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A Paperless World

I applaud the move to a paperless world (except where novels are concerned and much as I love my e-reader, there’s nothing quite like holding a book in my hands) but …

We’re at the part of the process of becoming expats where we have to notify everyone of our change of address and/or cancellation of whatever service we previously bought from them.  Having enjoyed the benefits of being able to conduct my own transactions and manage my accounts on line, I’m now paying the price as I try to make changes remotely too.  Nearly everyone wants confirmation in writing, fair enough it is no doubt as they claim ‘for my additional security’ but boy oh boy, I’ve spent hours trying to find exactly who to write to and where and running off letters with all the correct references and account numbers on.  And these are just the accounts, services and utilities.  Direct mail is a whole other category.

Despite starting months ago and dutifully notifying Saga (I know, I know, I’m way too young but their stuff automatically kicks in on your 50th birthday), Pia Jewellery, Charles Tyrwhitt shirts and a zillion a.n.others I still get mail from 90% of them.  Once you’re on their database there is no place to hide.

Which leads me to my next gripe.  Health Insurance/Medical Cover.  Having been cossetted by the National Health Service in the UK, not perfect I know but has always done me very well, I now find myself needing private health cover as an expat. Trying to compare the Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum levels (or whatever equivalent title they’re given) with USA cover or without, with evacuation or without, with or without dental …  I don’t even know how to begin to decide.  But that’s not my real issue.  My real issue is with the brilliance on the part of all these environmentally friendly companies who no longer need to send a brochure.  Simply email the pdf and some poor sucker at the other end has to either print the whole thing out or spend half a day sifting through the pages that are actually needed in order to make an informed decision.

I’m exhausted and my head’s spinning.  Maybe it will all become clearer after a glass of wine?  Will I have to declare it on my medical application form?

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TET Fever

Well, I’m not sure about the fever bit but from this distance the whole Vietnamese new lunar year is very confusing.  I guess it’s one of those where you really have to be there to understand it.

I thought it was one week long celebration with festivities and a carnival like atmosphere everywhere.  Reading Twitter posts and chatting virtually to a couple of friends out there – both expat and local – it seems that actually everything shuts down and the best way to enjoy Tet is to go away!

Next year I guess I’ll ‘get’ it a bit better.  Or will I?!

To Let

It’s official, the house is now available to let and I’m busy getting all those odd jobs done that we never quite got around to.  Like putting draught excluder on the windows and doors that previously allowed the gales to blow right in as we shivered inside muttering: We should put draught excluder on that window/door.  Daft isn’t it – £6.95 in B & Q and we’re snug as bugs.  The only thing is we do get a bit of a shock when we open a door and realise it is actually still blowing that gale outside, we just didn’t notice it!!!

Enough about draught excluder.  The To Let board has just gone up outside the house and I feel quite strange looking out at it – there’s something slightly vulnerable about being inside a house that’s advertising the fact that you’re going.  Anyway, we’ve had an enquiry from a family relocating from Austria which I’d love – there’s something really appealing about a family having an adventure here as ex pats while we’re in Vietnam doing the same.  However, sentimental old fool that I am – a rental’s a rental and I won’t insist that the house goes to ‘someone that I like’ 🙂

Christmas was wonderful and we had plenty of time with all the kids which was great – they seem to think that they must spend lots of time with us because we’ll soon be gone.  They do know we’re back on 16th June don’t they?!  Ah well, I’m not complaining, it’s been ace.

This week has been remarkably stressful because I ‘phoned Singapore Airlines, just to confirm the arrangements for Sally and was told that they don’t take pets from the UK.  Panic, panic, deep breaths, scream.  Not to be deterred I emailed them and asked the same thing, only to have a lovely man call me to say yes it can all be done, to explain the process and get her booked in.  Maybe I’m old fashioned but I always like to speak to someone first and really dislike/distrust online booking forms.  This incident reminds me though how important it is to do both – but make sure you’re dealing with someone who does actually know/have the ability to help you.  Avoid call centres at all cost!!!

In addition to clearing the house I’m busily arranging to meet family and friends to say goodbye – only 6 weeks really to do it all and we’re going to Vejer for a week in the middle of it all so plenty to keep me busy.

Paperwork

Well, we’re on Plan C regarding furniture shipment versus storage but at least we’re making progress (baby steps are still progress right?!).

There’s something so intimidating about official documents to my mind.  We’ve just got back our ACRO certificates of good conduct from the Police and, despite both being certified as 100% in the clear, we look like criminals on the photos and the document looks exactly as it would if we had convictions as long as your arm.  Couldn’t they put ‘good’ certificates on different coloured paper or would that be discrimination?  Okay, just a joke 🙂

We’ve got our visas sorted and were just about to send a load of paperwork off to be officially translated by an approved translation agency when it appears that can all be done in Vietnam provided it’s been notarised here, certified by the F&C Office and the Vietnamese Embassy in London.  Seriously?  I can’t help thinking that my husband’s firm is ‘doing things by the book’ but have a sneaky suspicion that 80% of people doing the same move wouldn’t be ticking quite so many of the boxes!  Ah well, we’re keeping a whole army of officials in business I guess!

The dog next – I need to sit my dog courier (okay, stepson!) down tomorrow and explain exactly what he’ll be required to do (as best as I can having never actually done it myself), including possibly needing some jabs himself.  Then I’m ready to get his visa and both their flights booked.

Interestingly, we were due to book our flights last week end and didn’t get around to it.  Not a great sign eh!!  I think  actually booking flights feels a little bit too real but we’re going to need to at some point given that everything else will be booked and sorted.  It would be  a shame to miss all the fun by not having plane tickets!

Procrastinating

Blimey, who’d have thought it was so complicated trying to decide what to do with various items of furniture and personal possessions?  First of all we decided (perhaps being a little cowardly) that we’d just ship most of it out to Hanoi and decide what to bring back when the time comes.  Then, after seeking advice from friends and people in the know, we decided to store stuff that we thought we’d definitely want back here at the end of our Vietnamese adventure.  And now …?

Well, the cost of storing it seems ridiculous and most of it is far too good to just give away but the second hand value of household things and furniture is almost zero and I can’t really be bothered trying to sell items bit by bit – surely life’s too short to go down that road?    I’m exhausted just thinking about it – mind you I am full of a cold and dosed up with Beechams Cold and Flu Remedy so that probably isn’t helping on the ‘clarity of thought’ front!

Think we’re going to end up shipping it out there and then deciding what to do when the time comes to return home – i.e. procrastinating 🙂

Moving costs and the dog …

Hugely mixed emotions today.  The first quote for transporting Sally door to door from Sale to Hanoi arrived into my Inbox this morning and I need a lie down.  Crikey – even if you say it quickly that’s a lot of money!  Okay, add to my already overstretched To Do List – get more pet transport quotes!!!

On the other hand, and when my heart has stopped doing double quick time, the first of the relocation agents is coming this afternoon to advise/quote on shipping/storing etc.  At least we don’t have to pay this bit of the move (well, the storage I guess is down to us) but still a little nervous based on the dog quote experience!

If anyone living in Hanoi has a dog can you tell me please – are there places to take them to run and play off lead?  Sally’s a lively whippet/lurcher – like a little greyhound so a very fast runner.  I think in the hot weather she’ll be a bit lazier than she is here and she doesn’t like the rain very much so that will keep her indoors a bit too but realistically she is going to need to run.  Here I take her out, off lead (leash to American readers I think?), for 40-60 minutes a day.  She’d need that twice a week I think and a regular long walk on lead the other days.

Phew, I feel like I’ve done 5 rounds with Amir Khan and it’s only 09.30 🙂

One down Eleven to Go

Yippee, we’ve agreed what we’re doing with all the items in one room of the house.  Okay, we haven’t done anything with them yet and I did pick the easiest room – the sitting room.  But, don’t knock it, for a hoarder this is amazing progress with 6 months still to go before we move!

I’ve devised a Ship, Store, Sell checklist; itemised everything in the room and then have a quickfire session where hubby gets to say what happens to each item.  Any that I don’t agree with we discuss before moving onto the next item.  I think this is called teamwork!

I haven’t quite worked out a prize system yet but really feel that something should be on offer to make a painful process a little more enticing! (Prize for me that is, Kevin (did I mention his name before – well, he’s the hubby!) isn’t sentimental about most ‘stuff’ and would happily get rid of 90% of it).

Ship and Store are pretty self explanatory but Sell actually means I need to give some thought to anyone who might want the item among our friends and family.  If not, whether it genuinely is worth selling, if it would better suit www.freecycle.org , the charity shop, local community furniture project, recycling or the dump.

Time for coffee and cake to give me the energy to tackle – the dining room 🙂

Changing Species

I’m considering changing species and registering myself as a dog because the lady who we’re talking to about moving Sally out to Hanoi sounds so lovely I’d rather like her to take care of me too!

More seriously though, of the three relocation agents I contacted last week only one responded promptly, one claims they replied and the other hasn’t even responded to my second attempt to get a dialogue going with them!

The one who claims they replied have now sent me a 5 page form to complete which entails me walking around the house ticking boxes as to how many of each item we’ve got, then specifying items of particular value and putting an insurance valuation price on it all.  Blimey, I’m bored just thinking about it!

On the 14th September someone is coming over from Leeds (from the first company – oh go on Karen, name them.  Crown Relocations) to talk us through the process and establish how best to move the contents of one quite large family home into a 20 foot container and ultimately a house in Hanoi and I’m quite excited.

Whilst on the subject of clearing the house – which I’m sort of talking about today aren’t I – having started to give away clothes to charity (and binning the stuff that I don’t think they’ll want) I’ve just come across clothesbank.co.uk who PAY YOU for reusable clothes, shoes, belts and handbags.  Alright, it’s only 60p per kilo but, they do collect and I’ll need that money to buy my own dog biscuits when the inter species transfer comes through!

Whole new Vocabulary

Well, I’m learning a whole new vocabulary.  Words like ‘relocation agent’, ‘work permit’, ‘DEFRA’, ‘pet taxi’ and ‘non-resident landlord’ are now entering my world.  Some are obvious and easily dealt with where others appear deceptively simple whilst actually being a portal into a whole other world of complications!

Even trying to find out from the Vietnamese Embassy in London which sort of Visa I should apply for and what’s the longest duration I can apply for at a time – i.e. 6 or 12 months perhaps – becomes a little tedious when you realise you’re in an automated reply loop that it’s impossible to break free from.  Will resort to the telephone between the hours stipulated online.

So the news is semi officially announced at hubby’s work – some people know and some don’t yet.  This can be tricky unless you just forget all about it and wait for the other person to raise the subject.

The reaction of family has been interesting – generally incredibly positive and supportive with the occasional touch of petulance that we’re leaving them behind.  Who’d have thought a soon to be 17-year old who’s still at grunting stage conversationally, would have been all that concerned.

I think maybe what we’ll need to manage over the coming months is the perception and expectations around our move, rather perhaps than the reality.  Change is often uncomfortable, particularly for those left behind and I guess doubly so when you’ve had no say in the change that’s taking place.

I’ve started to make lists of things to consider, think about, action over the coming months and this week will begin to fine tune it and try to work out a calendar/schedule that I could put on my home office wall to track progress (or otherwise!).

Starting with a conversation with a relocation agent sounds like quite a good idea – will probably unearth a whole load of other stuff I didn’t even know I didn’t know about!

Right, where’s that number …..?

First post after Hello World!

I’m not completely convinced I’ve done the Hello World post properly because I wrote it a couple of days ago and it’s showing as having been written in May but I guess that doesn’t really matter.

Our dream of moving abroad as ex pats moved a little closer today when my husband did a deal with his firm – still only verbal so it could of course go pear shaped but we’re one step closer.

Over the next few posts I’m going to share my thoughts, history, expectations, concerns and excitement – highs and lows – as the experience of moving to Vietnam next year slowly comes to fruition.

I’ll also talk about my expectations regarding the experience of being an ex pat wife and again, a bit of background into my own personal history in this regard.

Before I go, just let me say, we are both 50 somethings who are ready to have an adventure before we’re too old/tired.  Or we’re in the midst of a mid-life crisis – depending how you look at it!

So, until next time,

Smiles