Keeping It In The Family
Why moving abroad can be exciting but can also lead to dilemmas over family and friends…
There are quite a few unexpected aspects to starting a new life overseas – many of which we’ve examined in earlier blogs.
It takes a while to adjust to a new culture, to the climate, a different diet and a new daily routine; it can be quite a while before life seems “normal”. Indeed, we’d recommend giving it at least six months to a year before you make any more serious decisions.
A Friendly request
But something you perhaps you won’t anticipate is managing friends and relatives and their requests to visit – preferably at a time of year which coincides with their summer holiday.
Of course, to begin with, it’s great fun listening to them enthuse about your new home or your favourite haunts or about how lucky or brave you’ve been. It can even be an antidote to any doubts you may have been having about making the move abroad in the first place.
After all it’s easy to be a host when your guests are fascinated by your new life and seem to actively enjoy being part of it for a little while.
But … and there is a but … if you’re not careful, you can find yourself spending little of the summer with time to yourself; as one guest departs, it can seem only a matter of days before you’re back at the airport collecting the next and the whole cycle of sight-seeing and eating out starts again.
Who Is On Holiday?
When you move abroad, it’s inevitable that you will miss family and friends and it’s natural that you will want to spend time with them. However, a time will probably come when you find yourself looking forward to a fallow fortnight when you can please yourself and not whoever happens to be staying at the time.
A summer of relentless entertaining can also have a telling impact on your bank balance as, although guests may insist on paying their way, it might not cover all your costs, particularly as you find yourself far more socially active than you would be if left to your own devices. Your guests may also not realise that, although everything seems cheap when they convert it back to Sterling, you base your own spending power on the local currency which might not be all that favourable.
Of course, you won’t want to say so; it’s tricky to discuss a guest’s impact on your finances without appearing a little mercenary. But, nonetheless, it’s hard to watch your bank balance shrink and feel as though there’s little you can do about it without appearing rude.
The important thing to remember is that, although your guests may be on holiday, you’re not. This is your life now and, unless you’re the Duracell bunny or were born to the hospitality industry, you’ll need time for “normal”, particularly if you’re not yet retired.
Strangers In The House
The other thing you may need to be firm about is just who you extend a welcome to every year. Family and close friends are a given of course but what about a work colleague you barely socialised with in your former life or, worse, a friend of a friend you met in a pub once and added on Facebook on a whim? What if you were close to someone in the UK but they want to bring a new boyfriend you’ve never met? How about your best friend’s grown-up kids, who want a cheap break away from mum and dad? Do you want to be responsible for the aftermath of their late-night shenanigans in the local bars or their dalliance with the local Lotharios?
If you need to qualify a request, it’s not a bad idea to ask yourself if you would have been in the same situation if you still lived in the UK. In other words, is the request based purely on your location or on a genuine desire to see you? If it’s the former, then you probably have every right to politely refuse.
Turning them down diplomatically can be tricky, of course. You may even be tempted to resort to a few fibs – but try not to feel guilty. After all, if you suspect you would be turned away if you arrived on their doorstep with a suitcase, these may be “friends” you can manage without anyway.
But perhaps the best solution is to begin each year with a timetable. Allocate weeks when you’d be happy to welcome guests and allow adequate “me” time in between. If you’re on a tight budget, planning the year in advance also allows you to manage your finances accordingly which means you perhaps won’t look quite so sickly when your latest guests suggest another night at that lovely (but ridiculously expensive) seafood restaurant they so enjoyed last year.
But once you have your list of dates, email or message your family and friends and let them know which weeks you have available and invite them to stake their claim on a first-come first-served basis.
It’s fair to all, you’re making it clear they’re still very welcome – but it’s on your terms and to your estimated budget. Anyone who has lived overseas would probably tell you one of its biggest attractions is that it can be infuriatingly, wonderfully, frustratingly and intriguingly unpredictable. But, sometimes, there’s a lot to be said for a little control-freakery too.
If you would like more information or advice about relocating to Portugal, Spain, Turkey or Greece, please don’t hesitate to get in touch and we’ll do all we can to assist you.