Already 4 years.
4 years ago, we were planning our move to Abu Dhabi.
Those 4 years went by in a BLINK.
Maybe because we have two small kids. Maybe because there was a pandemic. Maybe because we did so much during that period. Ok, I haven’t posted here in a year almost 😅 life’s been hard for everyone, especially expats, and people got so sensitive during this period, I don’t know how I can still write in this mine field. But anyway, here we go again! Exploring, preparing, and then moving.
Where to? New York.
Yep. You read it right, New York.
So, what’s different this time?
Well, firstly, people definitely know where New York is in the world (not like Abu Dhabi), and, may I add, they know it almost too well. As many grimaces I witnessed in early 2018 while saying « We’re moving to Abu Dhabi ! », I got this time as many weird, surprised faces while saying « We’re moving to New York ». Usually it’s a simple « Woaw » followed by a « but HOW? ». Which is weird, nobody asked how we ended up with Abu Dhabi. Although it was the same process, last time they asked if this was our choice, while adding this wouldn’t have been theirs. (Over sharing is overrated).
Maybe people thought we deserved Abu Dhabi but not New York? Let’s be positive, think the best of people, and say they are just very interested, this time. Let’s pretend people implying we paid someone to get that posting are really funny too.
While some truly cheered for us, knowing what the USA means for us, some added that « this will be a big change for you… it’ll be more work, smaller housing, more walking, greyer, more expensive, … » funny how people are creative with possible problems FOR YOU. How attentive. And at the same time, they’ll totally visit you, this time.
I must be honest; I’m having a hard time with people projecting their own fear of Islam and lack of knowledge of the Middle East during this first expatriation. It still infuriates me when I hear « I don’t go to these countries ». What does this mean and what does it say about you thinking it’s an OK sentence to say out loud? What do you know about my new country to classify it? And do you really think you should share this with me?
Also, naively, I thought when you were visiting someone, you were visiting someone. Not a place. Apparently, I was wrong, again I learned something.
Funny thing is, where in Abu Dhabi I had a 5 bedroom villa with a private pool to lodge them, sun all year round, a private club like a 5-star club med and a car to drive them around in the most exquisite places. In NYC, I’ll be in my small apartment, always busy and without a car so… We can meet for a coffee downstairs maybe but that’s it. Some people even told us “You’re getting closer to Belgium!”
No, we aren’t.
Have you looked at the map?
No, they haven’t.
4 years passed by, and some friends and family haven’t looked at one info online about where we live. They still ask me “What time is it there?” and “Is it hot?” EVERY SINGLE TIME we FaceTime. I’m glad we changed the weekend to align with Europe because I was close to the 100th text asking why my kids go to school on Sunday!
Secondly, this time is different because this move is our second international one, so babe, I know the tricks and the traps! I was prepared to come here, but I learned a lot in 4 years, and I’ve upgraded my moving game. This doesn’t mean I won’t make mistakes (wouldn’t be funny for you, my dear reader, otherwise). This also doesn’t mean I won’t spend some evenings crying at my window thinking about Abu Dhabi (this would be a first though, I’ve never cried thinking about Belgium while being here). The diplomatic community says your first posting holds a special place in your heart forever. So here it is Abu Dhabi, you’ve got your special place with me. Let’s be honest, you earned it by treating us so good.
For this next move, I know what to do and where to put my energy. 160 days to go. And I know these days will be strange. A mix of sadness and excitement. A lot of “I don’t care about this, I’m about to leave” but also “I’ll miss this”. It’s hard for us and it’s hard for the people around us too. I saw it in Belgium, and now I see it here. People react to your imminent departure very differently. Some want to spend as much time possible with you, some already take a distance. A lot of mixed feelings and fears for the future. You can’t really let yourself dwell to long into these feelings, because you need to trust your choices and hope for a better future, whatever that means.
We are living between an arm long pile of administrative forms to fill and a list of “Things to see here before we leave”. But the one thing I’ve learned from last move is: ask for help, advice, and do not stay alone! Coming to AD, I didn’t know a soul here and quite frankly we were very lonely for the first 4 months. I still remember that first very depressing Christmas alone abroad and I will not let that happen again.
Therefore, I’ve been prepping for this since 2020. I created a diplomatic community group on Facebook and an expat family on Instagram. I made connections who have connections. This isn’t a guarantee that I’ll find a BFF, this is just a feeling that we will not be alone there. Because in the end, the physical move doesn’t matter. You carry your load (for real, like 12 luggages) and you lose some material things due to lack of caution of movers or transporters, but what truly matters is your feelings and emotions through the move. This is what will give you (or won’t) the energy to fit in the new posting. Once again, it’s all in your head. Humans are adaptative. The only resistance is yourself and I learned about myself that in order to feel like I belong to a place, I need to know people. This might be weird to you, but the moment I knew the guard in my compound, the barista at my coffee place, the diplomatic community and 30% of the moms at school, that’s the moment I felt home. I belong here. So, if I can accelerate this process and already make connections from here, I hope our first months in NYC won’t be too hard. I mean, they will be hard just weatherwise (first winter since 2017-2018) so better not add too much on our plates!
Wish me luck,