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5 surprising problems with living overseas (& how to deal with them)

This summer we will have been in our home in Sussex for two and a half years and for this family that’s quite a big deal. In the four years of married life before that, we’d managed five houses in four countries staying in each place for between a few weeks and a couple of years. Constantly moving around is stimulating and exciting, but it also has lots of unwanted side effects many of which I’m only just starting to fully appreciate. If you are one of the many Brits considering moving abroad for a period of time, here are some problems you might encounter and suggestions for how to combat them.

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(1) There might be hidden problems for your pets

The UK has surprisingly few hazards for pets, but once you take them abroad you will start worrying about things you never considered before. Frostbite, heatstroke, processionary caterpillars, poison left out by the locals and (if your dogs are small enough) birds of prey! Vet care in the UK is also exceptionally good and not always matched to the same high standard in other countries. It’s really worth doing some research before you move to learn what you need to watch out for. We found expat forums online were invaluable sources of information that helped us be prepared and make sure your pets insurance allows for travel and living overseas too.

(2) People will buy you bulky gifts that you can’t get in your suitcase

Of course it is always lovely to receive gifts from friends and family and none of us wish to seem ungrateful, but it seems that unless they have lived abroad themselves, most people won’t give much consideration to how the things they give you in the UK will make their onward journey. When we lived overseas, one Christmas we received several very solid hardback recipe books (actually more “volumes” than “books”) as well as a bottle of gin and a large china bowl. If you want to dodge having the actual conversation about bulky presents, we found that the next best solution was to travel light, buy expanding bags and always travel with luggage scales so you can pack right up to the maximum weight without worrying about paying extra at the airport.

(3) Your credit rating can be damaged

You might think that your credit rating could only be damaged if you do something “wrong” with your borrowing, but by moving around, having an address abroad, removing yourself from the electoral roll or simply not having any form of unsecured debt you can be seen as a risk to lenders. The advice for forces personnel was always to register to vote at a UK address in order to keep yourself in the system and if possible to tell your bank to keep your home address as the official one on their system and just use your overseas address for correspondence. It’s also sensible to check your credit report ( you can do this via CreditExpert: credit check) to make sure it’s up to date and there are no errors on file.

(4) It’s not just British food you’ll miss

Everyone expects that by living abroad you’ll miss the foods from your home country, but the flip side is that you’ll end up developing a taste for another countries delicacies which you’ll then miss in addition to British cuisine when you move on to another location. Fortunately the Internet is your saviour, not only are there lots of online shops dedicated to selling food from other countries, but if all else fails you can make them yourselves. I really miss Boston Cream donuts from Tim Hortons in Canada, but some cunning person has worked out how to reproduce them in your own kitchen!

(5) You could lose your no claims bonus

The no claims you build up for car insurance in one country might not necessarily transfer to the next one you move to, which can be an expensive and frustrating mistake. We always did quite a lot of research talking to other expats before we took a policy out and only tripped up once. Again the best advice is to use forums online, ask insurance companies before you buy and take out policies with companies that are part of larger international firms.

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A game-changer…

Yesterday was a big day for our family. Anyone who has any involvement in the military will know that every two years your life is suspended whilst you wait with baited breath for news of your spouse’s posting. Months before you will have sat down together and completed a wish list of jobs and locations and then between times tried desperately hard not to waste energy thinking of the consequences of each and every one of those possible options.

It doesn’t always make for the happiest of family lives and so two years ago we made a decision to try and create some stability out of this chaos, by moving into our own home. I have written before about how that meant choosing a life where we live “apart together” and the compromises this has meant. This time around the news would mean one of three things. A new weekly commute of equal distance, a new weekly commute that involved a flight or just possibly a daily commute.

Last night as we waited for news I realised I was completely mentally unprepared to hear the option that involved a weekly flight and I set about belatedly trying to prepare. Yesterday morning I got up and tried to carry on through our morning routine without obsessively checking the phone every few minutes, but then finally the news came…

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… Jim’s next job is going to be 18 minutes away from our home.

It’s an absolute game-changer. There is still another year of weekly commutes ahead which will be broken up by an extended period of leave over the summer and Christmas, but when the latest addition to our family arrives, we will only be a few short months away from all living together under one roof.

My dad summed it up nicely this afternoon when he said “So you aren’t going anywhere until at least 2018” which is as damn near stability as we are ever likely to get.

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Awesome banana muffins
Banana muffins

At this time of year, despite the fact the temperatures in Cyprus reach about 19c, our army housing is bitterly cold. We have no central heating and rely on a wood burning stove (which we bought) and three military issued oil filled radiators. We are pretty used to living like this, but it does mean the kitchen and bathroom and always very cold.

Another of the joys of our army house is that we also have a spectacularly inefficient gas oven, which has to pre-heat for at least half an hour to even start to generate any sort of respectable internal heat. The cold kitchen and the inefficient oven actually make pretty good companions, if you time it well, you can have the oven running for most of the afternoon and evening just to cook supper and do some baking and most of the gas that’s burnt warms the room, not the food.

So this afternoon I decided to make some muffins, mostly just to have an excuse to heat the kitchen. I found this recipe, which is fool proof, quick and produces fantastic results. I added chocolate chips and I think walnuts would also work well. If you have half an hour to spare, a hungry husband or a cold kitchen, give them a go.

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On the beach…


Is there anything better than spending a couple of hours of your working day away from the office, out in the fresh air, but still working?

Today my job took me to a beach, to interview the RAF Kite Surfing team who are in Cyprus training.

You could not wish to meet a nicer bunch of guys and gals, happy to chat about their sport and show off the moves they have been learning.

Cyprus is THE place to kite surf and they kept asking if I’d had a go yet. So maybe I might just have to try before the summer is out…

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Breakfast at the Bomb Buoy

A beautiful calm Mediterranean sea at 8am, as we left Episkopi and headed out to the bomb buoy (just visible on the horizon) for the charity breakfast.

The bomb buoy close up, it is used for target practice by aircraft, though not frequently and hopefully someone had checked there was none planned for this morning!

The first boats rafting up.

The chef who brought the kitchen table and a barbecue with him! There were eggs, bacon and sausages.. basically anything that could be stuck in a roll and passed along the boats. He’d removed the seats from his boat and had to sit on an ice box to helm it.

A quick dip in the sea… and a glass of Prosecco to go with our breakfast…

If only raising money for charity was always this much fun… There are more pictures on Flickr

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