Wednesday, 7 March 2012

The exciting times of an expat - not this week

You will recall I started ms_havachat just prior to moving from Japan to the UK as a way of sharing life as an expat, the ups and downs, the good, the bad.

The earlier blogs touched on topics about leaving, the various decisions one needs to make, then the oops, we’re not leaving just yet, to that long summer holiday, to announcing we were going, arriving to a tiny apartment, making decisions about schools, finding a home and more.

Since we moved into the house in November, we’ve all agreed we’ve settled really well. We’re definitely happier as a family these days and in the end that’s all that counts.

In saying we’ve settled well means just that, we’ve settled well. Not like a friend who’s struggling every single day with her new life in India. Mind you she has the best sense of humor and should write a blog as the cultural differences are enormous. I’m secretly enjoying (wrong word I know) hearing about the challenges she faces every day simply because of her attitude.

How long does the ‘settling in’ period last? We’ve been here nearly 5 months already. How long does it take, or should it take to settle? Guess it’s one of those very personal situations that’s subjective.

What does Settling well mean? Again, is it subjective? As this is our 3rd move (and yes, friends have done LOTS more than me) I think it means that the key components of one’s life are sorted and working out to a satisfactory or better level. It’s a bit like a survey, commenting on things between 1 (most unsatisfactory) thru to 10 (perfect).

My friend in India would at a guess be marking off 1,2,and 3’s at a stretch there might be a 4.

When I think of our move I would tick 5’s up but no 10’s (after all, nothing is perfect, is it?) Yes, MrsA I can hear you ‘it’s all relative’ and it IS, that’s the point!

Anything we experience becomes a benchmark for the next time something similar happens. Settling into Dublin would have earned 7’s and up ….. the house was fantastic, the area was great, brilliant neighbours, friendships with Montessori mums awesome (and still with us today), the International Women’s Club afforded me ‘expat’ time with interesting ladies (again, still good friends with several of them despite all our moves), sight seeing /touring options endless, and visitors! Lots of visitors.

Japan would have also scored high. The apartment was great, school was brilliant from day 1; ready made social network (I will never forget the overwhelming friendliness of MissM’s first morning at ELC towards her and me), always someone to hang out with and do stuff with, thoroughly enjoyable cultural differences  … the lower scores would have come later, and some would be to do with the things that were high scores in the beginning.

The UK was always going to be different again, being surrounded by English speakers and looking the same as everyone else meant that ‘my’ perception and indeed, my reality of an expat life would have to change.

I think this has been the crux of my mood these past few weeks. I have written and deleted several ms_havachats on this topic mainly because I wonder, is anyone interested in the ‘downside’? It’s so easy to read about the new house, new friends, weekends away, but to read about a friends feeling of loneliness and mundane schedule isn’t fun. Then I think of the R U OK campaign and decide I would like to share, and maybe you do need to know. If I was home (where ever that is) and we were chatting you’d sense something was up.

Doing Dublin first was brilliant as it gave us the confidence and courage to live this life and live it well. However, having been in Japan for 3 years Dublin wasn’t an expat gig really – JAPAN was an expat gig! Now we’ve returned to familiar territory, even if we’ve never lived in the UK before. Its comfortable, but still not quite the right fit.

If MissM did the same survey about ‘settling well in the UK’ she would score between 6’s and 9’s for all areas of school; making friends, feeling part of the school community, knowing her way around the campus, understanding the routines, respecting the ‘rules’, participating. She is happy with her ballet school, loves having a backyard to play in, and rather likes her Mia-sitter.

DH would probably score work around 6’s and 7’s at the moment. There’s quite a lot of politics going on which always drags one down; daily deadlines are a bitch to deal with (I remember from my days on The Australian) cos if you miss just one deadline on one day you’re screwed.

From a family perspective we would all tick 8’s and 9’s – we are all in a much better place now than a year ago HALLELULAH!

Our weekends are ‘normal’ either having friends over for afternoon tea or lunch, or going to friends. We are members of National Trust and English Heritage which helps to have ‘something to do’ on weekends when you don’t have anything planned. This weekend for example we are heading into London for a sleep over and to check out some sights. How cool is that!?

I think I would mark my survey between 4’s and 7’s with the occasional 8. Most of the time, I’m thinking 4’s and 5’s as too much time on my own makes ms_havachat feeling lonely and with too much time to think (always dangerous) and as MrsS said, isolated (great word)

A close expat friend suggested I stop thinking of myself as an expat while we are here after all there’s nothing expatish about an Aussie in England LOL.  I am simply a full time mum and domestic manager.

At the root of my thoughts these past few weeks is I have way too much time on my hands and am desperate for expat friends who understand and live a similar lifestyle to chat with, go out with and bond with.

Oh don’t worry, I hear you, my dear friends.

Lucky you!
What you moaning about?
I’d love more time!
Do a course!
Join a club!
Take up a hobby!
Start a business!
Get a job!

You all know me well enough to know I KNOW ALL THIS!!!!!!!! And I’ve done the following in the 5 months we’ve been here:

Courses: Ikebana and cooking lessons (finally I’ll be able to cook fish well)

Club: Going to give the Australian Women’s Club in London a go. Also joined a book club that meets at night so not sure how long I’ll keep going as a daytime  one would be a better fit.

Join a book club: One of the mums at school invited me to join her book club which I’ve done, but it’s at night and really, it’s my days that need filling!

Hobby: I have my scrap booking, art galleries, touring etc.

Start a Business: The thought of establishing a business, creating a clientele only to move on 3-4 years isn’t appealing. Plus, there’s visa implications and tax implications that I just can’t be bothered with.

Get a Job: Visa’s sometimes put a stop to that quick smart, but if they don’t, like most of you with school aged kids, we need ‘mummy hours’, no weekend work, and flexibility for school holidays and being able to participate from time to time with midweek school activities, so who on earth will employ us?

Get busy with school: I have been on the sub committee for the first fundraiser event for the calender year (which just happens to be this Friday night). All the meetings are at night ugh

Ms-havachat isn’t bitching or moaning, just saying it how it is, cos some people think expat life is all lunches, and weekends away, trips to exotic lands, tennis games, arts’n’crafts. It can be, and let’s face it, even that after a while becomes monotonous. 
But it can also be very isolating (thanks MrsS for that terrific word).

It’s lunches and tennis and day trips and pottery lessons and cultural activities when there are others like you – that is, non working ladies around mid week looking to keep busy.

It sounds so trite when it’s down on paper. But it’s not.

Being socially isolated is hideous. You are up and down emotionally (Last Friday was a good day, hosted the grade coffee morning, then went to lunch with a friend and checked out a new little village close to home). Today’s been l-o-n-g. Gym in the morning, home to iron, read for an hour or so (book club Thursday night) and here I am blogging before noticing the time and needing to get out of gym clothes before pick up.

I’ve emailed a few of the mums who MissM is friendly with their kids and asked if they’d like to join me for a coffee one day …. One or two have replied they’d love to but they work and not offered an alternative, and one or two have said they’d love to but work part time and will let me know when they are free (so being optimistic, that’s good), and one or two have said they’d love to.

Tomorrow I am going to the movies in the middle of the day on my own. Please don’t feel sorry for me, it’s just a statement of fact as to what I’m doing tomorrow and that everyone is busy. I really don’t want to miss seeing The Help!

Those of you who know me know I’m a resourceful person so I will find things to do.

Today’s just one of several lonely days these past few weeks which will pass. 

With friendship


  1. Ding. Ding. Round 2... I will try to remember what I posted yesterday after reading this blog (which I did NOT know about and saw for the first time). As posted elsewhere, I'm in India and of course my first attempt at posting something here was set up to fail. Yes, I sound like a pessimist, but (do I have to keep reminding you) - I live in India. Not just India though but South India, or as I like to call it - 'the arse end'. I have now become a realist.
    My initial comment was -
    I've just read this blog for the first time and have now found a new activity to get me through hideous traffic and keep my eyes from wondering out the windows and avoid me seeing the roadside spitters, pissers and shitters. I can now add infamous (thanks to this blog) to my list of self-descriptive adjectives. Yes, it's been a hard move and I still ask myself what the hell went wrong when I look at my surroundings. It's sometimes like an out of body experience, or I'm being punked.
    INDIA -I'll Never Do It Again. To be fair, it has only been 3 months but if you read my Facebook status today - I've pretty much summed it up there.
    Miss you, happy that you enjoy my misery and look forward to sharing many more Indianisms with

  2. Thanks MsIndia :) None of us are enjoying your misery, its just you have a fabulous attitude towards your situation and a fabulous sense of humor, tho i know at times it simply isn't funny. Love you. Miss you and above all else, wish you find your mojo above all the spit, piss and shit. Always here for you, that is, when your internet works xo

  3. Hey there Girl... It looks like you have settled in. Every country has its good and bad points but we need to look at the good ones and make the most of those situations. Start enjoying today as we do not know what tomorrow will bring! I stopped worrying about the moves as started to think of them as just fun challenges. Adjustment is a full time job especially when you have kids. BAM

  4. Only just read this. For some reason your blog updates no longer get emailed to my inbox?????? Think the life you have described is pretty much many people's lives these days. There are days on end when I am sick of the only company I'm getting being children under 9 & I know plenty of other people who feel like that.

    Miss you & wish we could chat more. Bloody time difference & laptop! Oh and a stinking cold I've caught from Tasha.