RELOCATION: After just a few posts I know you are probably going to call me the Queen of Doom and Gloom. Well that may be a fair call. But while I’m on a run of telling relocation nightmare stories, I might as well share some others. My only defense is that it may help others to know what can happen, so they can be better prepared than we were to handle similar relocation problems.
So in our first year, as well as the mini disasters written about earlier (Two Early Relocation Issues Faced by Inexperienced Expats), these two hiccups were the prize-winning relocation problems for us when moving to New Jersey.
Disaster 1: Sending our Kids to a school they both hated
Soon after we arrived, we sought out the school registration authority in Montclair, New Jersey. Since the school year starts in September here, and we arrived in March, there were no vacancies for the kids at the schools we had planned. They were enrolled instead into a different school in the township.
As it turned out, this school just didn’t suit my kids. Both my kids went backwards academically and each hated the school. By next year’s school start, we got our daughter moved to another school where she loved it. My son also moved into Middle School where eventually, he was much happier.
This has been one of the hardest relocation trials to cope with. Obviously, it’s hard enough for adults to move out of their comfort zone when adjusting to a new country. It’s just so much worse when you see the effects your decisions are having on your children. For the first six-eighteen months, we went through a lot of emotional distress worrying about them and trying to find solutions. It’s pretty distressing to have your youngest child turn to you in tears, saying “I want to go home. I hate it here!” This was a regular occurrence for a while but that is now past thank goodness!!
Disaster 2: Our Relocation Experts accidently cancelled our apartment lease (sur..prii..se!)
Another memorable event in that first year was to find out that our lease for temporary accommodation was accidentally cancelled. This was the apartment we were still living in while looking for permanent accommodation to move to. Our six month lease end date was nearing but we hadn’t found anything suitable yet. Then these relocation ‘experts’ (I like to call them our relocation problems) stepped in and helped.
It was such a thoughtful gesture from our relocation company – cancelling the lease early and not telling us. They could have sent flowers or chocolates just to tell us how much they appreciated our business. But no, a surprise cancellation was so much better as an unexpected present!
How did this even happen, you may ask? We had been viewing houses with our relocation company realtor for a few months. For the record, she was a lovely lady who was the best thing about this dismal company. We had not found anything suitable and it was mid-August. The August-September period here in NJ is the end of the main rental vacancy season. Our realtor was fully aware of where we were at, in the process.
Without checking with this realtor, the relocation company decided to finalize the lease termination date. Somehow mistakenly, they thought we had found a new house and were moving out. But they didn’t check any of this out before terminating our apartment lease. Nor did they ask if we had any new accommodation to move to.
So on a Saturday night, after flying home from Oz to see my sick dad, jetlagged with kids in-tow, we found a cryptic note left under our door by the building management. On speaking with the managers, we were duly horrified to confirm we now had to move out. We had just 8 days to do it.
The 8-day Relocation wonder
Wow. Eight days.. God made the world in one day less, so surely we could do a fair bit?? In those 8 days we would need to find a suitable house (even though there hadn’t been one so far in the last three months), get our credit check completed by the landlords, sign a lease and get our money ready for various payments required in a new rental lease. Oh! I forgot to mention a couple of other small things. We also had to arrange for all our household goods (in storage somewhere), to get delivered to the new house. We needed to pack up everything from our apartment and move it, and clean the apartment before we left. After all this, we would just tranquilly move into the new house with all these things magically done! What a shame I left my magic wand back in Sydney…
Throwing money away
Next day, Sunday, groggy as hell, the kids and I joined my husband, in viewing rental houses. There were only two houses for rent on the market. We ended up taking one of them. Later on we regretted this decision. At the time we felt we had no choice. Resentfully, we were in this vicarious position thanks to… you guessed it.. the relocation experts!!
In the end the house was a very pretty and the kids enjoyed the larger spaces and freedom to run and make noise. We did enjoy many aspects of this house and it allowed us to settle down much more than we had previously managed. However, as a result we spent around US$18,000 in rent, beyond what we had planned. Not such a wonderful achievement when I hadn’t found work, and we were restricted to one income.
Are there any lessons here?
I’d love to say that we learned some major lessons here but really in my view, this was just bad luck. These two items gave us a lot of heartache and anger. If there was a lesson here to learn, it would be that relocations don’t always go smoothly. You need to know that. My takeout is that it’ll be far better for you if you can be flexible, roll with the punches as much as you can and find silver linings when they may be hard to see. Being able to chill out during all of this is a wonderful skill to have, whether by yoga, exercise, meditation or some other form.
What relocation disasters have happened to you and how did you cope? What things did you use to help you get through?