What and when to say...

Relocating to Australia is a big thing. Making the decision to move to the other side of the world, particularly for those living in Europe, is huge; especially if you’re leaving behind close family and friends in your country of origin.

The decision to move takes you through a whole range of emotions; and as if making your minds up wasn’t hard enough you then need to break the news that you’re leaving.

How was it for you?

Something we have always been very grateful for is the support of our family and friends regarding our move to Australia. There hasn’t been a single person in our lives in the UK or South Africa who has ever questioned what we’re doing or tried to suggest that it might not be the best thing. We have family and friends who tell us they miss us and wish we were closer but they always back it up with phrases like, “We want you to be happy…”, “You have to do what’s best for you and the kids.”

We feel very lucky not to have had negative energy or pressure surrounding our departure from the UK; all we had were willing helpers to look after the kids, load up the bags and boxes, and share a few beers.

When to break the news

Our final countdown to leaving the UK might wasn’t very typical. We had a failed attempt at relocating to Australia four years before it actually happened so we’d already been through the big announcements and leaving parties once, only to find ourselves back in London a year later!

Because we didn’t settle in Sydney the first time due to a delay with our visas, the second time we planned to leave we kept things low key. We had also been talking about moving to Australia for so many years that family and friends were prepared.

We broke the news of our final departure date about a year before we left as a family. At this point we only told family and very close friends about our plans. We specifically didn’t tell work colleagues because we didn’t want to be passed by regarding career opportunities or increases in pay.

What to say and how to say it

Over the years we have learnt that you should be careful what you say when departing from a country, city or job. It’s common sense not to talk down the place that you’re leaving. In every job exit speech I’ve given I’ve always ended up saying something along the lines of: “It’s been great, I’m looking forward to the next chapter but who knows, you may see me back here one day…never say never!” It’s good to leave the door slightly open.

In terms of the place (country or city) you’re leaving there’s no point talking about all the things you’re glad to be leaving behind. It doesn’t make anyone feel good and if things don’t work out wherever you’re going, you will look pretty silly back where you started getting on with the things that weren’t so great.

We’ve said it before, but we didn’t leave London because we hated it and couldn’t bear living there. We love London and know we could be happy there; we also love Sydney and appreciate the different opportunities it has given our family.

In terms of what to say, we’d recommend remaining as neutral as possible and talking about the things you’re hoping to achieve and experience in your new home rather than the things you can’t wait to see the back of in your current location.

A two year trial eases the pressure

Another strategy that we adopted, especially as we had already departed and returned to the UK once in our adult lives, was announcing that we were moving to Australia on a two year trial. It made goodbyes MUCH easier.

In the back of our minds we hoped Sydney would be forever but (here’s that phrase again) we knew you should never say never. If something happened that sent us rushing back to London then so be it.

When saying goodbye to family in particular we said we’d give Sydney a try for two years and see how we were coping; if we liked it and were coping with the distance from family and friends then we’d stay a little longer, if we didn’t we’d be back. We still try and talk about our lives in stages; we’ve passed the two year mark and family and friends obviously realise we’re staying but we haven’t announced, “We’ve done two years, now we’re staying forever!” Instead we’ve said that two years was good so we’re seeing how it goes for a while longer.

You may think we’re just avoiding the inevitable by never actually saying that we plan to stay in Sydney long term but we know from experience that as a tactic to ease conversations with family and friends it’s kinder on everyone to talk in the short term.

Life is full of surprises so what might feel like a long term plan or situation one day can change; planning in smaller chunks and phases, for us, eases the pressure.

How did you plan your departure? What and when did you tell family and friends about your plans? Have you always felt supported in your move? We’d love you to share your tips and experiences so that we can help others working through this tricky stage of their family relocation.

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