A Tale of Two Expat Spouses

For my monthly blog post for Expat Focus, I wanted to write something about the launch of my book. But quite frankly I am getting a little bored of telling people why I wrote the book…..living in St Lucia….meeting other spouses….hadn’t got a clue…needed to be better prepared…blah blah blah. When you’re boring even yourself with the story then you know it’s time to move on.

So I decided to write about two fictional women, both caricatures but both with elements of real people that I know (elements, guys, elements; neither of my characters are ACTUALLY based on anyone I know).  One of these women, who I chose to call Rachel, is hopeless. Totally un-clued up about what her new expat life will be like. The other, Sarah, is basically that annoying woman you probably always try to avoid who seems to know everything and want you to know it all too. Okay, it’s NOT me, alright. Anyway it’s not a very long story and you can read it for yourself here. But here’s my question:

If you have ever moved somewhere new, as an expat or even within your own country, how prepared for the move were you? Do you wish you had done more planning? Or do you think that sometimes doing too much planning can spoil the sponteneity and excitement of a new life somewhere?

Answers on a postcard please! (or altetnatively leave your thoughts in the comments section below).

Nappies, bread makers, tampons…what else do you pack when you move overseas?

We turned up in Pakistan with a bread-maker, three boxes of flour and about 400 little sachets of yeast. I realise this sounds a little strange – but in a country where it’s hard to buy any kind of bread product that isn’t basically flat, it helped when we wanted to make sandwiches. Or toast. In fact, we were the envy of the compound – and when we had to leave unexpectedly thanks to the Mariott bomb (in 2008), there was a mini scrum over who was going to relieve us of our bread-making ingredients.

Our next posting was to St Lucia, and once again we took the bread-maker. And again, it came in handy. Bread in many countries just isn’t what you’re used to at home – in the Caribbean, for example, they seem to add more sugar. Make your own and you can chose to have it just the way you like it.

In the Survival Guide, I recall how we also took boxes and boxes of disposable nappies. Our youngest, M,  was only one-years-old when we moved, and at that point we had no idea how much longer she would be in nappies for. But what we did know was just how expensive disposables – known just by the brand name “Pampers” in St Lucia – were. So we took our own. I recently read a post about another family living on a tropical island, this time in the Seychelles, who have decided to go down the reusable nappy route for their son (you can read the post, by Seychelles Mama, here). Looking back, this was the obvious answer – why on earth didn’t we do this ourselves? So much better than lugging our own two-year supply out with us, although in the end she was out of nappies just after she turned two so we had lots left over to give to friends.

Nappies by the beach

Nappies by the beach

Another item that many people take with them when they move to another country is,to give it it’s errr, “sanitary” name, sanitary products. Every country in the world seems to have its own policy on what it does or does not sell for women to use during their periods – and you don’t want to find that they just don’t have what you’re after when you get there and it’s too late. I have read many stories of women who either did or didn’t take their preferred make or brand with them when they travelled – tales which include confused conversations in foreign pharmacies, airport grillings by customs officers who didn’t know what they were looking at and suitcases stuffed with nothing else. In case you haven’t already read it, Kirsty Rice did a fantastic post on this subject on her blog 4 Kids, 20 Suitcases and a Beagle, here. All I will say is try and find out what’s available in advance or, as more and more women are now doing, invest in a Mooncup. At least that way you won’t have to ask everyone coming out to visit you to bring 20 boxes of Tampax with them….

This time, moving to South Africa, I’m not sure yet what we’ll be taking. It’s one of those countries you can get most things you’ll need or find a damned fine local equivalent.  Although I don’t think they’ve opened a branch of Hotel Chocolat there yet. I might well slip a couple of boxes in my suitcase to get us through the early days….

Did you take anything with you when you moved – and then lived to regret it? Or is there anything you wish you had taken, but didn’t? How did you find out about what you needed to take before you moved?