15 November 2010

As An Expatriate

Posted by Happy Homemaker UK

Would they have yachts? Second and third homes all over the world? How would I fit in? Like the first day in a new school, I wondered what my future expat community would be like.

Vinyl Decal created and sold by Single Stone Studios

One of the hardest parts of moving for me (besides the emotional goodbyes) was that I felt I was on an island. When you are pregnant, you meet other pregnant moms. And later moms with toddlers. But when you are moving to a foreign country, you are on your own.

It felt like uncharted territory with no one by my side doing it too - navigating complicated school decisions, selecting a neighborhood, worrying about moving our dog, and deciding what to take with us. Would our US garden hose fit on a UK spigot?


Yet when we moved here, I quickly met other women who had moved the same week or month as us - we  stumbled through our new country together. Seasoned expatriates were like Bree from Desperate Housewives with a basket of goodies and information, asking me what questions I had. I found the expat community to be very warm, supportive, and down-to-earth. Yea!

Wooly Egg People handmade by and sold by AsherJasper

I love being asked, 'Is this your first assignment abroad?' It sounds like I am with the CIA on an important mission. Interestingly our private expat insurance has a section that describes how much they will pay for each lost limb. There are even security services that will get you out of a country quickly and quietly if needed. We're not in Kansas anymore, baby! 

I quickly fell into the naive trap of asking others, 'Where are you from?' Sounds innocent, but actually it is quite loaded and can grate on peoples nerves. Let me show you why...

One lovely friend is a mum from Lebanon (hi sweetie!). One child was born in Belgium; one in Ireland. Her husband is Dutch and commutes to Switzerland from London. I ask you, how are they supposed to answer the question of where their family is 'from' in just a few words?   Exactly.

[source unknown]

Typically a person's home and car often tell a lot about a person's economic status. But here, if a middle class family has a robust expat package, they could be living like kings. In contrast, a wealthier family may be living in a small home because they have to pay their own way.

Lives can be dramatically effected by the exchange rate too. If one comes from Finland, everything would appear really cheap and one could live a more extravagant life. Yet if one comes from a country with a weak currency, s/he may have a modest house, travel little, and only buy the necessities.

As you can see, natural identifiers of 'who we are' can be shed in the expat world. What crowd you ran with, what groups you joined don't matter here. It is refreshing to just show up as you are. When else does that happen?

Handmade by and sold by Sewn Natural

In case you were wondering, I haven't met anyone with a yacht. It doesn't seem to be in anyone's expat package :)

XO Laura

P.S. Looking for another expat perspective? Check out this fascinating blog written by an Australian expat living in Qatar in 4 Kids, 20 Suitcases And A Beagle


topchelseagirl said...

Glad you haven't found it too hard to settle. By the way you are living on an island lol!! x

La Vie Quotidienne said...

I spent time in Morocco when our children were young and it was a wonderful experience...like you we met interesting and diverse people. It is a wonderful adventure - enjoy!

Bonnie said...

Laura, I like reading your blog because it is very interesting. Read a few of your prior posts today about school choices too.

The world is getting much smaller. There are so many wonderful people to meet and learn from. Enjoy your stay and I will be enriched as I follow your blog with all you are experiencing.

Make mine Mid-Century said...

Nice to think people accept you as you are, rather than judge you by what you own or drive.

I think it sounds like you're fitting in nicely ... and you have the right attitude to everything ... this is a wonderful time for your family and it will be filled with memories.

Shamozal said...

thank you for the link. I nodded away at your post, having had 4 children in 4 different countries I agree "where are you from" can be a hard question to answer! Kirstyx

Bethan said...

I agree with Bonnie - the world feels much smaller now. I can "share" my day in Australia with so many family and friends at a click of a mouse. I too felt very welcome when I moved from the UK to Australia. I think people are very accepting of newbies and want to include you in the local life. Of course, not having a language barrier helps. I also think that when you make an effort to understand and become part of the local scene, you make it easier on yourself. So glad that "where I'm from" is making you welcome. x

beth said...

Hi Laura, what an interesting post. I lived in Japan for five years but went there with no expat package and hardly knowing anyone. It turned out to be an amazing adventure and I totally fell in love with the country. I hope you grow to love England as much! Thanks for sharing your thoughts about your blog name in response to my post. Hope you are indeed a happy homemaker over here

Privet and Holly said...

When the economy was
more robust there was
always the possibility
of an out of country
move for us, as my hubs
works for a global company.
Now that my kids are older
I'm crossing my fingers
that we stay where we are
until they are finished,
though....I met one of my
besties in the world, who
is from NZ, when her hubs
was in the US doing a fellow-
ship and we are close {in
spirit} to this day. Lovely
to hear your story!!
xx Suzanne

Single Stone Studios said...

I loved reading your post! I hope you continue to enjoy your new journey. Thanks so much for including our work on your blog today :)

Karin said...

I love the photo of the signs, Laura, as that's where I went to University - Lancaster! And I've actually been to the Trough of Bowland. Too funny.

Robynne's Nest said...

Lovely story Laura. I've been lucky too, I haven't met any other expats but the village is very friendly and social (off to a WI meeting tonight). I think the brits are quite curious about us Aussies, not quite sure at all. Most have perhaps not met one before or at least haven't be-friended 'a colonial from downunder'! It's all a great adventure though isn't it?

Expat mum said...

Thank goodness for the INternet and free Skype. When I moved here 20 years ago it was letters and very expensive phone calls. Way to make someone feel homesick!

JoAnn said...

Such great posts Laura! So fun!! Oh...I guess I forgot to tell you that we do indeed have a yacht! It's in storage with our 20 cars & suvs! ;)