Thursday 15 January 2015

How stressful is an expat, relocation move?

Very, it's not easy, you'll lose all control over your life, you'll be let down, plunged into difficult and sometimes dangerous situations, you'll be skint at the end of it all, no matter how generous your relocation package is and you'll swear blind you will NEVER, EVER DO THIS AGAIN (until next time)

Both our relocations to South Africa and to Dubai have gone wrong, very wrong, causing unnecessary stress at what is a very difficult time. Moving is one thing, but moving 1000's of miles from everything and everyone you know is hard work and can be heartbreaking.

South Africa was my home for 4 years and leaving my friends and my life was as difficult, if not harder than leaving the UK for the first time. For me, when I left the UK, I knew one day I would return, that it would become home again, I knew I could visit my family and friends and be there if they needed me, but leaving South Africa has a whole other set of emotions. I will visit, yes, but I will never return there, it will never be my home again.

A lot of the worries and anxieties can be removed with the right support, timescale and framework in place. however my experience of both moves says that HR is NOT the best department to deal with a relocation. They subcontract out to various companies for visa applications, shipping, renting housing etc and they DO NOT and WILL NOT deal directly with the accompanying spouse. The sub contracted companies when contacted will tell you the contract is with HR and not you and will not discuss anything with you at all, EVER.

This causes additional and unnecessary stress on your relationship. For us, I didn't want to leave South Africa, I wasn't ready, HR's timescale was too slow, they dragged their heels with starting the move and as predicted left us with an extremely short time frame in which to move. My husband is dealing with a new job, a new way of doing things, new and different cultures in the work place, he doesn't need me stuck in a hotel gently rocking in a corner because I feel left out, I'm not in control, I'm not allowed to do anything because NO ONE will speak to me, include me, let me do the stuff I'm good at. He also does not have the time to sort everything out on our behalf, we are a team, we have different skill sets, that's what makes us able to survive 2 international relocations and no amount of him asking, telling, begging HR to deal with me, let me sort the stuff, it's what I'm good at, they just won't shift. it's hubbies contract, it's with him, not me.

I've written a series of blog posts over the past few weeks, they've been added to and edited and don't really follow in any particular order, but if you're interested, please feel free to click, read, comment and share.

The whole process of applying to move to Dubai started in October, again we were told very little about what we were actually required to do, it took a lot of phone calls and we had to spend 3 weeks in the UK to sort out all the paperwork, which was submitted in Dubai on November 29th, after returning to South Africa to pack up our home, we returned on December 19th to discover the work visa application had been submitted as promised.
Applying for visas to live in Dubai

The first post is based on our experiences from using a relocation firm, although the woman who helped us with most of the stuff, was bloody wonderful, her hands were tied, there was only so much she could do to help us, where everything fell apart was despite her constantly emailing the company she worked for, they failed to respond and eventually told me, she was as fault, which I will not accept.
If I were a relocation expert

Next up are the consequences for the spouse, unable to 'do anything' due to the companies refusal to deal directly with me.
What happened to pastoral care?

This post outlines what was promised and what actually happened and is happening, this post will continue to be updated.
Timeline for an expat move

The following post is about life in a hotel for 5 weeks, I think we're actually in our 6th week now and our 3rd hotel. It isn't a lot of fun.
5 weeks in a hotel

This post was written and published the beginning of December and outlines my concerns and worries about what lies ahead based on what happened when we relocated to South Africa in 2011
Reality of a company move

We already knew things were going downhill and a lot of stuff is now getting repeated, but as you can see from the next post, we've spent most of our time in Dubai just worrying about what is going to happen.
Moving from South Africa to Dubai 

Prior to our move we had to sort all our documentation and organise our shipping, all badly advised, we did most of the work ourselves and I doubt we'll ever know just exactly what and why these experts are being paid for.

How to sort luggage, air freight and shipping 


  1. HR! More like InHuman-R. My expat experience was people who'd never had to go through the same experience were often assigned to my case. Frankly, my wife was our functioning HR, organizing nearly everything.

    1. it appears to be the way with everyone i talk to, why no one removes HR from the equation is beyond me