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Is moving overseas the right choice for your family?

By: Tricia Cliff

In Expat Living’s regular Parting Shot series, one reader explores the question whether moving overseas is right for a family.

Every expat parent grapples with the decision about moving overseas with their family
Every expat parents grapples with the decision to move their family

PARTING SHOT: My Hong Kong love affair

PARTING SHOT: Getting to the heart of the matter

“Ken* glanced furtively over his shoulder as he coaxed us into the corner. After checking to make sure there were no eavesdroppers, our friend said with an ominous tone, “My father moved our family overseas when I was a junior in High School. To this day, I don’t know what he was thinking. He ruined my life. It was terrible – the worst two years I’ve ever had. I was forced to leave my friends, my school, my hometown. It was …” – he shook his head in disgust – “it was selfish, and I think you guys need to hear that.”

I swallowed, looking up at my husband, unsure how to respond. I felt like I had just been dragged into the principal’s office for a crime I’d not yet committed. “Well, umm, thanks for sharing, Ken. I’m sure the boys are going to have their moments, but right now, they seem OK with the idea of moving overseas,” I said in the most chipper voice I could muster. My husband shrugged. “Not a lot we can do about it at this point, Ken. My job here is filled for next year, our house has sold, and we’ve signed a two-year contract. Thanks for your concern, though. The boys do have each other, and they’re pretty close. They’re actually excited. I’m sure they’ll be fine.”

Ken looked a bit deflated as we turned away quickly before he could continue. While this was one of the more extreme reactions, we did have our fair share of detractors – as if voluntarily moving from the US to Hong Kong was the Very Worst Thing we could possibly do to our family. But pack up we did, two suitcases each, and flew halfway around the world to a life that none of us could have really imagined at the time.

That was 2012, and our sons were all in High School then – grades 9, 10 and 11. Since then, all three have graduated from the international school where my husband and I both work. And, while it would be a lie to say that everything has been easy, we certainly have no regrets. (Our daughter, already in college when we moved, was the least enthusiastic, but I think even she has forgiven us, as she has had plenty of opportunities to join in our adventures.)

Over Christmas holiday last year, we asked each of our sons if they were glad we had moved. “If we had to do it again,” we asked, “and you had a choice, would you do it over?” There was no hesitation. All three emphatically replied, “Yes!” In fact, two of our sons are already thinking about working internationally after college.

Is moving overseas right for every family? I doubt it. But it certainly wasn’t a bad move for us. The benefits and life experiences have far outweighed any negatives.

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This article first appeared in the June/July edition of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue.

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