If you're not a seasoned ex-pat who moves from one country to another as a matter of course, or young and reckless without any baggage, making a significant move for the first time in your life can be a very interesting process.
I knew in advance that logistically moving to Russia would be a challenge; simply sorting out the paperwork is proving a bit of a marathon. And I have been both experiencing and anticipating the emotional fall-out for a while now.
But what I hadn't expected was how draining it can be dealing with other people's negative reaction to the news that we're going. I've had all sorts of responses; from the commiserations offered by our solicitor (thanks, by the way; I really needed to hear how your friend got drugged and robbed after an ill-advised drink in a shady bar in Moscow - which I suspect he shouldn't have been in anyway, his being a family man and all...), to cautious optimisim expressed by our families, who whilst they don't want us to go, know we've been working towards this for a while and also that we'll only be a four hour flight away.
Most people are great; supportive, excited for us, whilst at the same time understanding that it's going to be a wrench. These are the ones who ask 'What do you need from me to make this easier?' They understand that we have enough to deal with without endlessly examining the down-side; we're going, we have to, and that's an end to it. And who knows? Hell, we might even - gasp! - enjoy it!
There are others, however, who can't see a bright side. Russia - Moscow - to them is the grey utilitarian totalist state of the Cold War of their childhood. It's freezing for months at a time, it's a city of food shortages and queues, there are no bright colours, and the Mafia are everywhere. Why on earth would anyone want to go and live there?
I don't blame people for thinking this way when this image is perpetuated by news rooms and fiction writers all over the world. Admittedly it was a few years ago, but on one memorable occassion Husband (then Tall Skinny Dutch Boyfriend) phoned me from Moscow and I mentioned in passing how cold it had looked there when I watched an item on the news about Russia earlier that evening. The reporter was standing in front of a backdrop of window opening onto a wintry sky with flakes of snow swirling prettily around. Husband was nonplussed. "What on earth are you talking about?" he asked. "Cold? It's 20 degrees C here!"
Well, anyway, my point is that common perceptions are often wrong, and you can't always believe what you see on the news - even when it's the BBC. (Or is that 'especially'?) And also that these negative reactions - which I understand are invariably about the individual I'm talking to and their thoughts on how they would cope with such a move, rather than on a rational assessment of our situation as a family and why this is all necessary, for the best, and actually quite exciting - are so easily made. I've certainly been guilty of that in the past; it's how we put things in context, how we relate to other human beings; by imagining ourselves walking in their shoes. The problem is that right now, for a lot of people, the thought of walking in our shoes scares them witless - and they say so.
But experiencing this from the other side for a change (it's normally we who are staying put whilst others go off and live in unusual places) has shown me that whilst imagining walking in another's shoes is definitely a good thing, it doesn't always do to tell people how you think those shoes might feel, that you don't like the colour, and that they're not your style at all.
I'm wondering; is this something that others who've made this type of a move have experienced too?