How many hours have you spent dreaming about how much better your life would be if only you lived elsewhere? Your relationship would be incredible, your kids would be better behaved, you would be the advert-perfect wife and mum. Countless hours I’m guessing. Well I’m here to burst your bubble. I live in paradise and the grass isn’t greener here than in London.
Why the grass isn’t greener
You are you.
Your partner is your partner.
Your kids are your kids.
Life is pretty similar the world over.
Changing location is only one tweak to your life.
If you’re a stressy mummy you’re not going to suddenly win Zen Mum of the Year award.
If your child is the king/queen of tantrums, just because you have palm trees in your garden, doesn’t mean that they’re going to suddenly chill right out.
If your husband drives you demented because he never empties the dishwasher before you move, why would that suddenly change just because of geography?
How I know that the grass isn’t greener
My husband, Ben, and I have lived on the French Riviera together (in Nice, literally a stone’s throw from the beach), we then spent 5 years in London before moving to Mauritius in 2015. For those who don’t know, Mauritius is a small island in Africa, in the Indian Ocean, described by Mark Twain this way:
“Mauritius was made first, and then heaven, and that heaven was copied after Mauritius”
It really is paradise on earth. Everything I dreamed about and hoped for. But do you know what? We haven’t changed, so what drove me loopy in London still bugs me here.
I think this surprises people as they expect paradise to eradicate all possible problems. Recently I have skyped friends and family back in the UK who have been surprised that I’m still dealing with the same parenting strife I had in London.
For example on one Skype call I had crazy hair and was eating dinner at 9pm having had to treat our daughter’s hair for head lice, and my own at the same time. It might be paradise but the grass isn’t greener when it comes to nits, they still plague kids’ hair here you know.
Then on another call with a friend my kids were bickering with (screaming at) each other, as my friend and I attempted to catch-up. She laughed as she realised it’s a case of same shit, different location (a concept I cover in my Life Reboot Camp).
Some home truths
I get asked ALL the time about moving to a new place. Clients want to know if moving to France will make them happy. Friends ask if moving from London to the country will save their relationship. Readers want to know if moving to Mauritius will make them forever happy.
Here is my answer….
It depends on your reasons for moving.
It depends if everyone is onboard.
It depends on the personality of your kids.
It depends on your financial situation.
It depends on your work situation.
Was the grass greener for us?
When Ben and I decided to leave Nice and move to London in 2010 the grass was definitely greener for us.
We were fed up of trying to further our careers in the very limited environment of France (in particular outside of Paris), and we both made huge leaps when we got our jobs in London. We scored better, more enjoyable, higher-salaried jobs. Which in turn meant we could live in a good location, employ an au pair and really enjoy everything London has to offer.
However I know several people who moved back to the UK after living abroad, and who really struggled with their decision.
Ben and I were both 100% onboard with our decision and threw ourselves into it. Our only child at the time, Léna, was 3.5 years old and very flexible, so she settled in pretty much immediately.
When we made the decision to move to Mauritius from London it was a much tougher one.
By that stage we had two daughters: 8 year old Léna and 2 year old Clémence. Léna was settled in a school we loved, with great friends. We had no idea how she might react to such a huge upheaval. Clémence was less of an issue due to her age.
We knew NO ONE in Mauritius. We had no support network. No cushion to help us if need be. (In London my parents were an hour’s drive away.)
Visa and work permit-wise, we were pretty certain we should get them ok, but we had no guarantees. And bureaucracy is almost as much fun in Mauritius as it is in France!
It was a huge leap into the unknown, but we decided to go for it.
BUT – and it’s a big but – not because we were looking for something that was missing in our life. We weren’t trying to fix anything. We knew the grass isn’t greener elsewhere, it just appears that way.
For us it has worked out brilliantly. But that’s not the case for everyone. I know many people who struggle here.
How to know if you’re hunting for grass that is greener
We moved to Mauritius for several reasons:
- We could. We were in a situation where we could live anywhere in the world as long as we had good internet access.
- We had both longed to try out island living for a while (and no, I don’t count the British Isles as an island in this case!)
- Ben was born in the south of France and lived there for 33 years of his life, he spent one year in California, but had never lived in a climate where the sun is an infrequent treat. The shock of never-ending grey skies and non-existant summers is one he never really got over in our 5 years in London. As for me, I was born to live in a warm, sunny, climate. After 12 years on the French Riviera I was used to feeling the sun on my face fairly frequently, and to the cold being mostly fleeting. After 5 years in London we were both desperate for sun and warmth again.
- Since we became parents in 2006 we had been searching for a place to raise our girls bilingually. You see Ben is French, I am English and we are both bilingual, so it’s important that our girls speak both English and French fluently (to speak to their respective families if nothing else!).
These are not reasons we moved for:
- Because we needed to save our relationship.
- Because one of us was unhappy and we were searching for happiness elsewhere.
- Because something was wrong in our lives that needed fixing.
If any of these 3 reasons resonates with you then you are likely to find that the grass isn’t greener, no matter where you move to.
You need to work on your relationship, on your own happiness, on whatever is broken before deciding whether to move (or not). You will take those problems with you so fix them before going anywhere.
I’m sorry if I’ve just totally rained on your parade, but having seen so many people move for the wrong reasons, and then become even unhappier I wanted to share what most people don’t realise: The Grass isn’t Greener elsewhere.
As for me – I’m crazily happy here. Ben and I still argue (like we did in Nice and in London) because we’re a fairly “normal” couple, my kids still bicker, I still deal with head lice, vomiting children at 3am, cleaning up dog poo, supervising homework, requests from school for ridiculous things and more. It’s bog standard life as a family. The same one I remember from Nice, the same one I remember from London.
But yes, we are happy here, we have good friends, a great social life, a beautiful home, garden and pool. The beach is a 5 minute drive away, we have swum with dolphins in the wild numerous times, and at the weekend we can choose to escape to places that most people only dream of, as a once in a lifetime holiday.
If you’re going for the right reasons, then go! Listen to yourself, your heart / gut / soul – whatever you want to call it. If you’re still not sure, grab yourself my free video guide to decision-making and facing your fears, it might help you figure it all out.
Whatever you choose to do, do it for the right reasons, then you can’t go wrong 🙂
This post originally appeared on my Franglaise Mummy blog
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