When I move to a new country, the space that I will call ‘home’ only feels homey once the boxes are unpacked and my belongings have each found their permanent (until the next move) place.
But the other day in the shower (where the best ideas float up with the steam) I realised that I’ve always chosen a location for my workspace that is as close to the centre of the house as possible: in Vietnam my desk was wedged under the stairwell, looking into the house with my back to floor-to-ceiling windows with a view of the back porch: in Holland my cupboard of an office was on the middle floor overlooking the entrance to the house: here in Lagos I’m on the first floor landing between bedrooms and on top of the living area. I’ve always had plenty of light, but most importantly, I stationed myself as a spider in the strategic centre of my family’s web.
I did this entirely subconsciously, and over the years have purred contentedly in my appropriated workspace. But two of those three homes were selected for us by my husband’s employer. In that sense, the fact that I was able to find the right spot in the house was a question of luck.
As expats, we don’t always have the choice of where we live. And maybe not everyone is as sensitive to space as I am. Whether or not you believe in Feng Shui, I know for sure that houses have a natural atmosphere that you feel when you house hunt. My father once had to withdraw a bid for a house in Ottawa because I (at age 15) was convinced the house didn’t like me (and thereby vice versa).
So now I wonder what I’ll do if in my next move there is no central place for my desk? I believe that the space we live in can have a huge impact on how we feel at our posting. We need to feel as comfortable as a cat in its basket to be able to brave the different world outside our front door. Has anyone ever experienced adjustment shock not of the country they lived in but of the layout of the space they lived in?
Diane Lemieux has spent a whole lifetime as an expat and sees moving to live in a new country as a life choice made by an increasing number of people. Those who successfully recreate a full and satisfying life in a new place develop the skills and approaches needed to deal with any change that life presents us.Her new book, The Mobile Life, co-written with Anne Parker, helps those who are undertaking this journey for the first time, and highlights the achievements of those who are experienced resettlers.