I'm NOT fullfilled, I'm NOT happy, I've talked about depression and all the other crap that goes with being an #expat.
It's NOT just me, I've reached out to 100's of expats online, via groups (face to face meetings) and it doesn't matter if you're from the UK living in South Africa (me), Japan, Saudi, USA or from any other country living anywhere else. It's bloody hard work being an expat.
Lonely, alien, frustrating, well you'd expect that wouldn't you for the first few months, maybe even a year, But, 2 years on? come on someone please slap me with a wet fish, wake me up, give me Dorothy's red slippers and wave your wand and send me home please.
But home is where now? I've lost friends, people lose interest. They think you are living in Paradise, but they forget you still have the same struggles, health, finances, kids, education etc, etc. But they don't see the other issues you have of not knowing a single person, not being able to get in the car and popping round to see your mum, not knowing how anything works. It's not as if you can ask someone to recommend where you buy your car tax from when it's called something completly different.
Everyone seems to think that the constant sunshine solves all evils and a dip in the pool will cheer me up.
I NEED a job, not for financial reasons, but for self satisification. I volunteer with Adults with disabilities and Children with mental health issues. I work in townships, with children who are orphaned by AIDS, I give and I get short term satisfaction from it. I've learnt new skills, to sew, written a book (needs editing and a publisher) I can name different types of species of birds and antelopes. I have made friends, I've established a network, but I'm still struggling.
Don't tell me to shut up moaning, I have my health, the love of my family etc. " years out of 41 years is a very short time in which to adapt and as an expat there is always the fear that sticks will be uprooted sooner rather than later, a constant feeling of insecurity and imminent change don't just lurk on the horizon, it lives with you.
I've spent two years feeling like a failure. I no longer have a career, can't call myself a SAHM, and if you know me, you'll understand why I don't want to play golf and join the expat wife scene.
Every experience I've had since we moved here has been because of other people. I've certainly made the most of the sunshine, pool, wildlife, voluntary work, holidays, because that's what I do...I survive. But it was all over shadowed by the lack of care, support and help and broken promises. That, I now realise was and still is out of my control. I have made our families transistion to South Africa a success, I had no help, knew no one, knew nothing.
I AM A SUCCESS. I MOVED MY FAMILY 6000 MILES AWAY TO THE BOTTOM OF THE WORLD, TO A COUNTRY THAT IS FAMED FOR ITS VIOLENCE. MY HUSBAND IS ABLE TO DO HIS JOB, MY CHILDREN HAVE A FANTASTIC LIFESTYLE, EDUCATION AND OPPORTUNITIES.
I NEED TO CELEBRATE THAT, NOT MOURN WHAT I'VE LOST....BECAUSE I'VE GAINED MORE THAN I NEVER KNEW WAS POSSIBLE AND OK I MAY FEEL A LITTLE OVERWHELMED BY IT ALL FROM TIME TO TIME AND I HAVE TO ALLOW MYSELF THAT FEELING. WHO KNOWS WHAT MAY COME OF THIS.
My god, you ARE a success, you truly are. I raise several glasses to you and what you've achieved all by yourself.ReplyDelete
Being an expat IS hard work, and at least doubly so for the 'trailing spouse'. So much of our identity is wrapped up in our career, job, title, whatever, that it's really difficult to come to terms with being the 'expat wife' in a place we're not allowed to work.
Sending hugs, as I've no sensible advice xx
Of course you're a success! And it's OK to rant - all those reasons you gave for not being happy are why I do what I do. You are not alone in your frustrations.ReplyDelete
You are amazing - you have done so much more with your life than most people.
Oh I so relate to what you are saying! If I knew that I wouldn't have been able to keep working like I had in my career back home, I'm not sure that I would have come to the US. It's just so hard when your happiness is tied up with working-as you say, there is so much here you just don't have control over.Delete
I hope you really believe that you are a success. Taking your family half way across the world and settling them in, navigating a strange new country and sussing out for yourself the hard way, how everything works in the new place, says tons about your fortitude,resilience, flexibility and problem-solving. If only they gave a formal qualification to those who've been through it!! Remember those points when you feel low, because, few people will truly know it, except other expats. Most people haven't the courage to do what you've done and stick at it, despite the difficulties. You are to be admired! Perhaps you should run a course for HR people on how they could improve on their services, since you have the knowledge. They could learn a thing or two from you:)
Speaking as a long-term expat, I've seen the majority of people (maybe two-thirds) leave after either just one or two years. This is even true for people coming to the United States.ReplyDelete
You are doing very well for only two years. It takes about five years to get past these feelings. Yes, a job will help tremendously, but in the lack of one, the volunteer work is good. Is it possible to take any type of adult education classes? It was in taking a language class that I met a couple of friends, with whom I am still friends 20 years later.
You won't feel like it is really your home unless you have a commitment to be there permanently. If you think you may move back to England at sometime in the future, you will continue to feel like an expat. If you are planning to stay, take it from me, it takes 8-10 years to feel like you are really at home.
No one complained more than me, and you're right, people in either place who have never been expats just don't understand.
Mary in Morocco
we have the option of returning to the UK but there is no job there for hubby with the current company and at 55 it would be a bit of a risk to assume he could get another job. We made this move with the intention of staying here long term, there is always the possibility of hubby being asked to transfer again, but we live life here as if we are staying here full stop. (visas permitting)Delete
I think that's the hard part though ... how does one really have a commitment to be somewhere permanently? We made a decision to live in a place as though we were living permanently (ANCHORING THOSE ROOTS!) yet we live vicariously and crazily as though we are only tourists (NEVER STOP EXPLORING, LEARNING, REACHING OUT) and sometimes the balance of those two is so difficult. It is so difficult to navigate new territories every 2-3 or 4-5 or 8-9 years ... while raising a family, or keeping a marriage strong ... but there is something addicting and fulfilling at the end of the day (well, most days).ReplyDelete
You ARE a success!
That's exactly what we are doing, the trouble is, I'm not fullfilled, yet, but getting there slowly with support from my online friends
I read your post and had three thoughts hit me almost simultaneously. First, I'm glad you worked your way through to give yourself enormous credit for achieving all you've done in two short years. You had 39 years in the UK to build a life, layer upon layer, in a culture you were raised in. Life included family, friends and work you enjoyed. Starting over in another culture is hard work, even when there is much to enjoy. There can be no failure in creating a home for your family and your self, but as you aren't entirely fulfilled, there is some success that is delayed. Second, you've hit on how difficult it can be to find and make good women friends. Sometimes you find several and other times it's a real dry patch for months/years on end. So what do you do? Exactly what you've been doing: reaching out, being available and receptive. You find friends in the unlikeliest of places or circumstances. Or think of 3 acquaintances and invite them over (or out) for tea, koffie, a glass of wine, a movie, etc. I'm sure if you were invited you'd be pleasantly thrilled, not thinking 'but I don't know them very well'. Friendships emerge over time. With all you do, feel and write, you have so much to share. If you're not in a writer's group, consider finding or creating one because they can be some of the most supportive groups imaginable. And finally, dealing with all of this on top of depression is asking far too much. I know, I have a family member suffering from depression. Do take the time and effort to get that treated (or revisited, again and again) until you get it sorted. We wouldn't tell a child 'oh just suck it up,' so please be kind to and protective of yourself.ReplyDelete
Hi, things are getting better now, we decided to throw an afternoon party in January and invited everyone we knew, 25 people turned up, it was amazing to realise that we were now accepted, only 2 of these friends are expats but are only here for 2 years and both have employment, i much prefer having local friendsDelete
I LOVE THIS POST. And my darling, I TOTALLY HEAR YOU! If you're writing a book, don't stop. Writing was the only thing that helped me survive in Greece. The fruits of my labour, 'To Hellas and Back', was picked up by Penguin and felt like my only achievement after years of torture. I'm sure you'll relate. I can't tell you how refreshing it is to hear you telling it like it is!ReplyDelete
lanapenrose dot com dot au
Hi Lana, am busy scrolling through your websiteDelete
I moved from the US to the UK (British husband) after 13 years of living in the same place, having kids, etc. We moved about 18 months ago and I am right where you are at the moment. Hope you don't mind, I quoted a bit of this post in a post I wrote yesterday (and I'm sorry--should've asked your permission first but my mind blanked out completely). I also suffer from depression, and it's hard to keep it all together with that on top of moving, especially when family just doesn't understand.ReplyDelete
PS: My blog is expatrimummy.wordpress.com, if you're interested.ReplyDelete