overlook the emotional effect relocation has on children until you experience it firsthand. It is essential to keep this in mind as, during this transition period, they need more reassurance than ever.
Selling our home of six years was also very painful. The feeling that it was no longer our home came with tears. It isn't easy to close this chapter of my American experience. I have two children, a job, and the opportunity to be myself and grow as an individual, a wife, and a mom. Being optimistic about our future in France makes us hopeful.
Another scary moment was with the family pet. Since moving to the U.S. six years ago, the cost to move our furry family member had more than tripled! We almost gave up, and I was heartbroken again. I decided to do a little more digging and found an affordable solution to keep our beloved pet. Relocation is all about finding the best and most cost-effective solution.
Milestone 3: Final Move to France
The time to travel has finally arrived. Relocating as a family during normal times is challenging enough, but during a pandemic, it is critical to keep all the necessary documents to cross the border organized and takes your responsibilities to a new level. The items required are:
- Passports (4)
- Family book (to prove we are their parents)
- Covid vaccination proof
- Covid test results
- Proof of French citizenship for the children
I wonder why we can't use the electronic version of these documents. It would make life easier.
The travel across the Atlantic was not as dreadful as I feared. The flight was not full, and the kids were on their best behavior.
Milestone 4: Cultural Awareness/Settling-in
The cultural awareness experience was not an easy one. I'm from France, and I am dealing with cultural shock. For instance, in the U.S., everything is open on Sunday. Not so in France. We had to adjust and ensure we had everything we needed to get through the weekend. The checklist was diapers, wipes, and food. The good news is that this difference forced us to take a break and settle into our new lives.
Now, I must enroll my daughter into school (it's the law), find a vehicle (that fits two car seats and a stroller), open a bank account, and find a permanent place to live.
We could not accomplish any of those items until we opened a bank account. The process took two long hours. I was sweating and had a headache when it was over, but we did it! Everything else fell into place, but none of it was easy.
It's time for me to return to work. I commute from France to Switzerland and was returning to the same position, but it still felt like I was starting a new job and had a lot of anxiety about my first day. I wondered if my assignees think the same way each time they move to a new country. This repatriation brings more of my knowledge and skills to help them and their family throughout their journey. I will let them know that each situation is unique and there will be challenges. But they will get through it, and I will help them in hopes that they have the same happy ending as I did.