Many of you would know that we travelled in 2012 for the whole year and then we moved ourselves to South East Asia for all of 2014, mostly based in Penang, Malaysia and conveniently stationed near the night markets!
I have to confess that it never occurred to me that living abroad with a rental house would be any different from travelling around the world. I was probably blinded by the prospect of street food on every corner and walking distance to get roti!
Living local in housing that is non-transient is a lot more like being at home than you would expect. Who knew huh? Actually it’s pretty bloody obvious if you actually stop to consider it! But we didn’t. Of course, ’cause that’s not how we roll!
We jump into stuff, like renting this house. We fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants like me starting my new blog or offering my budgeting course. So I thought it might be time we offered you some perspective on how it is different settling in another country for a long period of time than it is travelling and moving every week or two.
My long term travelling friends will laugh their arses off, of course. They already worked out there are big differences between travelling and living local, since many of them stop for 6 months or more in different places before moving on.
We, of course, were oblivious!
Consider the number of times you need to call a repair man to your home in your home country. The number of times you need to contact your internet company because you suddenly start receiving spam or the service is slow every night at 2am. Think about how easy it is if you just want a new modem and need to negotiate to get it for free?
Think about the number of times you have an issue at the bank – the ones where you need to call or go in person to fix the problem.
How about when your billing is wrong for your cable? At home you just call up and get it fixed, right?
When you live locally in a foreign country, these are things you suddenly have to deal with, instead of being able to palm them off to a hostel manager!
If you stay in a hostel and the internet goes out, the manager will sort it out with the internet company. If he doesn’t sort it out you can just move on to the next place. Often it’s just a day or two until you leave so you can wait it out.
When the water starts pouring out of the drain on the floor in your cheap motel room you tell the manager and you get moved to a new room. You don’t have to deal with a repairman or stick your hand down that icky drain to fix it.
Same deal when your motel room floods – you get the manager (who bizarrely will ask you if you want a drink as you try and mime water flooding everywhere) and you make him sort it out. Or in our case you help him clean it up at 3am with towels and buckets!
When you lock yourself out of your hotel room, you get a spare key from the front desk. Easy!
But when you lock yourself out of your own rental home you have to negotiate calling the locksmith in a foreign language and trying to explain what you need. If you don’t run a mobile in the country you’re living in you’ll have to first talk someone else into calling the locksmith for you!
Trust me – I’ve done all of these and more while we’ve been living overseas!
In France I had to walk 20 minutes back to the restaurant where we ate dinner and convince the chinese/french man to get me a locksmith! After 30 minutes he finally called someone from the Yellow Pages and I then had to talk them into agreeing to pick me up from the restaurant since I didn’t actually have the house address with me! I then directed the poor locksmith to the apartment and mimed what I needed from him.
That was a very, very long night with a lot of hysterical laughter from us as we realised we were locked out. Had we been in a hotel someone else would have taken care of it and we wouldn’t have had to embarrass the poor locksmith when his girlfriend called him and we all saw his phone picture pop up of her naked breast! True story!
Our internet in Penang dies around 2am most nights. About one day every two weeks it is super slow during the day (that day turned out to be today when I was in the middle of a webinar!) I’ve called the phone company multiple times and they like to tell me we’ve been hacked and to reset the modem.
We know we haven’t been hacked. We know it’s a whole area problem. But they won’t admit it and we can’t get it fixed. It’s slowly driving me insane!
The local post office put our cable payment through twice back in April without us knowing. It never showed up on any of our bills. But at some point they reversed it out to correct their system. Of course the payment came off the April bill, even though it was done in June. So now every single month our cable gets turned off because they think our April bill is unpaid, even though our bills say we are paid up to date!
Work that one out!
To add insult to injury, every time they cut it off they charge us a fee. We had to catch a bus to their office to sort it out and we got in writing exactly what we owed.
Next month, cable goes off mid month. Again! We call them up, they have no record of our visit to the store or of any of the changes! Gees!
I spent 40 minutes on the phone trying to sort it out and trying to explain that I wasn’t going to pay another disconnect fee for this time and they lady kindly explained that I would indeed be charged.
Back and forth it went with the end result being I would have to go back into the office again with a copy of my new bill when it arrived and get it fixed.
New bill arrives – we’ve been credited twice what we should have and now hardly owe anything for the next month! Honestly, I don’t know how they stay in business! But I’m ever so grateful I don’t have to go to the store in person again. Until the next bill arrives I guess – who knows what that one will say!
Our lawnmower man went AWOL for two months not that long ago. Didn’t answer his phone, wasn’t seen around the neighbourhood. We had to ask around the neighbours and the friendly (and patient) man who runs the local mini mart. Luckily said lawn man magically appeared but we were really stumped where we were going to find a new one! Disaster averted!
I’m not even going to bore you with the details of the adventures I’ve had at the local branch of the Malaysian bank where we have our account. Suffice to say that the banking rules change regularly and when you enquire why it is different this time they say ‘it’s always been like this’. They have a security guard with a gun though so I never do battle over this particular madness!
We are lucky that we chose Malaysia to stay for a while. If we were in Thailand and some of this stuff happened we’d have a lot harder time sorting it out! We have trouble ordering dinner there – imagine trying to get the cable switched back on!
All of these adventures lead to lots of giggles as we try to negotiate sorting out these common problems that are encountered when you try moving abroad. I have to say, on the days when you’re feeling down or a little homesick it can start to feel like it is all too much.
I thought it was important to write a post and give you a little bit of the reality of plonking down in a foreign country and renting a house. There’s the odd occasion when it all seems too hard and you think it would be easier traipsing around with just our backpacks and having less responsibilities. I kind of look forward to our next long term trip so I can stop worrying about those stupid envelopes with the windows that we now have again!
We’re off to Singapore next week for a bit of adventure and I’m really looking forward to knowing if anything is broken in our room, someone else will take the reigns and fix it for me!
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