The lovely Molly over at The Move to America is running a linky for January, all about The Expat Experience.
Each week has a prompt, and I’m catching up, only one week behind now!
I have written about My First Moments and now it’s time to think about Feeling at Home.
After two weeks in the US we moved into our new house.
We had shipped around 40 boxes from the UK, mainly containing the kids toys and books, a ‘starter kit’ for the kitchen and photos/pictures. For us, putting up our favourite photographs was key to making the house feel like home. I enjoyed the blank canvas when shopping for furniture though!
We painted the bedrooms straight away as I knew that if we didn’t, we’d never go back and do it once beds etc. were moved in. The rest of the house was left as was and although it was in ‘move in condition’ I hated the colours and about nine months later we got decorators in to paint the rest!
We had a few weeks of summer vacation left before the boys started school, so we focused on getting to know our new town and the surrounding area. We did a lot of walking! The weather was beautiful and it was easy to feel in those first few weeks that we were really just on holiday.
It wasn’t until the boys were both at their new schools that we started to feel that this was home. When we moved we made a deal with ourselves, that however long we were in the US, we would make it home. That we would make an effort to fit in, make friends, build a life. That we wouldn’t wish away our days thinking that there was no point in putting down any roots, because we were ‘only’ here for two/three/five years. We felt this was particularly important with the boys, who needed to feel settled and secure.
The concept of ‘home’ is something that I have grappled with since we made this big move. What makes home ‘home’?
What I have learnt is that, for me, home is where my family is. I am Scottish, Scotland will always be my spiritual home. But my real; good days and bad days; happy and sad; exciting and mundane, home is where my husband and children are. I have also learnt that making new connections and new friends is essential – for you and for your children. Being away from familiar support networks very quickly makes you realise how important they were.
Most of all, embrace your new country – the more you put in, the more you will get out. Get involved in local events and community groups. Celebrate holidays. Visit must see places. Experience the culture.
Find your place, and then you will be able to call it home.
Molly has asked us to give three tips on how to feel at home:
1. Bring some of your favourite things from home, whether that’s pictures, photos or ornaments. Putting them up in your new house will immediately make it feel more like home.
2. Invest time in ‘fitting in’ to your new life – explore, find your feet and get to know your town. Find a favourite cafe, favourite park, favourite shop.
3. Try to make friends; having kids makes this easier (and essential!) as you meet other parents at school, can join mum and baby groups, go to local kids clubs and events. However long you plan to stay the journey will be much easier, and a lot more fun, if you have friends. These connections will help you feel more at home.