May 16, 2017
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Whether you are a structural engineer in the oil and gas industry or a site manager in the construction industry, it is more than likely that you will need to move to where the work is. This provides incredible opportunities to explore the world and could take you anywhere from Australasia to Asia or Africa to America.

But the idea of such a move could be very different to the reality and while you might quickly get carried away with the prospect of living somewhere new there is a lot to think about and consider first – particularly if you have a family in tow. It will, of course, be exciting but it can also be daunting in equal measure, especially for your partner and any children who will be leaving life as they know it, including their job, school and friends. 

A role such as the ones you will find through NES could see you moving several times – this can be hard on all involved, so it is important you know how to deal with relocating your family to make it as easy and painless as possible.  

To help, we have spoken to Sarah who moved from the UK to Cape Town in South Africa for her husband Jerry’s job just after their wedding. They have since had two children and now prefer their new life abroad. Here’s her story…

Before the move…

Before the move to South Africa was even on the cards Sarah was very happy in the UK, particularly in terms of her career. For that, among other reasons, Jerry moved 18 months ahead of Sarah. "The delay in me coming out after Jerry moved over was based on several factors; my job, finances, practicality and uncertainty regarding the long-term viability of his job,” she explains. “Until we knew his role was more certain I wasn’t prepared to give up my own career and the job I loved, especially as I knew I most likely wouldn’t be able to do it in South Africa.”

She added: “We discussed it at length and I didn’t feel pressured into the decision in any way but it was quite difficult to get my head around, especially as my career was going very well. I was extremely fortunate that my boss in the UK allowed me a 12-month career break so I was able to move with the knowledge that if it wasn’t right for me I could go back to my old job. Jerry and I both agreed if it wasn’t right for us both, we would both move back together.”

Despite the fact that Jerry made the move ahead of Sarah, when it came to actually doing it she still found it incredibly daunting.

“I was nervous about giving up my job, moving away from my friends and family and being completely dependent (socially, emotionally and financially) on him," she said. "My VISA didn’t allow me to work so I knew I would be limited in terms of having my own income source and avenues for meeting people.”  

There were other concerns, not least logistics and having to plan most of the move on her own: “We married three weeks before I moved but Jerry was only able to come home for a week so I had to organise the wedding, packing up the house, sourcing tenants and sorting myself out, while also working 45 hour weeks.”

What spurred Sarah on during this time was the end goal. Having visited what would be her new home several times during the 18 months Jerry was away, she was looking forward to what lay ahead. “I knew it was an amazing place and so I was also excited about the adventure and finally living with Jerry again.”

After the move…

Once in South Africa Sarah struggled when reality hit after the initial 'holiday' period. "Once I arrived I was in holiday mode for a good month or so and then I had a flurry of visitors that occupied me for the large part of a few months," she recalled. "After the visitors slowed reality hit. I think I was a little down and I realised I needed a job and purpose. We were also sharing a car at first so I was limited to local activities. I should have been more proactive in joining groups and local community events but at the time it never occurred to me.

“We are lucky that our close family visit several times a year and many of our close friends have visited multiple times.”

Having their children after the move has made it much easier…

“It would have meant separating children from friends and changing schools is tough. Having said that I don’t doubt they would adjust, children are resilient and what they would miss from the UK would be more than made up by the opportunities on offer here.”  

Sarah added: “Our parents see them all the time, but that would have been hard if they were not able to play an active role in the children’s lives. We have also made wonderful friends and our children will grow up with plenty of close family friends and playmates around them. And the time we have with them would not be possible in the UK.”

The hardest thing to adapt to: culture

“I wouldn’t say it has been difficult, just something I need to be mindful of. South Africa has had a difficult past and the end of Apartheid is so recent - there is a lot of work needed still to ensure equality for everyone. In many ways, the day-to-day culture is similar, however the social and political uncertainties and the huge divides are still evident following the end of Apartheid and it can be hard to understand, given the fairly well integrated multicultural society within Britain.”

And now…

“It is the best thing that could ever have happened," she said. "Our work life balance is incredible compared to when we were in the UK and our standard of living is far better.

"Having recently relocated within Cape Town I have discovered the amazing benefit of local Facebook pages and would urge anyone relocating to look up and join the local groups for the area. I made a post prior to my recent move in a Mom FB page for the town I was moving to. I was asking advice on nannies and parks and mummy groups and received an influx of responses with suggestions and recommendations and even some invitations for play dates. I now have a great circle in my new town, some of whom I am sure will be lifelong friends.”

Advice for those planning a similar move

While such a move can be made easier for you because it will enable you to advance in your career, it might not be so easy for your partner who will have to leave theirs behind. If you are moving with the support of a company like NES Global Talent things are much easier as they have a vastly experienced mobility support team and local offices around the world which can provide in person support when needed.

Sarah has advice for those who are planning to leave life as they know it to set up a whole new one in a brand new destination:

  • Be sure it is what you want and be honest with your partner about any concerns.
  • Ensure you know what the package offers with regards to salary, benefits for family, accommodation, travel cover, medical insurance, etc.
  • Visit before you move if it is at all possible.
  • Look at local websites and groups to get a feel of the place and also ask them questions; anything from info on schools, good restaurants, recommended babysitters, accommodation and so on.
  • Once you arrive don’t be afraid to network and share contacts if you think you have hit it off when chatting to someone. Some will lead to nothing and others will become great friends.
  • Don’t just mix with other expats, if you end up staying (like us) most of them will leave after a year or two and you lose your friend group.
  • If the company will ship your possessions and arrange VISAs this is a huge plus.
  • Learn about the culture and social norms.
  • Ask advice.
  • Make sure you have space for visitors, you will be inundated.
  • Relocation agents are good if you need to secure a property prior to arrival.

Fancy a move to Africa yourself? We have a range of roles available here as well as across our other regions. Now you know how to deal with relocating your family you can start your job search here, but make sure you keep the above in mind while doing so.  

Dedicated Assignment support

Moving is one of the most stressful things we can do even if that move is within the same postcode. If you are still worried about the logistics of moving overseas, don’t be. Here at NES we know a move abroad can be hard which is why we help you every step of the way – from helping you obtain visa and general travel services to pre-move and relocation assistance.