E52 regularly reports about the life of expats in Eindhoven. Our columnist Bart Vlokhoven made the reverse route: himself an Eindhovenaar, he moved, together with his family, to Portland, Oregon in the summer of 2016. On a regular basis he keeps us informed of his life as an expat.
Packing suitcases for the whole family prior to a three-week vacation to the Mediterranean always brings a certain tension in my family. Children and wife who continually come to gather more and more “things” that still need to be taken. Suitcases have to open and close time and time again.
In retrospect, that tension completely pales into insignificance, when compared to packing stuff to bring the whole family for a few years to the other side of the world.
“Indeed, maybe I should try it myself“, were the words I closed my last column with. The life of an expat has always fascinated me – and now I’ve landed in Oregon, with ‘spouse and kids’. Portland Oregon, that is. 8,000 km away – or 5,000 miles. On a mission for my work.
ASML was and is still with me with their daily advice and assistance but man… (!) there’s a lot to be done before you’ve well and truly settled in the new environment; before the sandwiches with old cheese can be exchanged for burgers and we should seriously start to watch the kilos. It actually doesn’t end with the termination of the Tros Kompas and purchasing some plug adapters. The house has to be rented, gas water and electricity have to be taken care of, we have to unsubscribe from 040, mail has to be forwarded, the car sold, we have to fill Marktplaats, up-and-down to the dump, fill out forms, get applications for visas, arrange tax things and banking, fill out forms, make the job transfer official, denounce sports and work clubs, say goodbye to family and friends, hand over the guinea pigs, cancel schools, arrange flight tickets (one way), again a farewell drink with the same friends. Now for the last time and for real. Searching new schools, settle and fill in all the forms you can think of in 97229. Internationalise the driving licenses. Even fill more forms. Now I think of it, insane that after dozens of forms still I still don’t know my passport or social security number by heart.
The biggest challenge however, is to determine which items should be packed. The kids want to take everything. And by that I mean… everything. Certainly daughters… Teddy bears, picture frames, iPads and colourful makeup sets. Everything is packed and unpacked and packed again anyway.
But I do feel sorry for my girls. On their parents’ wish they have to abandon their friends at school and in the neighbourhood, without knowing what they will get in return. Tears here and there. Not knowing where they are going. Dropped in a classroom at a school without being even remotely fluent in the english language. All alone. Of course, they have done a crash course in English. During the last weeks in the Netherlands, they learned a few words every day. “Oil tanker” for example. My youngest daughter had learned the word one day. “Oil tanker, dad, that means olietanker.” She’s proud all over. But it doesn’t really make me comfortable. I am more concerned about learning words like “Left”, “Right” or “Teacher”. But no, those words hadn’t been taught yet. In the end, my concern proved unfounded. Already in the first weekend, gazing across the Pacific Ocean, we actually saw two Oil Tankers on the horizon. “Look Dad!!”
We had already tried to speak english in the Netherlands, during breakfast for example. But when it took too long for the “can you pass me the cheese, please”, I had already seized the cheese myself. They say it is a matter of a couple of months and all will be ok. I’m curious – but not entirely assured yet. Anyway, the experience and the adventure should compensate for all of this. Time will tell.