Maybe I am getting old and take things too seriously.
Maybe I am sensitive about the perception that people have of what it’s like to be an expat.
But this article, which was shared on Facebook by friends living in Yokohama and Tokyo really annoyed me. Surely the author was attempting satire but in my humble opinion she failed. She failed in not being funny, and not supporting those expats who struggle every day with being away from 'home', or those who fight stereotypical comments and jibes from friends back 'home' who think being an expat is, well, like she's described.
You see, being an expat is a combination of bloody hard work and a lot of fun.
The hard work comes in many guises from making friends, learning your way around, securing all manner of formal documentation to allow you to be in the country, driving on the right/left side of the road which is either the right/wrong side for the individual, settling the kids into school, learning a new language, finding doctors (and if your kids wear braces on their teeth, or glasses you have to locate these specialist doctors). Finding a good hairdresser (which the article portrays as being indulgent. I don’t know about you, but it doesn’t matter where I live, I want to look nice and feel good about myself).
Even in our recent move to Winchester, UK. OK, it's English speaking, but i am blessed not to have caused an accident navigating the millions of round-abouts that join the endless miles of multi lane motor ways; or driving at dusk along what we would call country roads without street lights, but are simple the local roads. Sure it's English, but even within our own mother tongue, what an Aussie calls a scone a Brit calls a cake.
One has to find people to befriend. You will recall ms.havachat going on about this in a previous chat TO NEW FRIENDSHIPS. This is one of the most stressful and at times isolating parts of being an expat. It can also be one of the most rewarding and magical.
We've been at MissM's new school for 4 days and only one mum has said 'hello' and that's because there was only two of us in the room at the time. She could hardly have ignored me as i thrust my hand out, smiled and introduced myself. The class parent hasn't contacted me, no one has followed up that I'm interested to learn more about the Parents Association. Each class is lead out by their teacher, each child must shake the teachers hand and bid them a good afternoon before running to Mum, so the mums in MissM's class know she's the new kid, and I'm the new mum but no one's said BOO.
Thank goodness for my expat friends who have taken the time to introduce me to friends living in and around the area, or I'd be totally isolated. In typical ms_havachat style, i picked up a new friend MsJ at the chiro's - we're having lunch on Thursday.
But I digress.
Husbands settle into the new office environment and while it might be the same GLOBAL company the unique cultural differences make inter company transfers interesting. Many husbands do this well but others struggle. Imagine how stressful this must be – the only reason you are in said country is because of the job and the job sux.
On the whole tho, husbands to tend to settle quickly. Afterall, and with respect to the guys, they go to work 5 days a week.
The kids go to school. And while some kids take a long time to settle, some never do, most do find their place amongst their peers, in sports teams, or in hobby groups. And DO NOT get me started on the issue of children with special needs! If you’re an expat and have a child with special needs you’re probably best to stay home where you understand the system and therapies on offer to you. (Yes, yes of course it depends WHICH country you are in but as expats tend to move every 3-5 years, the angst in this relationship is high)
What about the wives. The subject matter for the article that has so influenced this chat.
For those ladies who have opted to put their career on hold while husband takes a turn at offering the family ‘an experience’ changing from ‘working mum’ to ‘at home mum’ is a huge shift, add to that a new country and a new set of friends.
Most expat wives can not work even if they wanted to simply because of visa status ‘dependent upon sponsored spouse’. There’s seldom if ever negotiation from governments.
It’s enough they ‘allow’ your husbands inter company transfer, taking away a job from a
‘local’ let alone allow a second person to do the same.
Some girls have online businesses, while others are able to take theirs where they go – teachers can usually find work at International Schools, or teaching mother tongue to interested students or adults. Several friends are chefs, or bakers and set up their business where ever they are. A few friends in Japan taught English to older Japanese ladies, or pre schoolers and their mummies.
Sure, we have time on our hands which means we are able to be more involved with our kids schools – since when is volunteering time and energy towards your kids an indulgence? Or we volunteer with local charities.
Sure we have time on our hands to do courses. What’s wrong with broadening one’s mind?
Sure we share day trips, go to museums and galleries more than the average person, but once the kids are at school or are of an age they don’t ‘need’ you what else does the author of the article expect?
I was surprised to read the article was written by an expat AND a woman!
Why do women dump on women?
We should be each other’s staunchest supporters, especially when we live far from home.
There were some fun home truths like the bit about learning the language with gusto for several months before realizing you just are NOT going to master even basic conversational Japanese. I have a friend who’s just moved to Hungary and her husband posted on his Facebook page ‘how long does one attempt a new language before realizing they just weren’t cut out for it’
The comments about Starbucks were very true, but in Japan at least, it’s what we know, it has an acceptable taste (yeah, yeah it’s no barista heaven, but have you ever tasted coffee in Japan?).
I was going to rehash the article para by para but decided not to.
Maybe I am thinned skin about being an expat? Am i slightly jealous of the lives the girls in Tokyo live? Or the simple fact the author believes so many of them can actually buy clothes in Japan!!!!!!
I do think that the author was attempting humor but somehow her sarcasm got in the way.
Wonder if she’s really happy being an expat or is she one of the women who struggle.
The reason I started ms_havachat was to share what being an expat was like, and obviously it’s only from my point of view. And while there are plenty of positives to be gained from this incredible experience, there are negatives. It's the YING and YANG of life! There are princesses out there, there are princesses everywhere!
So I'm going to take MissM to school tomorrow, then the chiro (how lucky to find a great clinic up the road), next I'm meeting a friend of a friend for a coffe'n'chat to see if we'll be friends ....... then do who knows what till pick up at 4.10pm.
Oh, and I joined Curves today.