Dina moved from Brooklyn, New York to Nicocia, Cyprus in 2008 with her husband and children.
No matter which major city it is, in whatever part of the world it may be, most inhabitants get city fever at some point in their lives. Rising accommodation prices, lack of space and the hustle and bustle can get just too much, making even the most hardened city dweller feel like they need a change.
For Dina, life in New York was starting to lose its sparkle. She was living in a tiny apartment due to high housing prices and trying to bring up children in cramped conditions wasn’t ideal. And as the kids got older the list of difficulties with bringing up children in Brooklyn just escalated. ‘Space in New York City is very expensive. Both my husband and I had decent jobs but we knew in order to get more space we would have to move. Preschool choices were very limited and extremely expensive. We could have moved further out of the city to Long Island or New Jersey and kept our jobs but our commute would be long so time spent with the family would be less. When I had the second baby I had to stop working, as day care for two kids was really hard to find. Even going out for the evening was impossible due to the babysitter situation’. Dina adored New York but it seemed like it was no longer practical for her life, she’d grown out of the city and it couldn’t accommodate her new family. So, she started to ask herself, why she was paying city prices when she couldn’t’ actually benefit from the things New York had on offer. And it seems Dina wasn’t the only person feeling like this, indicating to her, that moving was probably the right thing to do. ‘Actually, a lot of people from our neighbourhood in Brooklyn left or had plans to leave’ she explains. So, the life she had built there was moving on, whether she stayed or not.
Before moving to Cyprus, the family did consider moving elsewhere in the USA. But like a lot of people, they realised that once they made the decision to move it wouldn’t make that much difference to their upheaval if they moved to a different state or a different country. ‘We could have moved to another part of the US but we would still have to find jobs first and be far from New York City, which was one of the main things I didn’t want to leave,’ she explains about her decision. So, with their options open to any country in the world, how did they narrow it down? ‘Apart from Cyprus, where my family live, we were considering Greece since my husband is originally from Greece. But if we did move to Greece we still wouldn’t have any relatives close by, the same as when we were in America and with a toddler and a baby that was a major factor in the decision’. Despite building a new life for herself, like a lot of those who have immigrated to a new country when they are young, Dina felt the need to have the family unit nearby, allowing her children to grow up around their blood relatives. ‘Another thing I was considering is that my parents wouldn’t have anyone close by to take care of them if anything was to happen to them. As my only sister also lives abroad, in Berlin, Germany’.
So, with the various factors considered they decided Cyprus would be the best possible place to move but despite not having family to say goodbye to, it was still hard to leave New York. ‘When you live away from your birthplace like I did and any relatives are far away, you start to feel like your friends become your family. So, leaving them was the hardest part for me. Now I’ve left I sometimes feel like they were closer aunts and uncles to my kids than my blood relatives are now’.
When they had made the decision to move it was time to start the long and arduous process of ticking of the necessary points on any immigrants to do list. If you think making the decision is the hardest part, then you may be slightly daunted by the huge amount of organising that’s involved in moving an entire family to another country. ‘So, I packed the house, brought the furniture we would need, stocked up on the essentials, packed it all up and shipped it over to our new home in Cyprus,’ Dina remembers. Unlike many, those living in the city will probably find that the accommodation they can afford in their new country may actually be larger. So, Dina had the job of actually buying and finding more furniture to fill the larger house the family would have.
Despite moving with her partner, sometimes the organising can fall on one person more than the other and for Dina, since she was a full-time Mum, the details of moving were under her control. But like many people, this can mean the dream of starting a new life can be a little delayed, especially if your spouse has work commitments to be taken into consideration. ‘I came with the kids first in order to find a house to rent and get it ready and two months or so later my husband and father in law joined us’ Dina explains.
‘My Mum has this great idea that we should move in the summer, so that when we got here the kids could enjoy the beach and the lovely weather. But I didn’t appreciate quite how hot it was going to be’. Even Dina, who had visited Cyprus many times before was capable of making a mistake that many Ex-pats fall into. Overwhelming heat may be nice, or bearable, when you are lying on a beach for your holidays. But it’s quite different when you have to complete all the menial and tiring tasks involved in moving, in the same scorching temperatures. For Dina, this made the beginning of the move even more stressful. ‘I hate the heat,’ she admits, ‘and two months of 100 degree temperatures are not my idea of fun’. ‘Especially having to deal with the bureaucracy of customs, immigration and house hunting, in those temperatures’. Added to the stifling heat, Dina had the problem of having to cope with the stress of moving, without her husband. Although it can seem like a manageable idea, surviving such a huge transition without the support of the person you usually rely on will really test your strength. Especially if, like Dina, you have brought the children out with you. ‘It was really tough for me and the kids to be without my husband for so long but we had decided to do it that way so that he would keep his job for as long as possible, to create more income. Also, I was staying with my Mum at that point whilst we found a house, so if he came too there would have been too many people in my Mum’s house’.
After a few months, of truly testing times, Dina, her husband and her children, finally moved into their 3700 square foot house in Nicosia. A true luxury compared to their cramped apartment in New York. And finally, with things starting to fall into place, they remembered all the reasons they had decided to move in the first place. And now the family’s spare time has completely transformed. ‘Now, on our weekends, we take off early on Friday afternoon and go down to the beach, where we basically spend all our time until Monday morning when we start back to our weekly routine. Even in November it’s perfect beach weather!’ And compared to their workload in New York, Dina and her family are enjoying a far more relaxed way of life, allowing them to spend more time together. ‘In New York we had a little restaurant that my husband and I ran, so all weekends and any time not working our regular jobs we spent working at the restaurant. Our last vacation, before moving to Cyprus, was over 4 years ago. To be honest I think we only took a holiday because a film company wanted to use our restaurant to shoot a movie (The Departed by Martin Scorcese) so we had to close. And even then our holiday was only for four days. But now it’s completely different. Since we moved to Cyprus we already have been to Greece twice and not a weekend goes by that we don’t go somewhere’. Dina and her family seem to have easily adapted to the more relaxed pace of life. They’ve even swapped the artificial things they enjoyed about the city, for more natural entertainment. ‘I can’t wait for the kids to be out of their strollers so we can go hiking up in the mountain nature trails,’ Dina says.
Even though when you’ve found paradise, some things about the place you called home are really hard to forget. Especially if, like Dina, you are completely swapping one way of life, for another. Even your dream destination can be lacking some of the things you enjoyed at home. ‘I hate that I have to drive everywhere I go,’ Dina explains, having previously enjoyed the luxury of being in a city, where everything is on your doorstop. Like anyone used to a metropolis like New York, facilities in small areas are limited and this will take getting used to. ‘The main things I miss from New York are my friends, the parks, the museums, the opera, all the different types of ethnic food, the shopping…even my hairdresser!’ And although Dina is fortunate to have the beach on her doorstep, the swap between the different climates means some things are inevitably missing. ‘There are no parks close by to take the kids or go for a walk, it’s strange but I feel like New York had more parks. The other problem here is that it’s very hard to meet new people’. And although Dina has seen an increase in her property, not every aspect of her new life has prospered from the move. ‘Everything here is more expensive apart from housing but this probably has a lot to do with the economy and the dollar being so weak at the moment’.
With everything Dina has been through, all the differences and changes she’s experienced, she has some strong advice for anyone thinking of doing the same thing. ‘I would have done it earlier, and taken the first job offer I got, rather then waited,’ she explains. ‘Generally speaking, when you have decided to move you have to be honest and clear about what exactly your reasons for moving are and understand that the grass is not always greener. You also need to plan within an inch of your life, check and plan everything’. And Dina has some very specific advice for people who, like her, are moving back, after a long period of time, to the country they are originally from. ‘Don’t expect the people you used to know to still be there or suddenly fall back into being your friend. Even your relatives will have got used to life without you there, in the same way you moved on they have too’. Although, many would think moving back to a country would make it easier to make friends this certainly doesn’t seem to be true in Dina’s case. So anyone considering a big move, on the basis of having family or friends in that country, should consider how involved these people would be in you life once you are actually there.
So, with all the pro’s and con’s that Dina’s experienced the question has to be asked, would she ever consider moving back home?
‘If someone else did the packing and organising and if we had a bigger apartment for the kids and more space, I would move tomorrow,’ she confesses.
In Dina’s case, it seems she hasn’t quite closed the door on New York forever.