Friday, 20 July 2012

Invisible expat or local?

Ms_havachat started out as a blog about our 3rd international move. The ups’n’downs of expat life and as always happens the few months either side of moving, (the leaving and the arriving) are fraught with emotions and daily challenges.

Once you’re international shipment arrives, the boxes are unpacked, kids are settled into school, friendships blossom or peter out, the inevitable and enjoyable never ending stream of visitors coming and going, pleasant days of discovering your new locale, finding a doctor, dentist, hairdresser, chiropractor etc sorts itself out. You work out best time to Skype friends you left behind, make time for lunch with new friends and soon enough you’re in a routine, you hit a groove that works well.

As you know, this is our 3rd move and I have to say, 8 months on, it’s been the hardest in many ways for me. 

I’ve written about this before and find myself focused again on my lack of mojo – or are we now, after a mere 3 years living a normal life and it's takes getting used to? My days can be very isolating. And anyone who knows me well knows I am horrid when isolated and bored.

Think coming from a real expat community, where none of the mums worked in paid employment, (ok, very few); the kids were at the same school; the parents group at school was extremely well organized and offered numerous social and cultural interest groups there was always something new and exciting to do; numerous families from school lived in our apartment block or within a 10 minutes walk to school (expat accommodation tends to centre around the international school) and there was always someone to hang out with!

I’m now what expats call an ‘invisible expat’ and as much as I focus on the friendships we’ve made and relish being literate again, the feeling of invisibleness is taking it’s toll.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m very happy here. Tho if I’m honest, I’m more content than happy. It’s NICE to be surrounded by English after 3 years of being illiterate; it’s NICE to be able to shop for shoes and clothes and know you’ll fit; it’s NICE for MissM to have opportunitise to do after school activities, and school holiday camps.

It’s NICE – but not exciting, or different and maybe that’s the issue.

Japan indulged me as an expat.

We loved being different.

We enjoyed standing out in a crowd.

The color, the sights, the sounds of Japan were intoxicating even ifyou didn’t really understand what was going on.

I enjoyed being part of a community, tho at times that community felt so small you felt like a stone plunking into a pond making that rippling effect.

I really enjoyed the opportunity to learn new things on (practically) a daily basis.

Even being illiterate was a fun challenge, tho at times you felt like sitting down in the supermarket and crying from sheer frustration.

I think being an Aussie in the UK is a dime a dozen situation and no one really cares.

Don’t get me wrong. We’ve made lovely friends and we’re very happy to have met them. But the connections are different to what we’re used to because they are from here, they have family and an existing network of friends. As we get older maybe making room for new friends is hard work but for expats it’s our livelihood and we gravitate to new friends like bees to honey.

To have had 11 friends share my birthday recently was testimony that we have settled well and have made friends, so why do I feel so lonely so often?

There, I’ve said it.

I’m an invisible expat and I’m lonely. I’m also bored more than I care to admit.
There just isn’t the number of people, mums around to share days with.

I love my days at Ikebana. The ladies in class are much older than me, so while we enjoy each other’s company during class, there’s no extension of interest beyond Ikebana.

A few days ago I started to google things to do in September when MissM goes back to school.

I’ll continue with Ikebana and complete as many certificates as possible; the gym (yuk) will continue to be somewhere I go 3 mornings a week after drop off but sadly not a place where friends are to be found; found a few more cooking schools offering classes of interest and a writing course. I volunteered to be class mum which will give me some focus and get me involved in school which might lead ot a few new friends …. We’ve got visitors booked in between now and Christmas.

Volunteering still isn’t an option as bored as I am I’m not prepared to commit – I need to be flexible and fit in with DH’s and MissM’s schedule.

Working from home might keep me busy but socially isolated as well so don’t think that’s an option either.

I have a feeling I’ve already blogged about this so I’ll stop and change the record

You wanted to know about expat life with ms_havachat ….. bet you thought it was all long lunches, girls weekends away and parties. Bet you didn’t realize that there’s this aspect too, the one of loneliness even tho there’s people around you.

With friendship

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