Thursday, 5 September 2013

Phase 6: Exploration

Starting over ..... building a network ..... finding new 'favorites' to create a new list ...... you do it when you move area, or start a new job in a new part of town or heaven forbid, the business you prefer/love moves or worse, closes down or mergers!

Expats do it in every new city the land in and call home.

Stop and think for a minute of the shops you love, the services you use regularly (and not so regularly), the short cuts between A and B in the car, the public transport option if it saves time/money, the hairdresser you can't live without, or the kids swimming instructor, or the professionally run ballet/tennis/(insert preferred option) school/coach. The caring people at the vet, or dog parlor; yummiest cake shop ever; family friendly restaurants; restaurants you love going to with lots of friends; or the couple of restaurants you enjoy a quiet meal with your partner.

Think of the loyalty you have built up with some businesses or service providers.

Where ever we live, we create an environment unique to the needs and preferences of ourselves and our family.

I lived in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney most of my life. There's a LOT I don't know about it, but there's a LOT I do/did. When I was living there I knew where to go for pretty much everything I/we needed. My network of friends could always recommend something or someone if I needed to add to my phone book.

Mum has shopped at the same fruit shop for close to 45 years! The same with the pharmacy and hairdresser (tho she's tried numerous ones in between and always gone back), the local chicken shop is a fav too.

IMAGINE! And guess what? I shopped there too cos Mum did and they know me just as well as they've watched me grow up and now love to serve MissM when we're in town.

That sense of loyalty and community is rare, and getting rarer but you don't need me to tell you that.

We can usually rely on friends for recommendations. The fact we're friends is the first reason - we share similar beliefs, expectations, tastes .... that's why we're friends. Or if we're friends because opposites attract, we can still be assured they would recommend 'something or someone' in good faith.

Now think about how would you go about starting afresh?

When we moved from the Eastern Suburbs to the Hills District just before MissM was born we knew no one! Not one single person. I had to rely on my instinct, my sat nav and my research skills to find
e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g until we befriended people at the local Playgroup Association. In between time, I spent hours travelling back and forth to the Eastern Suburbs where I KNEW where to get everything I needed.

To this day, I believe moving to the Hills, and coping was a lesson I needed to learn in order to leave Sydney and become an expat.

Moving to Dublin was so much easier than moving 36 km's from 'home' simply because I couldn't just pop home for the day and get stuff ..... I had to make my own way on behalf of my family.

Years ago, The Yellow Pages was the fountain of information we all looked to. Thank goodness we are no longer producing such huge books and wasting so many trees, and the information is readily available online.

Local newspapers are another vault of invaluable 'local' information - editorial as well as advertising ensured you knew the 'local' businesses. As an ex-newspaper girl, it saddens me to see the poor quality of (some) local newspapers ..... they are my first source of NEW information yet seldom meet my requirements. Speaking as an expat, of course you have to find local newspapers in your mother tongue or have someone translate!

Google Search and other search engines are great but you have to be very specific in your search criteria and then cross check with Google Maps to ensure it's within an area you're prepared to travel to/from.

Then there's the brilliance of social media.

A friend in Sydney is renovating and asks on FB 'anyone in Sydney's East recommend a painter'; an Aussie friend in Japan calls out to her friends in Perth, Western Australia via FB 'looking for a new managing agent for our home in Perth - anyone recommend a reliable agent?' someone else is researching a holiday in Barcelona and asks 'Love to know where friends have stayed and what they've done in Barcelona as we are there in September'

I'm sure there are many other ways but that's a few.

We are fortunate to have relocation assistance provided every time we move. Their job is to help us find a house, school, doctor, language lessons if necessary, show us/me where to shop, recommend things to do etc.

Our school in Japan was brilliant at helping newbies settle quickly. The Parents Association ran mentor program for all new families, and the Japanese committee hosted regular visits to the supermarkets to help newbies (and not so newbies) work out how to shop (as everything's in Japanese).

The Information Coffee Morning involved local businesses being available to discuss potential services; for eg:  English newspapers would tout for subscriptions, international bank representatives would promote the ease with which to have a global account, the International Women's Club and the local expat sports club would canvass new members etc.

All the information you needed was there ..... plus your mentor! All you had to do was come up with the questions and even then, as we'd done this so many times, the information was openly shared leaving you with FEW questions.

Not every place is like that.

The UK was slightly helpful but only because I kept asking LOTS of questions. People weren't as forthcoming as I was used to; but once a friendship was established and you asked, people offered.

The enjoyment in building a relationship with the butcher at The Good Life, or the staff at Kyoto Kitchen, our chiro and my amazing hairdresser helped me feel I belonged.

Because we've lived in Dublin, we have an established network who have helped us find a gardener, and a sitter for MissM. They may not sound like major things, but we're pretty set on everything else.

The butcher I used to go to is still at Stillorgan, my chiro is working reduced hour, but still working; the fruit shop still sells the delicious strawberries I remembered from 5 years ago; my favorite fashion shops are still open as are a few of the restaurants we enjoyed. The Asian supermarket has expanded the size of it's shop and is also offering online orders for home delivery!

Today I explored the next shopping district and found a hairdresser - not sure why I didn't phone a friend, but I spied the salon a week ago when we went for a walk and liked the look of it. I've even found a stunning florist with the most unusual flowers who is happy to sell individual stalks for Ikebana!

Thank goodness my exploration was a success.

It's only a hairdresser but it's one more thing ticked off the FIND list and we're only 3 weeks living here.

Think they only thing we need is a GP, but I'm working on that.

With friendship

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