Relocating overseas with a baby

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Staged image with family and boxes. Nobody looks happy.
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Moving house, whether it is to a neighbouring suburb or across town, is a pretty big undertaking for anybody. When you have a little one whose idea of helping with the packing is to empty every box they can get their hands onto, another level of challenge is added.

But when you’re relocating to another country 15,000km away there is a lot more than packing boxes and moving vans to worry about.

We spoke to Chloe about what it’s like relocating overseas with a young family.

The move

Chloe, her husband and their 10 month old daughter decided to relocate from London to Perth.

“We decided to move to Perth for work reasons,” said Chloe.

“It is going to be very beneficial to my husband’s career moving to Perth for two years rather than staying in London.

“So at the moment the relocation is a temporary thing.”

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Even though Chloe and her husband moved to Perth from London they are both American citizens and wanted to make sure their daughter was too.

“Our daughter was born in London but we wanted to make sure she was an American citizen also,” said Chloe.

“So we went to the embassy when she was quite young and filled out all of the paper work to make sure she was an American citizen and eligible to receive her American passport.

“We did that right off the bat because we knew we would be travelling in Europe before we decided to move to Perth.”

Although Chloe and her family had only lived in London for a year before moving to Perth she said it was still quite emotional and stressful saying goodbye to the friends they had made.

“You make promises to keep in touch, but everyone’s life goes on,” she said.

“I was afraid we’d be forgotten.

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“All of our family is in the United States, so we weren’t seeing them often while in London, but still, London was a lot closer to the US than Perth, so they were very upset about us coming here, which in turn made it harder for us emotionally.

“We felt, and still feel, a lot of guilt about taking our daughter away from her grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, and of course we miss our parents and sisters/brothers terribly.

Logistical realities

Parents with baby on couch.

Flying from London to Perth is no quick trip usually taking over 20 hours to complete the journey. But that is the blink of an eye compared to how long it takes your furniture and possessions. This type of freight can take a month to arrive which can leave you with a considerable amount of time to just ‘make-do’. 

One of the hardest parts about relocating overseas is the month lag time it takes for your furniture and things to arrive,” said Chloe.

“We had one week’s accommodation in an apartment hotel already arranged for our arrival.

“We shipped our furniture and belongings from London, so we needed to find a short term, furnished rental until our belongings arrived.

“We didn’t think this would be a challenge, but in Perth it definitely was.

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“The amount of short term, less than 3 months, furnished rentals available are very small- in fact we could only find one leasing agent who specialised in this type of property.

“We didn’t have a car that first week, and we didn’t know our way around Perth or the transit system, so getting to appointments to see properties was difficult.”

Because Chloe and her family only had their pre-arranged accommodation for one week they were in a serious rush to get into a rental.

However, their leasing agent wasn’t fully aware of their urgency.

The week of accommodation soon came and went leaving Chloe no option but to move to a hotel.

“We were living out of our suitcases with no kitchen, no way to prepare food for our child- it was quite challenging,” she said.

“Anything that we couldn’t fit into our luggage obviously had to be freighted over; this included our daughter’s toys and cot.

“We made the mistake of buying a travel style cot to see us through until our proper cot arrived but my daughter didn’t sleep well in it at all. We wished we had just bought a good cot in the beginning but by this stage it seemed too late as our old one would be arriving quite soon.

“If we did it again we would probably sell the cot before leaving and buy a new one when we arrive so our daughter was comfortable and sleeping well right from day one.”

Through the unsettled and sometimes sleepless nights Chloe managed to find some solace in the local toy library.

“The toy library was great we could borrow and play with a whole range of different toys which my daughter just loved,” said Chloe.

Fitting in

As Chloe and her family relocated to Perth in May they found the weather quite similar to what they left behind in London.

“Apart from not having her cot my daughter transitioned into Australia really well,” said Chloe.

“I don’t think she felt the effects of jet lag like we did but I did find having a black out curtain in her room made it much easier to establish her sleep routine.

“My daughter also had to get used to being in a car and using a car seat as that is something she hasn’t done much of before now but it is not something that seems to phase her.

“We used to walk everywhere so learning to drive on the other side of the car and road was also a big adjustment for my husband and me.”

Before their relocation Chloe said they didn’t know anybody or have any family in their new city which made it a slightly more daunting prospect.

“It was just the three of us when we moved here but we found that my husband’s co-workers were extremely helpful and friendly,” she said.

“They were more than willing to give us some basic information on child health nurses and free activities that are on around the city like the Library Rhyme Times and different parks.

“I got a bunch of great stuff that helped us to feel our way around our new city.

“I also joined a playgroup here in Perth, they aren’t a big thing in London but I have learnt that they are quite big over here. Through playgroup I have met a lot of different parents.”

Doctors and NursesDoctor with baby

Every country has a slightly different system when it comes to health care services and it can take some time to get used to a new system.

“The health care and Medicare system here in Australia is pretty different to what I’m used to back in the States or even London. It is taking me a while to familiarise myself with it but it doesn’t take too long to get used to,” said Chloe.

Countries also have different vaccination schedules and requirements for school entry. In some cases vaccines need to be up to date before travelling (e.g. if moving to or from a country which has yellow fever, vaccinations must be administered before travelling), however in other cases it is possible to catch up on immunisations after moving to a new country. As Chloe’s daughter was only 10 months old one of her first priorities was to find a health nurse to carry out her scheduled check-ups and vaccinations.

“As far as finding health professionals and health services everything went pretty smoothly,” she said.

“I think because there are so many people moving to move Perth from overseas or interstate the government has pretty good systems in place.

“We went to the central immunisation clinic in West Perth and they were really helpful.

“They wrote out a whole schedule for us to follow to make sure our daughter got back on track as soon as possible.”

Planning for the future

Despite the young age of her daughter and the temporary nature of their stay in Perth Chloe is taking no chances when it comes to her daughter’s education.

“Because we are only planning on being in Perth for around two years I am hoping getting into schools is not going to be an issue,” she said.

“But one thing we do have to take into consideration is the fact that many private schools, even preschools, can have long wait lists.

“Just in case we are here longer than two years we have to put her down on some wait lists, just to be sure.

“We are also doing the same thing in London, as that is where we plan on moving back to.”

International adventure

Uprooting the family and moving to a brand new city is undoubtedly a huge undertaking. It takes plenty of planning and organising but there are definitely many benefits for both parents and children.

Having a child in a new city provides plenty of socialising opportunities through playgroups and mothers’ groups. Exposing your children to new cultures, customs and cuisines offers them a rare and fascinating perspective of life and the world in which they live.

There are also additional challenges which come with relocating overseas, family and all. But with a bit of extra planning to ensure arrangements are made for arrival in a new city and immunisations are up to date, relocating the family overseas is not only possible, it opens up a world of opportunities.

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Date Created: May 24, 2013