How hard can it be?
Move to the other side of the world. South Africa in our case. Speak the same language and drive on the same side of the road.
The culture is different, you know that, you know that things will be done differently, the currency is different, but you're paid in local currency so no need to keep converting, but you can't help it. How much for a packet of hula hoops? Half that back home, but then have you seen how cheap the wine is?
I spoke and still speak to many people experiencing the expat life, the support, the problems, the issues and the hassles. It's not the same the world over. I can't compare how I fell living here, with someone living in Japan, where they have to overcome a difficult language barrier or Saudi Arabi where women can't drive or go out alone and don't forget about the ban on alcohol. I can only talk about my experiences here, coming from the UK.
But the common theme I'm picking up on is the 'trailing spouse' and I've only spoken to women about this and it's all too common.
As an expat, only another expat can understand what it is like to give up your life in your home country. Whatever your life was, it will never be the same again. Your husband has work, he has support, he has people to talk to, he has people to provide guidance, but he's doing a new job in a new country which is also completly different from anything and everything he's ever known. He can't just carry on doing the same job in the same way and expect people to change their culture, their way of doing things just so his job is made easier. One of the reasons you're now living abroad with your husbands job is that he is flexible, he manages challenges and people effectively and he can problem solve. Why else would his company spend all that money and trust me it costs 10's of thousands of pounds to relocate one man and his family.
But everyone forgets the 'trailing spouse' we are lucky to live in this beautiful country, the heat (in my case) not having to work, a pool in the garden...oh you're all so jealous.
And yes, that sounds great, after all those years of working, juggling Mother hood with a career, never having 5 minutes to yourself, oh the joy to have the time to sit and paint your finger nails and actually have them dry before you have to rummage through a draw for swimming goggles, or go on another school run, or training session.
But in reality it's not a good life, it's lonely and frustrating.
I've no one to share the days with, go for coffee with and how do you be a 'lady who lunches' when you know no one to lunch with? and don't forget you had an income, now where does the money come from for you to stay at home, to shop, to get your nails and hair done on a regular basis? to be that person you thought you would enjoy being for a few years?
I was warned early on that it would be hard, that it could take a year to make friends, it would feel like a breavement, that family and friends wouldn't understand what was going on, they'd just see you as 'lucky' and won't be able to understand why you think you have anything to complain about.
I was also told that once you become an expat, that's what you will be forever, even if you only do it once and for a short time, only other expats understand this.
But despite the support from other expats, I still can't explain what it is like to feel so alone, even with their help. They exist on the interent, they're not here to have a hug with or to go shopping with or to help with one anothers children when you feel ill, low or just feel like jacking it all in, they have their own issues, they are at different stages, they're hardy expats (they do this every few years) but from their tweets and blogs it doesn't get easier, it gets different everytime and the same range of emotions pop up all over again.
So I guess what I'm saying is, when I complain about how hot it is here, don't tell me how lucky I am, it's always hot here, it becomes oppresive when you're stuck in it every day, it makes it harder to actually get out and do things, harder to do the housework and the ironing.
Don't tell me how lucky I am not to work, it wasn't my choice, the country doesn't permit it. And with the loss of work there's no social network, no routine.
Yes I'm fortunate I have kids but they're not really needing me to drop them off and hang around in the school play ground to meet the mums for coffee.
Yes I can do voluntary work and I do. When people bother to get back to me.
I'm not looking for suggestions on what to do or how to do it as I'm trying to adapt to my new enforced life. I've started to make friends, get out more, go more places and meet more people. I have a husband who loves me and understands my frustrations and gives me time, space and hugs. I have two lovely kids who understand Mum is going through some changes, but it doesn't mean she's unhappy, they understand why I feel depressed, they don't like it, but they know it's short term and I'm working my way through it with my families support.
It takes time, I know that, other expats tell me that and continue to tell me that, but they also tell me I'll get there, it will fall into place, usually just as the hubby gets a new posting and the 'trailing spouse' syndrome starts all over again.