When you’re an expat-to-be, obviously, you need to anticipate. Okay. For the record, you will need to do more than choosing your favourites shoes and put them in nice boxes (19 pairs, and I made a HUGE effort!) No, you also have to prepare your arrival in the country (more paperwork!), knowing where you are going to live, and, if it was not enough, be aware of all the papers you’ll need to fill as soon as your feet will touch the US soil. (More and more paperwork! Really???)
Of course, you cannot flight to the destination country for every little urgent meeting you have to attend, so you need to use the phone. I don’t think I am the only one who hates talking over the phone with someone who do not speak the same language as me. Then picture me in a conference call with 2 other people, trying to say something quickly enough to be listened to and clearly enough so I will not just be ignored. Yes, you can laugh at me, be my guest.
Chapter 1 : the broker
Chris is our broker, the guy who is supposed to find the perfect apartment for us. Good luck, dude. He asked us to make a 4 bullet points list:
– Our musts (the things we absolutely need) (a roach-less apartment, a bathroom inside the apartment, a kitchen you cannot reach from your bed by extending your arm.) (You can laugh as you want, just take a look at a website that rent apartments in Manhattan!)
– Our “plus” (the things we would like to have) (a washer/dryer inside the apartment, an “isolated” kitchen, a one bedroom apartment, an elevator in the building)
– Our will be perfect (a rooftop, a fitness in the building, a midtown flat with a view, 27 floor) (Joking!)
– The things we definitely don’t want (living in some neighbourhood, bedbugs, a guy-next-door who cooks meth!)
And then, we had to do the phone call. A New Yorker speaks fast, with a New York accent (no kidding!) and has some habits I find funny, me, the little European girl! He told us “Ok guys, I am not going to lie to you, with your budget, it is going to be tough. Maybe you’ll need to do some adjustments. You know, currently it’s difficult to find an affordable flat in the city (blah, blah, blah)”and then continues, without pause “but you know, last week I found a really nice 1 bedroom, with an elevator, a dishwasher, a separate kitchen and even a doorman, for the same budget as you have. It was a difficult one, but I did it.” (And he speaks like a TV host, or some guy in TV shopping.) He’s perfect, he’s a superhero. Thanks, Chris. (And see you in 10 days, I am pretty excited to see your super powers.)
Chapter 2: The taxation in the US
The first conference call went perfectly, you got almost everything everyone said, you are ok with the speed of the language, and you feel ready for the next one.
Oh? The taxes? The lady over the phone speaks English with a big East-European accent and even if she knows perfectly her topic, you are not sure she is speaking the same English as you are: “Your employer need to fil the W-94 and then you’ll send it back before April” “You must fill de I934 until February, but if it is too short, you can change the due date” ”L4733, Swiss cheese, no pickles, extra guac??”. I am 27 years old, and I was just beginning to understand how to deal with the Swiss administration! Damn! For 2015 we are ok, the Cher-et-Tendre’s company is providing someone to fill all the papers. 2016? Papua New Guinea looks fine to some!
Chapter 3 (to 19)
Even if, like me, you are a real chatterbox, I bet spending all your time on the phone will be boring pretty fast.
Swiss tax authorities (who send us the tax return as a divorced couple, 2 months after our wedding) (and who don’t understand how to do with our “special situation”) (but I am keeping the story for another post), all the insurances, second pillar, banks (who don’t want us as clients, because of our “US person status”), the moving out (and the dishwasher that spilled water and foam everywhere in the kitchen 2 weeks after we bought it. It’s a different story, but the timing is absolutely perfect!)
Even if, like me, you are a real chatterbox, I bet spending all your time on the phone will be boring pretty fast. (BIS)
Especially when it comes to communicate with your husband. Phone, emails, WhatsApp, pictures, screenshots, we just spent the last 2 months thinking expat, eating expat, sleeping expat, and, of course, communicating expat. (80% with the aforementioned technology, 15% of screaming at each other and 5% sleep. More or less.) And about everything : “I got a mail from the moving out company, I forward it to you, make the corrections, forward it me back and then I will send it” or “What do you think of that huge pile of shoes in that picture, are we taking 4 or 5 boxes?” “Did you already call the phone company because I am speaking with them right now so I can maybe cancel your number too? Ohh I need your signature? Drop it, honey, false alarm” “Cargo, luggage in the plane or hand luggage?”
And then, sometimes, the romanticism of just-married couple is coming back, and you know why you are doing all that: “So, what are you cooking tonight?”