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Helpless and exasperated: What it feels like to move from one country to another

A study by Singapore-based global relocation company Moovaz found that families with children face the highest level of stress when uprooting

Families report facing higher levels of stress in the relocation journey, according to Moovaz's Human Mobility Report 2022. PHOTO: MOOVAZ

In December last year, Sara Bow returned to the United States after seven years of building a thriving career and life in Singapore for herself and her young son. 

They had not seen their loved ones for close to two years because of the pandemic and the thought of living close to their family and friends made the single mum move back to the US.

"Given the uncertainty about when the borders would open up for good, and the fact that my own mother is getting older, I opted to relocate to Florida to be near her and other loved ones," explains the former editor-in-chief of a local magazine.
 
If the thought of uprooting herself and her seven-year-old from Singapore seemed daunting, the relocation process proved to be a highly stressful event.
 
"Where do I begin?" Ms Bow exclaims, recounting her experience.
 
She is not alone feeling helpless and at times exasperated by the move. A US survey conducted in 2020 by OnePoll on behalf of moving company North American Van Lines found that 45 per cent of respondents considered "moving" as the most stressful life event, ahead of the 44 per cent who picked "going through a breakup/divorce", the 33 per cent who cited "getting married", and 31 per cent who chose "having children". 
 
Moving was considered more stressful than having children for the survey respondents. 
 
A study this year by Singapore-based global relocation company Moovaz also found that the intensity of stress from moving varies for different groups of people.
 
Compared with singles or couples, families with young children report facing higher levels of stress – even though these different persona groups  go through the same relocation activities: planning and research, preparation of documents such as visas and insurance, and setting up in the destination country. 
 
Hence, families are willing to spend more to ensure a smooth process and alleviate
the stress and uncertainty in the relocation process, according to the Moovaz study.

Families face the greatest stress at the beginning of the relocation journey, having to meet and balance different needs of individual family members. Source: Moovaz Focus Group

Families face the greatest stress at the beginning of the journey, with the main challenge being to meet the needs of different family members, according to Moovaz's Human Mobility Report 2022. 
 
The only other demographic that would encounter high stress levels when relocating from one country to another is the 60 or older group, which apart from planning and research as well as setting up home in the new country, also faces challenges in the transportation or shipping of physical items. 
 
In contrast, people who are married or moving with a significant other, and singles either moving for the first time or who are experienced relocators, face lower levels of stress. 
 
"Having serviced close to 20,000 clients globally, we've experienced firsthand why moving is commonly rated one of the top five stresses in life. Whether you are moving as a single, with a family, for retirement or for work, the lack of organised information, tools and trustworthy services can be suffocating, even for seasoned relocators," says Moovaz chief executive Lee Junxian.

The pandemic and new requirements and restrictions have compounded the complexities, he adds. 

In Ms Bow’s case, she found that breaking down bigger tasks into smaller, more manageable chunks helped her better tackle her big move.
 
"For me, that meant trying to sell furnishings on Carousell and Facebook a couple of months out, though I was still giving things away down to the last day," says Ms Bow. 
 
Thankfully, help arrived from different sources. 
 
"As a single mum, and even with a helper, I am grateful that I had friends and neighbours to watch my son when I had to focus on organising and packing," she says.

Indeed, packing was the most stressful part of moving, according to 48 per cent of the OnePoll survey respondents. 

For Ms Bow, instead of doing all the legwork herself to find trusted service providers for packing and every other minutiae of her move back to Florida, she went on the Moovaz platform that has already curated a network of companies to manage everything from visa and immigration matters to home and school search to pet relocation.

Screengrab of a journey planner by global relocation technology company Moovaz. Source: Moovaz

Other expats may have the option of their company's HR department managing their relocation, which may exponentially reduce their stress levels. 

But for a global citizen like Ms Bow who was doing it on her own to pack up her whole life to ship back home, help came in the form of a professional moving company and her ‘ReloBuddy’, Moovaz’s moving services advisor.

“Moovaz connected me to Smart Relocators and between my contact there, Lina, and my ReloBuddy Lorie, I was able to have much more peace of mind that things were being done properly, on schedule and within my budget. 

“I can’t imagine having made the move without them,” she adds.

"Orchestrating the move by myself, with the help of Smart Relocators via the Moovaz platform, was an enormous undertaking, including downsizing the majority of my household items because of the cost of shipping," Ms Bow recalls.

"To that point, I had to work very closely with the moving company to make sure that my final shipment wasn't too heavy or bulky – or over my budget!" she adds.

Eight months later, Ms Bow and her son have put the stress of their big move behind them.

“We are settling in well, but I know it will be a while before this feels as much like 'home' as Singapore did,” she says.

It sounds like they still have their hearts in Singapore. 

“It was such a special time in my life, something I wouldn’t give up for the world,” Ms Bow says.

Read Moovaz's Human Mobility Report 2022: Technology to empower the movement of people here.

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