This is a preview to the Foreword from the book Should I Stay or Should I Go? by Paul Allen.
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Twenty-three years ago my boyfriend took a temporary job in Dubai. It was “just for six months,” and so I never gave a second’s thought to the idea that one day I might move abroad. Two years later we decided to get married. And though his six-month contract seemed still to be running, I presumed he’d simply come home, back to England. After all, there was no way he intended me to move to Dubai, was there?
I can see myself now, twenty-five years old, looking out the window of my flat at the way the sunlight filtered through the boughs of the chestnut tree opposite and blinking back the tears.
“If you don’t come you will regret it for the rest of your life,” he said. “Come on, Jo, it’s only for six more months.”
And so I gave in and agreed to go. I closed down my computer training business, rented out my flat, married him, had a party in a marquee on the lawn, and left England.
Twenty-one years on and we no longer live in Dubai. We have been to Oman, Norway, a seven year stint at repatriation, and are now in Holland. Our eldest son starts university soon. I guess you could say ‘we made it.’
Back then the questions ‘should I stay or should I go?’ whirred around my head so fast and so hard it hurt. I had no one to ask for advice. And even if I had I didn’t know what I needed to ask. There was no Internet and no Web to surf for clues. No online forums. I was to be the first ‘wife’ in his office, so there was no help on offer from the HR department. No one offered me a book to read. I had no idea that culture shock existed, that I would be blind-sided by the loss of my career, and with it my identity. I did not know what networking was. Worse, I didn’t play tennis or sunbathe.
It was a hard first few months. No, let me come clean. I struggled for two years. I had this anger inside me that I could neither explain nor justify. I was living in paradise, yet I was unhappy. If only there had been a book like Paul’s that could have told me what questions I needed to ask, what I needed to consider. Things like work, culture, health, integration, quality of living, long-distance relationships. If I had read this book then I could have managed my expectations.
Back then, there was no question. I had no choice. My husband-to-be just told me I would regret it if I didn’t join him. He was right. Now that I have been on the move for a couple of decades I can claim to have been there, done that, got the T-shirt and written the books.
If you are in the happy position of having a choice, of being able to decide where and whether to go, then this book will help you make the best move you can. By taking each expat ‘hotspot’ and examining it closely you can see which country is the best fit for you. Unlike me, you don’t have to pack a bag, hop on a plane, cross your fingers and hope for the best. You can make an educated decision. One that takes into account the whole family. If you have a child with special needs, or an allergy for example, how might that impact your move? If you want your children to grow up in a safe and free environment, or if healthcare in your own language is important, this book will help you decide. Whether you are starting out on married life, as I was, childfree and unfettered, or planning to move in middle-age or for retirement, this will give you sound advice.
Paul Allen is a journalist, as I too became during my many reincarnations overseas, and that means he has done his research thoroughly. You won’t find this book full of half-baked ideas. Instead it is packed with the results of surveys, all backed up with case studies as well as stories from Paul’s own life. For he practises what he preaches and lives with his family in northern Spain.
All our moves throughout our married life have come as the result of a company relocation with my husband’s job, and we have had a poor chance of being able to reject a posting. However, if I had had this book back then, it would have made me aware of what I had to expect. Forewarned is forearmed as they say. In a few years, when we approach retirement, it will be up to us to choose where to go next. Will I refer to this book then? You bet!
Jo Parfitt is the author of five books on living and working overseas. As well as a writer, she is a publisher and speaker who specialises in helping other expats to get into print. Visit her website www.joparfitt.com and pick up a copy of 50 Steps to a Book in Your Hand.