I’ve been thinking a lot recently about life, or to be more precise, about the many amazing opportunities we have had since we decided to become Christians and get involved with mission. For the past twenty two years we have (or to be fair, Chris has) flitted around the globe, met no end of interesting people, tried some really strange food – pickled sheep’s testicles anyone? And, generally had a ball. And, while all this is true, it hasn’t been a breeze. Far from it. Moving to another country, whether it be for a couple of months or several years, is hard. It’s especially hard if you move to a country that does not share your mother tongue. A few days ago, I was asked if I would like to contribute to a web campaign run by HiFx who are collecting tips from expats on ways to make moving abroad easier. My tip was:
Once you have decided which country and which region you want to live, contact local organisations for help. On two occasions we contacted the Pastor of a local Church and on both occasions their support was invaluable. Both Pastors helped us to find cheap accommodation and were instrumental in setting up employment opportunities. Fifteen years later, we remain friends to this day. So, don’t be afraid, reach out to someone in the local community and you may be pleasantly surprised by the response you receive.
If you are interested in reading more tips on living successfully abroad, you should definitely check out their tips page. Reading the tips from other expats made me think about our own experience of moving to Iceland, first in Dec 1999-Feb 2004 and again in Jan 2012. When we first moved to Iceland in Dec 1999, we spent two years getting ready financially, practically and spiritually. We got ready financially by clearing any outstanding debts that we had, car loans etc and by saving every single month until the day we left. We got ready practically by thinking about what household items might need replaced before we left. For example, white goods such as washing machines and fridges are ridiculously expensive in Iceland, so we decided to replace them beforehand. But, as we didn’t want to pay any import duty on them, we had to plan ahead and buy those items at least one year before our leaving date. Receipts will be checked by customs officials, so whatever you do, don’t lose them! This time around, I lost the receipt for a £16 electric kettle, which resulted in our container being retained at the docks in Reykjavík until I found the kettle on-line to prove how much it cost in the UK! We also spend the two years before we left researching every aspect of Icelandic culture and life. We prepared ourselves spiritually by signing up for a three-month mission training school just before we landed in Iceland in Dec 1999.
Looking back, I’m not sure that we could have done any more than we did. In fact, I’m pretty much convinced that there is nothing we could have done to prepare our little family for flying into the worst winter on record for almost one hundred years, waking up to an erupting volcano just two months later in the February and then finding ourselves at the epicenter of an earthquake measuring an impressive, 6.7 on the Richter scale in the June. Believe me when I say, there were more than a few startled sheep that day. It would be fair to say that Iceland and Icelanders have filled our lives with all kinds of surprises and adventures ever since.
I mean, where else can you have your photograph taken inside a gigantic ice cave?
Where else can you pop your head outside on a winter’s night and witness the northern lights in all their glory?
Where else are you faced with the most exquisite land and seascapes at every turn?
Where else can you get a photograph of yourself and a cardboard cutout of President Obama?
Is it all worth it? You bet it is…
This post was written in partnership with HiFX. Revenue from the post was donated to charity