The year is 2007, and the time of the Big Move is drawing near. For three years, we've been planning to move to the Netherlands, and it is finally starting to happen.
We took a trip to Rome in the spring of 2003. Alex had just turned two; Fiona was still in the planning stages. Our journey to Rome took us through Stansted Airport, where we had a couple of hours to kill. It was a nice day, so we went outside to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine. We were joined by a few other kids and their parents, and we started chatting. We ended up speaking mostly English, this was mostly because it was the main language we all had in common. I don't remember what the nationalities of the other couples were, but I think that one of them was Spanish + Italian, and the other was Italian + Danish. Their children were all merrily running around and jabbering away in a variety of different languages at age two.
Abi is grew up in California, I grew up in the Netherlands, and we both have a very international outlook. But talking to those other parents, we felt painfully aware that staying in Scotland was not the best way to pass our multi-cultural perspectives and love of languages on to our children. So we decided to move, and to live in a country without English as its primary language.
Because we're very cautious by nature, this wasn't an overnight decision. For a long time, we just talked about where the best place to settle would be. We love Rome, but Italy didn't feel right. Initially we also dismissed the Netherlands, because I thought it would be unfair to give me the advantage of living somewhere I already spoke the language. Then we thought about Quebec, because it would give us a nice balance between English and French. It wasn't until after Fiona was born in 2004 that we cut the knot and made a decision: yes, it would be the Netherlands. And the year would be 2007.
Why wait three years, though? Well, did I mention that we're very cautious people? Although we knew intellectually that this was what we wanted to do, the idea of moving straight away scared the crap out of us. We were both at transition points in our careers. I had just started contracting, and Abi was just moving into test management. We both felt that we would prefer to pump up our skills for a while before attempting a big move. We recognized that we had to set an exact date, though, because otherwise we might just keep postponing it because we didn't feel "ready".
That's why we chose 2007. It was far enough in the future not to be too scary, but not so far away that it was a pipe dream. Alex would be six, Fiona would be three; almost exactly the ages that Scott and I were when we moved to NL. We were both speaking Dutch within a matter of months, so we knew that Alex and Fiona wouldn't have any great problems with the language. In three years, Abi could take Dutch lessons, and bring herself up to a level that would allow her to hit the ground running in a Dutch company. We both had specific professional goals that we wanted to achieve that would maximize our value to employers. It would also give us time to do some work on our house (new kitchen, bathroom) to increase its value before selling.
So here we are. Abi has been taking Dutch classes at Edinburgh University for the last two years. In 2006, we took a couple of scouting trips to the Netherlands to look at some different cities and to get a feel for the place. Alex finished his first year of school at the end of June. Yesterday evening we had a decorator round to give us a quote for painting our hallway and living room in preparation for putting the house up for sale. And at the weekend, Abi sent off her first job application.
If we could choose all our dates, this is what our ideal plan would look like for the next few months:
- Mid April: we come back from holiday, and Abi starts sending out CVs and job applications
- Mid/end April: paint & tidy up the house
- Begin May: house goes up for sale
- Mid May: Abi starts getting job interviews
- Begin June: Abi gets offered a job, to start on 2nd July
- Begin June: House gets sold
- Rest of June: Various trips to NL to look for houses and schools
- End June: We find a house in NL
- Begin July: Abi moves to NL, stays in a hotel or short-term rented accomodation
- Begin July: I stay in Edinburgh with the kids, tying up loose ends
- Mid July: The kids and I move to NL, to stay in a hotel or short-term rented accomodation
- End July: Arrange school for Alex, and find childcare for Fiona
- Begin August: Move out of house in Edinburgh, and into new house in NL.
- Mid August: Alex starts school.
As Abi is fond of saying, it's a plan for Angels. It wouldn't take much to blow all of this careful preparation out of the water. But we're ready for that. Abi has handed in her notice at the Bank, and won't be going back to work after we get back from holiday at Easter. This will give her the opportunity to be flexible with anything the comes up. And in the absence of any major emergencies, we still plan to go ahead with buying a house, and moving in July. It's a bold move, but we think we're ready for it.
(Oh, and as for me? I had the foresight to find an excellent company in Edinburgh that will let me work...from the Netherlands. They rock.)