In October 2015 I moved back to the UK, after four years in Singapore, with my husband, son and new baby bump.
With both sets of parents getting older, we thought it would be nice to be closer to family, and obviously it would be great for our kids to grow up knowing their grandparents and cousins better.
We also felt like we were missing out on all the exciting life changes going on in our friends' lives. Inevitably, no matter how much effort we put into staying in touch (never enough, of course!), I thought we were missing out on all sorts of things - babies getting born, weddings, the catch-ups and social gatherings that seemed to happen every weekend.
The timing seemed perfect. We had already bought a house without seeing it (with a lot of help from family back in Glasgow!), my husband transferred back with the company he already worked for, and I was in the process of setting up a new business with my friend who already lived in the UK. The transition seemed likely to go as smoothly as moving to a different country with a young family ever can.
What we hadn't put much thought into at all was the seasonal timing of the move. In hindsight, moving from a warm climate like Singapore to a Scottish city at the start of at least six months of cold, grey, dreary weather was never going to be ideal. Here are my top five things to consider before moving from a warm climate to a cold Scottish winter:
Well, this one barely needs an explanation. Scottish winters generally consist of cold, grey, dark dreariness, interspersed with the odd moment of bright blue skies and sunshine. Unfortunately, by the time you convince your two year old he needs to wear more than a T-shirt, no pants and bare feet (his standard Singapore uniform) to leave the house the day has usually all but ended - darkness descending around 3pm.
The parties were all (mostly) in our heads
All those great parties and nights out that we thought we were missing when we lived abroad? When you add in all the babies that have been born and the friends that have moved more than an easy drive with a screaming toddler away, the invites were few and far between.
Winter with small kids is a nightmare
Before you have kids, you see families on a crisp winter's day, out and about with the toddlers and babies bundled up in those cute snowsuits, with animal ears on their woolly hats and cute knitted mittens. It all looks so much fun. The reality: you really have to start prepping at least the night before. Encouraging a two year old into an all-in-one snow suit when they don't want to is like putting a sleeping bag back into its cover at the end of a camping trip. Add in toilet training, and of course at least one removal of all layers to visit the toilet before you can leave the house will be necessary.
And if you do manage to leave the house before nightfall? Rest assured every other family within a five mile radius will have noticed the sunshine and be heading to the same play park as you at exactly the same time. Mayhem.
The best winter food is made in hot countries
While I love a good roast dinner and winter stew, it always surprises me that hot countries seem to make the most appropriate winter food of all. I would happily eat chicken rice, pad thai, and char kwa teo every single day. Spicy soups seem designed to warm you up from the inside. And, like every other annoying expat, we will never find a restaurant in Scotland that comes close to the mind-blowing flavours we remember from that road side stall we used to stop at every week and fill our tummies for just a couple of Singapore dollars. Even our now fussy toddler used to love the spicy exotic flavours.
There is a reason people in Scotland are known for being unfit
For some reason I decided to take up running in a hot climate. Rising at 5am to train before the heat got going. Since returning to the UK, I have yet to break out of a brisk walking pace (unless chasing my kids counts?). Yes, having two kids under three years old is an obstacle, but just the thought of heading out into the cold and dark of a Scottish winter sends me snuggling back under the duvet.
Having said all of that, we don't regret moving back home at all. The advantages of being closer to family, actually having a change in seasons, living in our own home (with all the fun that being your own landlord brings), being close to friends, not to mention much cheaper alcohol are all things we wouldn't want to swap again. Maybe this year I might even get to use my ski gear...after storing it for four years.
But secretly, I think we may well all end up back in Singapore one day - even if just because our eldest boy seems to have such an appetite for asian flavours and spices. And if we moved back to the UK all over again? We would definitely choose a friendlier time of year!