Friday thought #28 Apartment hunting – what matters and what doesn’t??

When looking to move to a new town, finding somewhere to live is an absolute minefield, especially when you don’t currently live in the place you’re planning to move to. Do you look to live in the city centre? Right in the hustle and bustle but easier to make friends and socialise. Or do you look out of town? Quiet, peaceful, more space and overall more appealing but with the knowledge that you may end up feeling cut off and out of touch. Should you live near work and avoid the commute, or live somewhere more desirable and travel to work? So many things to consider!!

It’s a big step upping sticks and moving somewhere completely new, and add to that a new country and a new language and your life suddenly becomes very complicated. However hunting around, comparing prices and studying maps of the area is a great way of finding your way round a new place. You very quickly get a feel for where you would like to be, what’s too big, what’s too small and far more importantly than what you do want, is to eliminate what you absolutely don’t want.

I’d say this can be the same for many aspects of life, if you can’t decide what you’re looking for or where you would like to be, consider what you’re not looking for and you will immediately reduce your options enormously. When looking at somewhere to live, for example, an estate agent’s website may display 300 potential properties in the city and surrounding area. No-one has time to trawl through all of these but by carefully considering your criteria you can vastly narrow your search, thus making the whole process much less irritating! But the big question is, what are your criteria? Being forced to think about it really makes you realise what is important and what is an unnecessary luxury. How many bedrooms do you really need? How often is the spare bedroom actually used? How desperately do you need a garden? What can you get rid of? How will your cat come and go? By adamantly insisting that you will only consider 3 bedroomed houses, are you missing out on some lovely 2 bedroomed places?

All useful questions, the answers to which are only considered when we’re forced to make a decision. But it’s a very useful exercise whereby you often learn something new about yourself. What do you really need, and what do you not? The answer is rarely what you first expected…

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Friday Thought #1 How sure do you have to be before you up sticks and move abroad?

I’ve decided I’d like to write a pondering thought each week, something that will give us food for thought over the weekend so I think Friday seems the obvious choice! Here’s number one –  enjoy!

Of course moving house is a big deal. It’s time consuming, it’s incredibly stressful and it can be costly. Add to that the travel logistics involved if you’re moving a long distance to another town or city. Throw in to that mix a new country, a new language, a new currency and a completely new culture and you’ve created for yourself a situation that many would describe as their worst nightmare and simply shudder at the thought. Whatever your reason for relocating; whether it’s for a job, a partner or simply on a whim, the whole experience is riddled with unanswerable questions; what will the job be like? Will we like it there? Will we have any friends? Have we made the right decision? No-one can answer these questions for you and the only way of finding out is by going and giving it a try.

Filling in tax returns, registering with a doctor and opening a bank account seem commonplace and mundane, but in a different country and in a language that is not your mother tongue, it can be terrifying. Having lived in France now for almost my whole adult life, I feel fairly comfortable with the French way of life and how things work. But I can’t deny that day to day life would be so much easier if we lived in Britain. From buying standard household essentials to trying to use public transport after 7pm, life in a busy French ski resort is far from straightforward and despite the exotic image of the ‘French Culture’ I can fully understand why so many British expats still rely so much on the UK and the things that are familiar to them. So why do we do it to ourselves? I can only speak for myself at this point, but despite all the annoyances and irritations, the benefits of living here massively outweigh the downsides and our quality of life is superb. After a while you even start to find it almost endearing that the local bakeries close for lunch or that the waiting list at the opticians is over a year long!

So how hard is it to move somewhere new and unknown? The truth is it can very tough and the initial few months can raise a lot of questions as to whether it was the right decision. And how sure should you be to up sticks and move home hook line and sinker? My answer would be that there’s no such thing as no going back. If you go somewhere and give it your best shot and it doesn’t work out, you can always move on, try somewhere else, or return to where you came from. If circumstances allow it, you have to try. I will never forget a quote from Mark Twain that I read as a child and still remember to this day: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the things you did do”.

The reason I’m thinking about this is that I won’t stay here forever. At some point a small ski town will inevitably run its course and it will be time to move on. Where to, who knows? But there are a huge number of things to consider and it may well involve starting completely afresh, even learning another new language. At first this thought filled me with dread, but the more I’ve thought about it the more it excites me. I think you have to put yourself out there sometimes. Throwing yourself in to new things, even if they are scary, is what keeps life interesting.

So it could be dreadful, it could be the best decision you’ve ever made or it could be somewhere in between, but to quote a strong cliché, if you don’t go you’ll never know. No-one can tell you what it will be like and no-one can make that decision for you. The only way to find out is to try. What’s the worst that can happen?

If you don't go you'll never know...
If you don’t go you’ll never know…