Which format to choose when you move home?

A4. The standard format. The safe format. The expected format. The approved format. The one we print every day yet try to print less of – to be eco friendly, not to avoid A4 – and the one we copy the most. The one it is naturally assumed you’ll use. One that surprises no one and won’t confuse anyone, including copy machines (try a small format and the poor machine might not understand a thing, try a bigger and it will be out of paper). One that won’t raise any eyebrows, won’t cause any frowns or puzzled looks. One size fits all.

A format that’ll squeeze in a “proper” job, a house, a car, the right school, the right activities and the wagging tail of a dog in the bottom right corner. All this will fit nicely into one of the moving boxes too by the way, nothing will be left outside of the box, not even halfway, not even the tail.

And I can see that we’re filling it one thing at a time. We’re even considering the dog – or was it a cat or two – that happened in a bit of a cliché of a parent moment trying to console an inconsolable girl who had just learned she was moving to what is for her a new country.

A lot of this feels safe and necessary, like a good start, like we need a little A4 to deal with this big change. Some of it feels annoying. Specifically the feeling that “everyone” expects us to use this format – stat. And even more that I might care what “everyone” expects, and if I do, I’d love to find the ones who’ll say – go for it, do it your way, mix formats! Never mind if you confuse people and copy machines! And I want to be able to say that (to) myself.

Are we too old to not be A4 or are we finally old enough yet still young enough to choose our format more freely? Is it -for example – time to follow a new / different / your own career path (as in the road you follow, not the ladder you climb) even if it involves uncertainty? Could we choose more freedom and flexibility – because it is an available option? Sod eyebrows, frowns and copy machines? Slip a foot out of the A4 page and into a bohemian slipper, at least one toe?

Maybe expat life lets you deal with different formats that you bring with you when you move on, dangling outside of a moving box. I dare say that would be a good thing.

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