After deciding to fulfil a lifetime ambition and move abroad, we began a long journey into the unknown. It was both exciting and scary, but most of all, exciting.
This photograph, taken on one of our house and school-finding weekends before we moved here, symbolizes the start of the journey and the emotion I feel for the way our children put their total trust in us. I am proud of them for how they embraced this challenge, but I also feel responsible for not providing them with an easier childhood.
We arrived as an English family that spoke only one language, and unfortunately it wasn’t German. We also arrived here as immigrants who had sold up and moved here permanently, and we did this with two kids who were ten and thirteen years old. To help us to integrate, learn a second language, and live within our means, we put them into German schools. Some might call us brave. Some might choose words that are less kind!
Bonn – with its international companies, private English-speaking schools and even some small embassies – caters for people like us quite well. But somehow, we seemed different. When we tell people our daughter is in a German gymnasium, they usually respond with ‘oh that’s tough’, and when we tell them she’s in a bilingual German/French class, they respond with ‘oh that’s really tough!’
We moved to a traditional German part of town and developed some close friendships with German people – this has been a real privilege and an important aspect to the overall experience. The people we met – including neighbours, teachers, and other parents – provided amazing levels of support. They helped with many things – homework, finding schools, learning the language, translating letters, finding clubs for sport, music, drama and so on. In other words, they helped us with the basic stuff that most people simply know how to do!
After a couple of years, one of our daughters started at the English-speaking school and we became part of the international community too. I now feel a very close connection with other expats, all here on their own adventures, and some facing similar challenges to us. So now we are part of two wonderful communities, both very different and both very dear to us.
Even though living here has been the most amazing experience, it has also been incredibly difficult. On top of all the challenges of trying to make your way in a foreign country, we have had to deal with issues that sadly people do sometimes encounter, wherever they happen to live. I know it is obvious, but living abroad is not a holiday, at least not all the time!
So here we are, five years later, facing more life-changing decisions. Only this time, it’s not about whether to move abroad for a better way of life. It’s about whether to move abroad back to where we came from, and whether to do it together or separately. The kids might benefit from being in an English-speaking country where they could more easily pursue their education and career ambitions. However, all of us like it here and I am not really sure what England would be like for us now. People change. Towns change. Countries change. Would we still fit in? This decision requires careful consideration…
Do I regret moving here? Not one bit! It is impossible to think of my life without having had this experience. I feel blessed to have shared it with my closest family and to have met fantastic people from all over the world. I now know a wonderful country that I did not know before, and it’s been an honour to share it with family and friends from back home. Whatever we decide, I am sure that both countries will remain an important part of our lives for a long time to come, and I hope that this adventure will benefit all of us and bind us together forever!
© Chris Robinson 2014. All rights reserved.