Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Adapting your life...

Rummaging through one of those drawers of "useful stuff" recently, there was a reminder of some of those aspects of moving countries that are easily forgotten but were critical at the time. This particular item was an electrical adaptor and it prompted the thought that as well as "the big picture" we should be considering some of the minutiae of planning an international move, even if we cannot look at all the possible permutations of moving between particular countries.

It should be said that we already had some UK - French electrical plug / socket adaptors before making the move, having regularly visited France - so, there was no surprise that French plugs were quite different. It is also obvious from the existence of the adaptors that power supplies are similar enough between the two countries. However, if you were to move between, say, France (power is 220/230 volt) and perhaps the USA (120 volt), you would take a completely different view about shifting appliances, computers, etc., from one country to the other, without investigating the cost and practicality of power transformers.

If you do take electrical goods with you, eventually, as items are naturally replaced, you will end up with mainly local equipment, with local plugs - that actually seems to happen surprisingly quickly which says much about the obsolescence built into consumer goods. Nevertheless, for the transition period, we found some short cuts that worked well, particularly as changing electrical plugs on a host of items is very time-consuming and boring when you have a whole house move to deal with.

For example, we kept a couple of adaptors near electrical sockets that would be used for the more portable items (hair driers, mobile phone re-chargers, etc.). For our computer equipment, the idea of changing plugs on the mass of peripherals was frightening - so we just changed the plugs on our UK multi-blocks to French ones which enabled us to continue with UK plugs on all the equipment. It should be said that one should take expert advice on such things involving power supplies and electrical equipment, but this worked fine for us!

Something that did catch us out was that, despite having visited France quite often, we had never paid any attention to the phone sockets - and were surprised to find that they are completely different to UK connections. One can never make assumptions when crossing international frontiers! Having brought several phones and computers needing to connect to the internet, we did invest in some phone adaptors, albeit that they were comparatively expensive at the time.

That worked very well for the computers and it seemed that it was a good solution for the phones and fax machine. We were able to make calls which confirmed what we had been told - that UK telephone handsets work in France. It took a little while to realise, though, that there was a slight incompatibility between the French telephone system and UK handsets, which when connected in France, did not actually ring - a slight disadvantage when it comes to incoming calls. So, a case where a temporary measure was extremely short-lived!

Well, perhaps the planning of the physical move from one country to another gives us another mini-theme, so we will return to this in future posts...

2 comments:

happy said...

haven't experience moving to another country. i would presume that it's quite difficult. one would have to live in an entirely new environment.

Will Pow said...

Yes, I suppose this blog is largely about the many challenges involved in living in another country. However, many expats chose to make the move voluntarily. Perhaps it would be interesting to hear more of the joys of expat life...