3 Tips for Moving Your Family Overseas

Reading Time: 4 minutes

moving kids overseas

We’re excited to welcome back global veteran David Armstrong. He’s set foot in 15 countries, and confesses that Crepes and Waffles in Bogota, Colombia is one of his favorite restaurants.

Moving your family across the water with fear and trepidation?

The web holds great tips from people who’ve gone before you . They’ve not only survived, but put down roots and grown.

Here are my three best blog reads this month on making the strange comfortable.

Exhaustion and Comfort Blankets

Carol El Haraway lives in Egypt and shares ten key tips as to how she adapted and survived by moving in a splendidly English way, with a cup of tea.

My favorite paragraph? “Be prepared for complete exhaustion.”

So true. I remember the first year living abroad. A nap solves half of the world’s problems – at least those in my world!

When a Colombian high school girl accompanied us to the US for the summer she also felt the exhaustion cycle and commented on it. We felt right at home and relaxed but she was emotionally drained and needing a nap.

All of the “different” slowly but surely drains the energy out of you even though you can’t see it happening.

“Find your comfort blankets” was also a priceless tip. Find some places where you have landed that you can’t live without and make them your own. If a coffee shop is your comfort zone, find one and make it your own!

moving kids overseas

For me, dinner with the family at Crepes and Waffles and throwing pinecones at Piedra de Tunjas helped our family call Bogota, Colombia home.

What helps you carve out a nest in a foreign location?

Calibrating my mind

Einat Mazafi, owner of an international moving company based in New York, had thought provoking comments on my attitude as I go.

…. without a basic willingness for self-reflection and personal development, no amount of theory (about cultural awareness) will help. Before you get on that plane, ask yourself if you are willing to address the following:

  • Personal commitment to flexibility and change

  • Openness to networking and relationship building

  • Commitment to learning and understanding intercultural differences and issues 

Flexibility and change

I learned to think “Not wrong. Just different.”

That helped with most things, except our favorite US sitcoms. (Hearing the characters speak in Spanish just wasn’t right.)

Relationship building

I’m talking stretching, initiating, walking outside my comfort zone. And worse, it meant a few cultural blunders that were embarrassing. Ouch. Or humorous, depending on who makes them.


Living fifteen years in Guatemala, Colombia and Costa Rica gave my family and I plenty of time to practice and even enjoy cultural blunders.

(It’s hard to keep a straight face when your wife tells someone she is 300 years old.)

Of course I had the honor of singing “Happy Birthday” in Spanish in the small convenience store across the street. We had a birthday coming up and I had heard neighbors sing it in Spanish and I wanted the words.

I knew Denis who ran the store would be able to tell me the words. And he did. Ah, but then he wanted me to sing it, to make sure I had the words.

Of course by then, a couple more people had come into the store. But I bravely belted out “Cumpleaños Feliz” in my best form.

They don’t really eat lunch that way, do they?

Want a fun video to watch with your kids? I chuckled my way through this lunch at a Japanese elementary school.

I guarantee you that your kids will share a lot of thoughts and feelings as they watch this 9 minute video. Bait them with questions about what they see, but also about how they feel about what they see. It will help you to understand how each child responds to “different”.

Three months into our first overseas home we saw amplified versions of our kids reactions playing out to the “different” around them.

Some retreat, some get angry. Others smile and enjoy it. Some watch and listen, quietly constructing their own conclusions.

If you and your kids enjoy watching this, you can find more videos like it here.  


Making a foreign city and a different culture your home can be challenging! But it is an amazing opportunity to learn about yourself and about others.

Though I am still a workaholic, living in Latin America has made me more flexible in the way I see time, more friend and family oriented and more patient with things that seem strange to me.

Commitment to understanding intercultural differences has changed me, changed my family.

What will yours become?

Like this post? Don’t miss

How to Tell Kids You’re Moving Overseas as Missionaries

Help Your Marriage Thrive Overseas! Part I, Part II, and Part III









Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.