The Reality of Life as an Expat Partner

I don’t know if there is something in the water at the moment or whether I am just noticing more of these kind of posts the more blogs I follow, but I opened my lap-top to two very similar stories from very different “trailing spouses” this morning.

The first came from a relatively new expat, thesmult, an Australian living with her husband in Indonesia. Having arrived recently, thesmult has been struggling with her new identity and how to find her way in this unknown world. And by unknown I don’t mean Indonesia, rather the life of being the “trailing” partner. As she says in her post Who Am I Now?:

We had discussed the challenges faced when residing in another country and particularly a developing country such as Indonesia including language barriers, expectations of women in a Muslim country, security concerns and so on but we never discussed how life would change so significantly for me as the stay at home spouse.

It is for people such as thesmult that I initially wrote the Expat Partner’s Survival Guide. Living in St Lucia, I met a lot of women (and a very few men) in exactly the same place as thesmult. Women who had probably spent the six months prior to the posting worrying about houses and schools and packing and saying goodbye to people…but who had never really thought about what their life would be like for THEM when the dust settled at the other end. As thesmult also says in her post, the first few weeks (the “honeymoon” period) can certainly be exhilirating. But then reality hits and

you realise that this is real life and then I started dwelling on my frustrations. I was bored, lacked structure to my day, had no social outlets, felt stuck at home.

I urge you to visit thesmult’s website, follow her and comment. I feel really strongly that the more you realise others are going through the same thing, or have been through the same thing, the easier it can be. Virtual friends made over the internet through blogging or Facebook forums might not be quite as good as the real thing – but they can certainly make a huge difference.

The second post I read this morning that made me really stop and think was from a seasoned expat who blogs at the fantastically named Africa Expat Wives Club. Based in Kenya, this expat wife is at the other end of the expat partner scale from thesmult as she’s been overseas for 16 years. And yet, she still gets lonely – as her post Loneliness in Expat Life Sundays Suck – relays.

Again, I can totally relate to her when she says:

Sundays are the real bone of contention.  Sundays can drag and if your other half is away on business, then you can literally find yourself counting down the hours. As an expat, you are obviously nowhere near your home turf, so there’s no family member who might step forth from the breech and provide a safe haven for you and your bickering, antsy offspring for 12 or 24 hours. There are no close friends from way back to pick up the phone and chat to. It’s just you and the kids bouncing off the walls for 12 hours straight and honestly, that can be hell.  Sundays are when you feel most trapped.

Oh yes. Sunday’s (and to be honest, some Saturdays) were difficult in St Lucia. Everyone assumed we would be at the beach every weekend – and to be fair we often were, or at least at the pool of one of the local hotels. But doing the same thing EVERY weekend can get pretty tedious and there really wasn’t much else to do on that small island. We absolutely revelled in the parks and soft-play and museums and organised activities when we returned to the UK.

The Africa Expat Wives Club post also refers to the dreaded 9 (plus) week summer holiday – something which I know my own poor mother must have found impossible when we were growing up in the Philippines, and which I have now learnt to avoid by leaving the country where you are posted for as much of those 9 (plus) weeks as possible. I have also realised that one thing you DON’T do is move out to a new country at the start of, or even in the middle of, the summer. Things are made even worse when the children haven’t yet had the chance to make friends through school (or pre-school) and all their toys are still somewhere on the high seas….

So two very honest but I think realistic views of Expat life. Like some of my other posts about the reality of being an expat partner (including this one on depression and this one on relationships) I think these are important subjects that need to be shared.

However I do feel I have been writing too much about the bad side of expat life recently. I promise my next post will be a positive one 🙂

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7 thoughts on “The Reality of Life as an Expat Partner

  1. Maybe this is why so many start drinking. And I mean not only a glass of wine for lunch but maybe already a bottle and then a drink in the afternoon again and then some cocktails and on it goes… I am just putting it out there. But there are a few who seem to slip in this kind of ‘lifestyle’ because they just don’t know what to do with themselves…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Agreed. Sundays are usually such a family time (at least here in the UK) that it is a sad day when you don’t have anything other than your immediate family close by. Christmas is the other one – I have never enjoyed spending Christmas abroad. Next Christmas my parents are coming to stay so I am hoping it will be a good one!

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      • This is our first Christmas where all our friends have returned or will have returned home, so I think we need to book a ski trip or something similar to not be alone. Travelling to family will involve at least 12 hours of flying, which I am not keen to do with my hips.

        Liked by 1 person

      • The best way to deal with Christmas when you are away from family is to do something COMPLETELY different and not try to replicate what you have back home. My husband and I spent it on the beach with a bottle of champagne in Jamaica, pre-kids (which actually I did enjoy!).

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  2. Pingback: Ten totally fantastic things that wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t been an expat partner… |

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