We’ve been here a week and a half now. I haven’t written as often as I’d planned, partly because of a certain internet ‘issue’ but that’s ok. Let’s talk about the last week! Heads up, this is going to be a long post. So get comfy, and I hope I don’t offend anyone when I espouse my view as a spouse, if you know what I mean 😉
I have mainly been at home during the day, while my husband has been at work. Originally, we weren’t able to pick up the rental car provided by the company because neither of us qualified (in their opinion) prior to getting here. A driver service was provided, and we were told that we could use the driver as much as we needed to, but this was awkward for a number of reasons:
1. The driver was not literally at our disposal. He required 24 hours’ notice for any trips we wanted to take. This was hard when we sometimes didn’t know where would need to be next e.g. meeting with the real estate agent, a quick trip to the supermarket (don’t forget that you have to rebuild your pantry and household basics), and so forth.
2. The driver also had other work to tend to (fair enough, considering this sort of work is pretty ad hoc) so would go and do that in between driving us around. What was I supposed to say to that, sorry, I need you to take me shopping?
3. I’m not used to getting someone to do things for me! This caught me by surprise, considering I grew up in Malaysia, where both my parents worked and as children we had extra-curricular activities and tuition classes galore! Because of this, I had been taken to school etc by a driver since the time I was about 7, to the time I left home at 17. Ever since I got my driver’s license at the age of 17 however, I have loved the freedom of driving myself anywhere and anytime I felt like it. In Australia, I took public transport as much as I could too, and loved the convenience that could offer. Therefore, the concept of relying on a driver was a little strange and I imagine most of you would feel the same.
4. The ‘need’ to go out and go somewhere is relative – I may feel like I need to go somewhere, but would the driver and/or company paying for the driver service feel the same way? We don’t have kids, so I didn’t have a reason to go out to look for schools, shop for school uniforms, and the like. Everywhere I wanted to go was for myself and somehow that made me feel selfish.
BUT we now have our rental car, so we are independent once again!! 🙂 We got to see more of the areas around us while running errands this weekend. No more having to worry about how long someone’s been waiting for you in the car! (I should emphasise here that there was nithing wrong with assigned our driver. He was really nice, just that the whole arrangement felt strange).
I would love to get out and explore the cities during the week, but am unfamiliar with the areas etc so I can’t wait for everyone else to get here and explore with me! In that way, there is at least safety in numbers 🙂
With so much time spent at home, I have been watching a lot of TV! And doing some thinking. What have I learnt that could make the move across easier for someone else? Since most spouses will be in a similar situation to me (i.e. not being able to work straightaway), I’ve compiled some notes that I’m hoping you can use to help with your move to D-town.
1. What will remind you of home?
When we packed, we made sure to pack the necessities – the things we thought we needed for the next 3 months. Everything else could go into the shipping container. Or so we thought. My advice would be to make sure you have one or 2 things that provide you comfort. For example, I am planning to sew a bit to keep myself occupied – I still need to get a sewing machine – so I made sure to pack a couple of patterns and some fabric with me. Not a whole heap, but probably enough to make a couple of things. If you’re the sort of person who loves scented candles or oils, bring one that you love, because you don’t want to get here, move into a new apartment or house, be away from home, and have it smell so different to what you’re used to. It’s the little things. Sure, you’d probably be able to find some here, but it may take time to find it and may be further down in the list of priorities after finding accommodation, schools, furniture shopping, grocery shopping, setting up a bank account, getting your social security number, etc. And if you love vegemite and peanut butter, bring some of that too. And bring some for me please! 😉 I love peanut butter, but all the ones I’ve tasted here are really thick and sludgy. Urgh.
2. Contacts are important
Needless to say, when you move to a new place, knowing who to call and when is important. But don’t forget those at home too!
At home – make sure your friends know how to reach you and that they keep in contact, particularly in the first week or two, while you are finding your feet. This in itself may be hard, as Detroit is currently 14 hours behind Melbourne, so you’d only get to speak to them early in the morning or at night. The rest of the time you are awake, i.e. during the day when your partner is at work, your friends back home will be asleep. But if you have a viber or whatsapp account, make sure they know you are still contactable on those accounts.
If you have been relying on a work phone and laptop/tablet or don’t have your own mobile phone, laptop/tablet, consider getting one, and a SIM card that works overseas. It doesn’t take long to do. The point of this is to make sure that when you get to the US, you have something to use in case of emergency, and you’re not under pressure to get to a store to buy a SIM card on the first day. And make sure your family and closest friends have your new contact details!
In Detroit – don’t be afraid to reach out for assistance if you need it, or just need to talk to someone. Don’t forget that there are other spouses who are here as well, who are likely to want to get out and explore the new areas, and are also looking for company. There is a lot to be gained from other peoples’ knowledge and experiences. We’ll do our best to share what we know, but we don’t want to intrude too much on your space, so let us know if you need more help. I am compiling a list of contact numbers and email addresses that I will share with the group (with everyone’s consent, of course), so I’m hoping will help assist other spouses in this process.
If you are planning on getting an American mobile number and are flying to LA from Melbourne, consider getting a SIM card from a stand located near Bar Pulpo by Mo Vida (once you past customs). T-Mobile, particularly, has an add-on to their plans that allows unlimited calls to Oz.
Make sure you have (on your phone and/or in hard copy) contact numbers for people/services that you need or can rely on. I’d advise writing it down somewhere as well, because as good as technology is, batteries have a finite life, and in the unfortunate event that your mobile phone battery goes flat or worse still, your phone goes missing, those written numbers will come in handy.
3. Change your contact details with the banks etc
Our bank didn’t allow us to change our address or contact phone number to an overseas address and number via internet banking. We had to call to do this. If you know your new number and address before you leave Oz, it would help to change it before you leave. This serves a few purposes:
– makes it easier to receive verification SMSs. You don’t want the hassle of swapping SIM cards around, as Murphy’s law would of course dictate that the need to do this would arise at THE most inconvenient times.
– for the bank to contact you if they want to query an unusual/potentially fraudulent transaction on your account. As you will probably be relying on your Australian credit card when you first get here, your bank may wonder why you have a flurry of transactions on the other side of the world. If they can’t reach you, they may just block your credit card from further use until they are able to verify that it is indeed you who is using the card. It would only take a phone call to rectify, but it would be another thing to worry about in a foreign land.
Food in the US is quite different to home – you may already have realised this on your look-see visit. If you like to cook, I would suggest bringing along some basic recipes that you have tried, and liked, with you when you come over. Don’t forget that you will need to rebuild your pantry, so if your recipes have fewer ingredients (or many ingredients in common), that may help. Spices are expensive in the supermarkets here, on average about $5 per bottle, so you may not want to have to buy them all at the same time.
5. Make new friends
Whether this is within the Australian contingent coming over, or in the local community, this will probably help you feel settled more quickly. I love sport, and have found that every time I have moved to a new city – I’ve lived in 5 cities; this is my 4th since leaving home 14 years ago – finding a team or group to play with has been very helpful for making friends. Try meetup.com to locate a group with similar interests to you. They seem to have something for mothers, crafters, singles, sporty types, beer lovers, wine lovers, even wild food foragers! (If you play futsal, and want to start a team, let my husband and I know!). You could even choose to volunteer to really get stuck into a community. Whatever it is, have a look and you’re bound to find something for you. Or ‘ave a go at something new!
So those are a few (quick!) tips that I hope will help you with the move. Once you get here, unpack as soon as you can. It’ll help you feel more settled and sure beats digging for stuff out of suitcases every day!
I really can’t wait for everyone to get here. x