The Expat Woman

Expat women have a terrible reputation. Gin swilling, lazy, diamond dripping, drunk by lunch time, double kissing, designer handbag owning, do I need to go on?

Of course now that it’s 2010 they’re no longer called expat wives, they’re “trailing spouses,” yep, thanks for that, I feel so much better now. I love the visual of me trailing behind G, hunched over and waiting for direction. Maybe we’ll forget about the title.

So, who and what is she?

In my experience she’s like any group of women, she’s a nurse, a doctor, a dentist, a hairdresser, a chef, a banker. The one thing she usually has in common with her expat friends, is that at some stage she sat down with her partner and had to make a practical choice on whether they were going to take “the job” overseas. In our case, I was 8 weeks pregnant when that conversation came. We did the math and it seemed impractical to turn the job down, the salary G was offered was the nearly the same as our two salaries in Australia, our worries of affordable child care and negotiating maternity leave arrangements would be non existent, it just seemed to make sense to go.

G was an expat child, he was incredibly excited about hitting the road again, there was a piece of family nostalgia there for him and he was happy with the idea of showing a child the expat life, me, not so much. The plan was 2 years in Indonesia, save some money, enjoy the experience and come home. I didn’t resign from work, I took a leave of absence, 11 years later and I still haven’t been able to formally resign from that role. What do you think Freud would say about that?

When we arrived in Jakarta and G went off to his first day at the office, I sat in our hotel room looking out over the grey city skyline, all logic and practicality disappeared from my mind.  I quickly forgot our agreement. I wondered what on earth had possessed me to give up my career, friends and family to take on the role where my whole existence appeared to be being Mrs G. In fact, that’s what the staff at the hotel called me, Mrs G! As I wandered around the city I felt incredibly lonely. If I wasn’t working then who was I?  I kept looking in the mirror at my 5 month pregnant body not really knowing who she was either.

After a couple of very quiet days the phone began to ring, British, American and Australian accents at the end of the line. “My husband mentioned there was a new Australian at the office and his wife was pregnant, do you have a doctor? I had a baby last year” a woman with a thick Scottish accent said. Someone invited me on a museum tour, someone else for a coffee “have you heard about ANZA?”. None of these women were the same, they were all from different parts of the world, all different ages but they had all been the woman in the hotel room, they had a pretty good idea on what was going through my mind.

When I started to spend time with them I realized that it doesn’t matter if you’re a hippy, or a conservative, at any age, the story from the very well dressed dignified woman in the corner about how she had to poo in her handbag while stuck in traffic in Mumbai with a serious case of Delhi belly is hysterical to everyone. They laughed about their language disasters, rats in their dryer pipes, no electricity or phone for days, cold showers, doctors who diagnosed them with terrible non existent diseases and the tragic haircut where “just cut a little bit off” translated to “just leave a little bit there” (it took me two years to grow that haircut out).

An expat wife acquires the skill of looking across the room and thinking (as my friend Jen later told me) “I’ll have her, she’s mine” as they see something in someone that looks familiar. A lifelong friendship can be made in a moment, over the death of a family member or a terrifying health scare for a child. You’ll find yourself sharing intimate stories with a friend you’ve only known for a few weeks, the terrible ex boyfriend, the miscarriage and the fight you had with your sister when you were 8, because you need to share, if you’re going to be good friends she needs to know the details. That’s why when you phone her the next day to say the car won’t start and your husbands in China, she’ll be there.

An expat wife will nervously walk in to a room full of strangers biting the side of her cheek, armed with a list of questions

  • Is the milk okay to drink?
  • Do you have a good doctor, mechanic, dentist or physio?
  • Can you draw me a map to the school?
  • Where do I buy a decent bra?
  • What sort of cab should I get in to?
  • Do they have Napisan here?
  • Why is there a sign “this meat does not contain traces of mad cow disease” in the supermarket?
  • Why can’t I find tampons?
  • Where can I find a math tutor?

    It will be more than likely that she will leave the room with the answers, a list of phone numbers and an invitation for tomorrow. She may not have met one person she can see herself being friends with but that fear of never meeting anyone will be gone. She’ll feel indestructible, it will be better than the best performance review she’s ever had.

    That weekend you’ll see her, leading the way with her trailing spouse behind her, she’ll be showing him how the city works and what she’s learnt during the week, because in reality we all know who the real trailing spouse is.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08970799811800725500 FlourChild

      Thanks so much for that perspective :) Great post. I am a bit of an ex-pat here, but have moved to my husband’s home town/country, so it wasn’t a work thing. We both had to leave our jobs in Oz to get here. I am lucky to have found a group of ex-pat English speakers, all of whom are lovely and have filled me in on all the important things you mentioned re. kids and baby stuff… but I sometimes get envious of the beautiful houses, and ‘work-paid-for-our-move-and-shipped-our-stuff’ side of things, (we are living in a cheap, tumbledown house as we came over here pennyless) BUT, we have family here. Cousins, Aunts, Grandparents to babysit and to spend weekends with etc. And that is why we are here and that support is invaluable. So I will try not to be tooo envious of my new ex-pat friends… :) And I will hope that they stick around here as long as me!!

    • http://livinglifeasme.wordpress.com/ livinglifeasme

      Great insight into your world as an ex pat, trailing spouse (WTF)! Sounds like, despite the initial isolation and unknown, the kinship women share is universal. And that is wonderful. xx

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08404421856986720832 Kerri Sackville

      Brilliant post. FASCINATING. May I suggest you write a book? ‘Mrs G – Tales of a Trailing Spouse’. I’d buy it for SURE.
      xxxxxx

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07529172123543772763 Linda T

      Fabulous post, and I love the name Shamozal, it’s one of my favourite words x

      I agree with Kerri, a book is a must!!

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05615149112130152767 Christy

      I have to admit, I’m a little jealous – I know it must be hard too, but it sounds awesome! Great post; I really enjoyed reading it! A nice peek into a totally different lifestyle than my own.

    • http://anjwritesabout.com/ anjwritesabout.com

      I can identify with a lot of what you write, except of course, I bounce into overseas moves excitedly! Agree wholeheartedly with Kerri as well…write these stories down (had an idea about that myself some time ago) as they will certainly sell!!

    • http://davesag.tumblr.com/ Dave Sag

      Great post. I was an expat for years and now I live in Canberra I still feel like an expat.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02743336097657087832 JANE

      Really fascinating, Kirsty. Brilliant insights. It took me back to when I was 18 and an exchange student in Germany for the year. First time away from home – what a culture shock! The expats were such a supportive bunch and made life so much easier. J x

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04729571991002856725 gilly

      troo. great post. thanks!

    • katherine

      Oh, Kristy, thank you so much for this.
      I am tangentially familiar with the expat life — my mom has been one for 40+ years and I know what her community of expat friends has done for her; and I, myself, have lived overseas for half my life (though most of that has been as a student. ) Nevertheless, I am a very reluctant to become that “trailing wife” — my husband is already in Doha, and my not-yet-two year old daughter and I are still behind in NY, just because, if I stay here a little longer, I will be given the chance to keep my job and work from afar — from Doha. Mind you, I don’t even really like my job. I don’t like being away from my husband. I certainly don’t like my daughter being away from her father. And I so very much wish I could spend more time with my daughter, rather than running on this mad treadmill, trying to balance work, family, and now single parenthood…. Yet… Yet. I am terrified of becoming “Mrs K”

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16561240096806868742 Toni

      “Trailing spouse”??? what the ….??? that made me want to punch someone.
      I’m in awe of ex-pat wives.
      My hubs is currently working overseas and until last week, it was looking like we would be joining him.
      While I was kinda excited, I also had so many questions — which he couldn’t answer, despite having been in this job for over 6 months. Things like, what are the supermarkets like? Would I be able to tell what was in cans and packets? What would happen if the kids got sick? etc etc. That was kind of one of the reasons why I started following your blog, cos I knew I would need to know people who could help out while I found my feet. (plus it’s just so INTERESTING!)
      I know a few ex-pat wives, in Switzerland, Sakhalin, Indonesia, Japan. Their husbands would be the first ones to admit they couldn’t do their jobs as well, without their wives making a home for them to come to every night.

    • http://juststopspeaking.wordpress.com/ juststopspeaking

      Fantastic post – and can I just say – WOW you’re brave.

      We did the travel thing-but from one side of Oz to the otherand whilst it may have been in the same country but, can I tell you, worlds apart….. and unfortunately the locals Not.So.Welcoming.

      Anyhoo – we got through and came out the other side – what does not kill us makes us stronger

      Write a book – I’d buy it for sure.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09677312773827236567 Kath Lockett

      Great post, Shamozal. Just in case you were wondering, I never thought of the expat wife as ‘gin swilling’ – I always assumed that they had it harder than their working spouse – ‘things’ such as education, house, bills paid, outings arranged and familiarisation don’t happen by themselves…..

    • Ex Dhaka

      Great post – brings back wonderful memories of my time as the … non working part of the couple. First six weeks (in a hotel) were awful – particularly as husband went to Dublin for 2 weeks 3 days after kids n I arrived, and all the expats went on 2 months summer leave a week after that. But things improved once we were settled.

      I’ve always described it as a shallow but fulfilling life filled with coffee, shopping, and some incredible friends who I will never forget.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17798190669591053390 Expat mum

      A penny just dropped for me – I consider myself an expat, even though I’ve been in the States for 20 years. The reason I still feel like an expat and not an immigrant I’ve just realised, is because most other people here grew up here so I’ve had very few people to bond with. Aaaah…

    • Darinaw

      Hi Kirsty,
      What a gift !!! I have been an Expat for almost 30 years, 10 different countries, and three kids. You have just articulated beautifully, what it’s all about. Trailing spouse…. I don’t think so !!! Well done. xx

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05388656296518535181 Kristin :)

      Hi! I’m a fellow expat, and I loved reading your post!! You couldn’t have said it better! :) Expat wives couldn’t be any farther from a trailing spouse! :)

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07695203425270299420 Very Bored in Catalunya

      I love this post! Being an ex-pat wife really does mean you have to break out of your comfort zone, but the rewards in befriending people who you would normally come across are brilliant.

    • http://www.21stcenturymummy.com/ 21st century mummy

      Great post. I am about to become an expat. We are moving to Singapore and I am pregnant. It’s exciting but scary too.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15757789955664659689 Ingrid

      I love your post! I can totally relate to you wrote, I have recently (one month today !!) moved to Doha and am finding things a bit tough, meeting other women in the same boat has been my life saver. Thanks for brightening up my day.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/18254275544017629129 bigwords is…

      Great to know women throughout the world reach out to others when you need it most. Sounds like a perfect first chapter xx

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02777700715209427380 SDSJMcManus

      Great post Kirsty, I recently met a woman who before leaving her home country went for a mammogram and was clear. 3 Months into expat life she was showering and found the lump we all dread, she went into overdrive and needed to find a doctor quickly. She had just met my friend who lives in the country she had just expatriated to :-) and confided in this stranger who had happened into her life…. Within days she had a doctor, a best friend and a group of other expat women that supported her through this unforeseen challenge. Her special group of friends, who looked after children when needed, made meals, held her hand and became her best friends. 6 months later she is in remission, but without that knowledge and special connection that she made it most certainly would have been much more difficult for her to survive this. AND she made a best friend for life!

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08680909356053872951 Lynn MacDonald

      Wow…that was an incredibly interesting post. I just visited my cousin who has lived in London for close to 20 years. I met soooo many people from NZ and Austrailia, South Africa, Switzerland….It was so interesting that I almost got jealous of the it multinational existence. Sometimes, I wish I had been more adventurous.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13195684182481935384 Sarah

      Hi Kirsty, thanks for leaving a comment on my blog and inviting me over. :)

      I came out to join a French boyfriend who I then married and then later divorced so I’m an expat but not a very mobile one because I’m still here!

      I’m also integrated into the French system as I work and pay my taxes and am a resident although I couldn’t ever face taking French nationality!

      So I recognise a lot of what you say – having expat friends is a real plus in a strange land because coping with strangeness 24/7 is very exhausting and it’s good to giggle with people who know who you are, if you see what I mean.

      Of course, there are some totally weird and bizarre people living as expats who I would avoid with a bargepole wherever I was.

    • http://www.lifeintheexpatlane.com/ Miss Footloose

      Hi Kristy, glad you found me! Yes, I certainly identify with (almost) everything in your post having lived in a number of foreign countries. I was married in Kenya, had my first baby in Ghana, and so on and so forth. Been the trailing spouse all right.

      Hailing from the Netherlands, I have a travel/exploring gene and I always wanted to see the world, so I got lucky.

      Lucky also because I have my own portable career as a writer, which means I don’t have to “sacrifice” ;) myself for the good of my husband’s career.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08635723714090524880 Lorna

      Great Post! – if you ever need help in Houston, TX contact Lorna – wednesdaycoffee@gmail.com.
      Came for 2 years and now been here 8 years – sound familiar!

    • http://www.kylieladd.com.au/ Kylie L

      I was a trailing spouse for 5 years- first in Scotland, then in Canada. The experience was tough, lonely, frightening (the latter two especially in Montreal, where it seemed no-one spoke English and I had two tiny children), brilliant, character-forming, mundane, fascinating and overwhelming. I was actually termed a “dependent spouse” in the Uk, where I was refused a work permit unless I had the same surname as my husband, necessitating a lot of paperwork & a new signature before we left (and this was in 1999, not 1959!).
      Though tough at times, I loved our half decade overseas. More to the point, they gave me my writing… I began writing out of loneliness in Scotland after we first arrived, then really got into it seriously (and started the novel that would become After The Fall, published last year) in Montreal, where I couldn’t work at my ‘real’ job (as a psychologist) due to language restrictions. Ten years later, we’ve come full circle… I’m a trailing spouse again, though this time following my husband’s mid life crisis to Broome, WA- and with my writing as my only occupation. Thank you for a lovely post prompting all these memories!

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06972149809628579689 Alexis Jacobs

      As a “trailing spouse” myself, all I have to say is AMEN! You hit the nail on the head. Great writing!

    • Pamela

      May I re-post your blog on my Facebook page? It will give my friends back in the US a wonderful perspective on what life is like overseas!

    • http://globalcoachcenter.wordpress.com/ globalcoachcenter

      Love the post and, especially, the “we all know who the real trailing spouse is”! Funny and very true at the same time!

      I’ve loved all my expat assignments and, in fact, I find myself itching for the next one when we live back home (like now). I help others love it too so a dream job/lifestyle combination. :)

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15425166687421078790 homekeepsmoving

      Hi, I have just stumbled upon your blog – I love it! Thought you might be interested in mine…I recently wrote a book about growing up as a Third Culture Kid and it got published this summer…
      Heidi :)
      http://homekeepsmoving.blogspot.com/

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16147849853989098008 Patrizia la nomade globale

      you had my vote, wholeheartedly!

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09646026064261601469 Happy Homemaker UK | Laura

      My husband is an expat kid too – and here we are in the UK. Love the post

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03924035710478459520 EmmaK

      Brilliant! I suppose it was the opposite for me because I moved from UK to USA where there is much more choice of products. Like my head was spinning in the supermarket thinking: why are there 56 different versions of mayonnaise and whicih one shall I choose???

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15999271127735997770 Naturally Carol

      When I was eighteen I moved to Australia from New Zealand. I didn’t expect so many differences in culture. It was lonely in Canberra at that time…then I met my husband. Five grown up kids later and now in Queensland…I’m still here. I love your post, what misconceptions are out there. You are brave women!

    • Elissa Sarich

      Great post Kirsty (as always)…keep them coming!

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08647596319711811125 cjtato

      Really loved reading this. It reminds me that some of our best friends are found in places we least expect. I have found two extremely great friends through meeting mothers at school (something I swore I’d never do for fear of only having children as a common bond but then realised that this is what starts the friendship but very rarely continues it).

      On a weirder note, the expat lifestyle appeals to me but then I’ve always been a traveller so could explain it. Hubby, however, has his feet firmly planted on his home turf. LOL

    • http://swrightboucher.wordpress.com/ swrightboucher

      Kirsty, this is your best yet. Killer closing line. You nailed it!

      Thank you for letting us travel with you.

    • Anonymous

      Brilliant! Every word you wrote is so true! After 7 International moves I am known as ‘Tagga’ – short for tag-a-long! It has a nicer ring than ‘trailing spouse’ but only just.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09890862541890241422 Raine and Sage

      My husband and I met travelling, and have consequently lived and worked in a few different cities, and now renovating our 2nd home. I wonder if we got addicted to moving?!
      I’ve not heard of trailing spouses before. It’s a funny term, and condescending a bit.
      We were considering if we’d move to Qatar about 18mths ago… :)

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03238900510810927074 <br><br><br><br><br>Dr.Sameena Prathap

      Hi,

      Beautiful narration…stop by if you find time…:)

      Dr.Sameena@

      http://www.lovelypriyanka.blogspot.com
      http://www.myeasytocookrecipes.blogspot.com

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06764463577971482089 Little J

      Great post. I love how you write! It gave me insight into expat wives as I do think they get a bad rap. At least they have each other though. I am the one who is working and there doesn’t appear to be an “expat husbands” club. And the expat wives won’t have much to do with me…mostly because they form their friends when I can’t. Company parties aren’t a lot of fun! Working wives want girlfriends too :(

    • Brett

      Great post, we’re from Australia also but now in Chennai (or Madras as it was once called) before that Singapore.
      You’re right my wonderful wife Helen does all the hard work and makes everything happen. She putting out 4 year old to bed after a mad hospital dash across horrendous wet season traffic. Some sort of weird fever that seems to have settled down now.
      I can’t wait to show her your post as it will be like looking in a mirror for her.
      I spent a long time expatting alone and then ended up back in sydney for a few years where we met and married. After a one year of parenthood in Sydney I persuaded Helen to hit the road and while it’s been crazy we are having fun and are closer in way that I don’t think we would have if we’d stayed in surburbia. (Plus I would have died of boredom)
      Once you’ve survived a fight with a monkey in your kitchen your world is irreversibly different.
      keep up the blog, you have a gift that should be shared!
      Cheers
      Brett

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13700717302832203631 London City Mum

      Fabulous post.

      Where do I join? Can swap you for Kevin.

      LCM x

    • Single Working Girl Abroad

      Ladies, suggest you purchase a book called “Diplomatic Incidents: The Memoirs of an Undiplomatic Wife” by Cherry Denman, available on amazon.co.uk – so, so funny, I found myself laughing out loud with no-one there to hear me. Might chivvy Mrs G into writing her own book.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04925824005829442967 Expatriate Chef

      Nice post, am sending the link to a friend who is living this life, too! Thanks for stopping by my kitchen.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15026987107815016616 4 kids, 20 suitcases and a beagle

      Thank you so much for the comments. I don’t have the technological capabilities to do single replies here in the comments so where I can I’m coming to find you! Either on your blogs or via your emails.

      To those who are thinking of living in Doha or are currently living in Doha please drop me an email at kirsty@shamozal.com I would REALLY like to talk to you.

      The book is on the way. I was contacted by a publisher a few weeks ago and fingers crossed 4 kids, 20 suitcases and a beagle will get written and published in a year or (depending on how demanding the beagle is) two.

      Once again, thanks for the comments, I loved reading them, (particularly the monkey fighting Australian), new post coming tomorrow, I hope you can find time to come back again.

      Kirsty

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00621170366257326241 MultipleMum

      It certainly sounds like an interesting way to spend a life! I can’t say it would be for everyone, but as a fellow traveller, I reckon I could get used to it too. Make the most of any situation you find yourself in because it is unique and interesting and yours :)

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14796758557993482943 Desiree

      Loved the post and your writing. I was an expat for most of the past fifteen years. Met great people and had great experiences, some of the best friends ever. Am having a hard time with our most recent move back to the US. Tough to not have the expat identity and the willingness of people to get to know you and have a coffee!

    • Anonymous

      Please write more! I am an expat wife myself and read your post with a big grin on my face! Can’t wait to read more!

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15665464372841227874 Tilly

      My goodness, how brave are you?! I get stressed just going on holiday never mind living in numerous different countries!

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09763064258020825441 Elizabeth Abbot

      great post (a friend forwarded it to me). I see you have the Expat Women website listed — check out the December article on “The Pyramid of Expat Needs”. It’s a model I often use in trainings and presentations that seems to hit the spot. Best wishes! Elizabeth

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10652566920769043373 Olga

      Thank you for this post. It brings so many memories.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12951250749027163763 Victoria

      Hi! Thanks for stopping by my blog.. hopefully I’ll be posting more regularly now that I’m no longer pregnant!
      I’m a grad school wife, and it sounds a bit like being an ex-pat wife.. except I assure you no one ever thinks we’re going to be glamorous! But you DO have to get in good with women quickly, be sharp & have a talent to stand out. Whew! I’ll visit your blog again soon!

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16232358885177196136 katherine

      It was like reading a short story about my life as an ‘expat wife’. I found myself smiling from ear to ear and laughing out loud. SO TRUE! I lived in Abu Dhabi for 13 years and came to the States for 2 years to get my teens settled into college. Now, it’s back to UAE and the hubby – and I’m more than ready to end that long-distance commute thing. Every expat woman will tell you it started out as a two year contract, but they all end up staying. When we meet a new girl in the group and she talks about that 2-year contract schpiel, we all hold in our giggles. The truth is – once you become an expat, you can never UNbecome one. You will always relate most easily with other expats once you’ve lived in this way. I have missed that camaraderie so much.

      Even as I contemplate leaving Alabama and moving back in January to Abu Dhabi, we are planning his retirement in South America. And so it goes!

    • Anonymous

      Absolutely loved this post! We were much older when we began our expat adventures, and we are coming up on our 1-year anniversary. We are the only ones from my husband’s company in the country, and I truly love all the women I’ve met. However, I’m still wondering if I’ll find that one BFF. Every time I find someone that I really like and think we could be best of friends, I find out she is leaving in the next month or so. Maybe lots of friends will have to do instead of one BFF?

      Thank you for making my day with your blog!

    • Anonymous

      and just imagine what’s about being a “trailing husband”
      because if the majority is female gender, some are male…

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03482513767849843084 My New Normal

      Great post, and I can totally relate as an expat living in London. The expat community over here has been my family away from home and they have helped me through some very difficult times.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10244439931661355439 qatar foodie

      This is a great post and just for that I voted for you at babble and you are 16 now… the book idea suggested by some in the comments is worth a thought… keep blogging

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08233773591457421170 Valentina Vaselli Konzal

      wow, i’ve been also the woman in the hotel room already in brussels, warsaw and now in a small village close to Geneva (with a 2 months old baby girl) and next year there ll be a new destination…I started my blog yesterday and I ended up here browsing the lists of other mothers expat blogs.. you really hit the point!!

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17165208811776097332 Heather

      Excellent post lady! Just excellent!

    • Nicola Adair

      I’m the blonde Scottish woman you met at the end of last night’s QPWN event. Really enjoyed chatting to you and so couldnt resist looking up your blog….I love it! Your comments re Trailing Spouse made me laugh and cry – your description of feeling empowered after walking into a room full of unknown women is exactly how I felt last night……and today I have an extra spring in my step due to my ‘bravery’!

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04503327503533034631 Rhanda

      This post is great! I am an American, now living as an expat in Oman (we are practically neighbors). We have been here 2.5 years! I can so relate with what you have written. My second week here, I found myself in tears at the local market unsuccesfully trying to find pesto. Now, I see it all over the place. ;) Oh to have a WalMart (or Target) here! A girl can dream can’t she?

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04393247567801391566 khani

      I like this blog, good luck ..! also visit hotel in bandung or nikon digital camera cases

    • http://greatexpatations.wordpress.com/ greatexpatations

      Oh I love the comment on knowing who the real trailing spouse is – yet not as much as the reference to ‘get your hands off her – she’s mine’ new expat friend snagging – delicious!

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15600066841446342922 Cat from Raspberry Rainbow

      Wonderful post! Thanks for your lovely comment on my blog, I am so glad we have found each others blogs – as me and our two young girls are soon moving to Hong Kong (hubby is already there), so I guess I am soon to be an expat wife (I will not call myself the other version, it is awful)
      I could be stopping by your blog to pick your brain when I am wondering what the flippin heck I have done!
      Nice to meet you :)
      Cat

    • http://www.preludefinancial.com.au/ Expats

      To be honest, the days of gold-rimmed expat packages are disappearing fast, whoops … they are gone, and therefor many expats now work under reasonably modest (local) terms, but no matter how you look at it, your life is often more luxurious.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08499944412217904302 vegemitevix

      I can’t believe I haven’t read this brilliant post before Kirsty. It really does say it all. I wrote about trailing spouses on my blog too – Who Moves, and also about the loss of identity when you move – Who am I? Can’t wait for your book to come out. Vxx

    • http://zestnzen.wordpress.com/ Anne Egros

      Great post !

      I have shared my thoughts on ex-career expat women: http://wp.me/ptOFQ-mG

      I am also looking forward to read your book !

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15600066841446342922 Cat from Raspberry Rainbow

      Wonderful post! Thanks for your lovely comment on my blog, I am so glad we have found each others blogs – as me and our two young girls are soon moving to Hong Kong (hubby is already there), so I guess I am soon to be an expat wife (I will not call myself the other version, it is awful)
      I could be stopping by your blog to pick your brain when I am wondering what the flippin heck I have done!
      Nice to meet you :)
      Cat

    • http://zestnzen.wordpress.com/ Anne Egros

      Great post !

      I have shared my thoughts on ex-career expat women: http://wp.me/ptOFQ-mG

      I am also looking forward to read your book !

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04503327503533034631 Rhanda

      This post is great! I am an American, now living as an expat in Oman (we are practically neighbors). We have been here 2.5 years! I can so relate with what you have written. My second week here, I found myself in tears at the local market unsuccesfully trying to find pesto. Now, I see it all over the place. ;) Oh to have a WalMart (or Target) here! A girl can dream can’t she?

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09763064258020825441 Elizabeth Abbot

      great post (a friend forwarded it to me). I see you have the Expat Women website listed — check out the December article on “The Pyramid of Expat Needs”. It’s a model I often use in trainings and presentations that seems to hit the spot. Best wishes! Elizabeth

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04925824005829442967 Expatriate Chef

      Nice post, am sending the link to a friend who is living this life, too! Thanks for stopping by my kitchen.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03238900510810927074 <br><br><br><br><br>Dr.Sameena

      Hi,

      Beautiful narration…stop by if you find time…:)

      Dr.Sameena@

      http://www.lovelypriyanka.blogspot.com
      http://www.myeasytocookrecipes.blogspot.com

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15425166687421078790 homekeepsmoving

      Hi, I have just stumbled upon your blog – I love it! Thought you might be interested in mine…I recently wrote a book about growing up as a Third Culture Kid and it got published this summer…
      Heidi :)
      http://homekeepsmoving.blogspot.com/

    • http://globalcoachcenter.wordpress.com/ globalcoachcenter

      Love the post and, especially, the “we all know who the real trailing spouse is”! Funny and very true at the same time!

      I’ve loved all my expat assignments and, in fact, I find myself itching for the next one when we live back home (like now). I help others love it too so a dream job/lifestyle combination. :)

    • http://www.lifeintheexpatlane.com/ Miss Footloose

      Hi Kristy, glad you found me! Yes, I certainly identify with (almost) everything in your post having lived in a number of foreign countries. I was married in Kenya, had my first baby in Ghana, and so on and so forth. Been the trailing spouse all right.

      Hailing from the Netherlands, I have a travel/exploring gene and I always wanted to see the world, so I got lucky.

      Lucky also because I have my own portable career as a writer, which means I don’t have to “sacrifice” ;) myself for the good of my husband’s career.

    • Darinaw

      Hi Kirsty,
      What a gift !!! I have been an Expat for almost 30 years, 10 different countries, and three kids. You have just articulated beautifully, what it’s all about. Trailing spouse…. I don’t think so !!! Well done. xx

    • http://juststopspeaking.wordpress.com/ juststopspeaking

      Fantastic post – and can I just say – WOW you’re brave.

      We did the travel thing-but from one side of Oz to the otherand whilst it may have been in the same country but, can I tell you, worlds apart….. and unfortunately the locals Not.So.Welcoming.

      Anyhoo – we got through and came out the other side – what does not kill us makes us stronger

      Write a book – I’d buy it for sure.

    • Ex Dhaka

      Great post – brings back wonderful memories of my time as the … non working part of the couple. First six weeks (in a hotel) were awful – particularly as husband went to Dublin for 2 weeks 3 days after kids n I arrived, and all the expats went on 2 months summer leave a week after that. But things improved once we were settled.

      I’ve always described it as a shallow but fulfilling life filled with coffee, shopping, and some incredible friends who I will never forget.

    • http://davesag.tumblr.com/ Dave Sag

      Great post. I was an expat for years and now I live in Canberra I still feel like an expat.

    • http://strongsoutherly.blogspot.com/ Andrea

      So so so right – I wasn’t the expat spouse, just the expat, but I certainly experienced the cameraderie and openness, and the willingness to make people feel welcome. It is something you really miss when you come back to Aus. Everybody has their lives, their routine, their set ‘support crew’, so when you move somewhere it doesn’t take a number of weeks to find people, it takes years. Even now, 5 years on my friendship group pales in comparison to my expat one.

    • Lynn

       There’s no life like it!

    • Robandmerinplus

      Everything you say about the life of an expat wife is just so true…..but now being back “home” after a 2 year expat experience I think I’d like to go again!!! Life is never, ever boring or mundane as an expat wife!!

    • Rachel

      I adore this post. You have summed up the strength it takes to get out there, and the sheer bloody mindedness you need to make a success of it – all while pinning a smile on your face to camouflage the butterflies in your stomach. Can’t wait to read the rest of your posts!

    • LK

      Great post!  So true on every count!  Was an expat girlfriend for a year, and now an expat wife for 10…. Your post just reminded me of my early days!  Nice one!!!

    • Fam Wanten

      could I use this article to publish in our bimonthly newsletter of the British Womens Association? That would be a great story to share .. thanks in advance

    • Anonymous

      I love this!!! Everything is so true. After 3 different countries in a 12 year span we are now living back in the USA. At the beginning I didn’t want this kind of life, but after our third move ( where 2 of my 3) children were born I actually began to love the expat life. We saved a great amount of money, we learned another language, we had a ton of help , and some of my best friends have come from these adventures. I love being settled in one place again, but I will never forget the experiences our family shared. Never say never..

    • http://irunyourun.wordpress.com/ Carla

      I wish I had the same experience as you did, arriving in a foreign country and having other spouses reach out.  I instead was alone in that room (not a hotel, but isolated temporary quarters nonetheless) for a month.

      (To be fair one spouse did reach out and I had a glorious second day in town, but she was pregnant and on her way out, so I was left alone after that, since she had urgent matters to take care of, but the people who were here?  Nothing.  I vowed to never be that person, and I have met friends by reaching out instead as 5 months later, I’m no longer “new”)

    • Amwaters

      You got the essence of “trailing” spouse expat wife.  There is a fantastic play here in singapore called Expat Wife and it was also so close to the truth.  

    • Melinda Mccabe

      That is thee truth. Living in India was all that you listed but the friends I made seem closer then friends I have in the states…

    • http://twitter.com/TorreDoro Dorotea Torretta

      Hi,
      I’m @TorreDoro . I read this blog last week and I totally agree with the content.

      When I started my expat-wife life, 16 years ago, I arrived in a little town in Central Mexico, 2 hours by car from Mexico City. My daughter was 6 and my son was 1 year old.
      We came from a rich, well served and safe North of Italy, Milan. In that “pueblito” there wasn’t anything. Even expats, apart a very small Italian colony, my husband’s colleagues, but as was summer the few wives leaving there were on vacation abroad.
      The second day there, I called a pediatrician (suggested by hubby’s colleague) for my son. This very generous man the same day sent his wife to my place to help me. Since that afternoon we became inseparable. She was my sister, mother, friend, conforter.
      I don’t see her in person since 14 years, but we are continuously in touch – by e-mails, phone, FB, skype: our affection still lasts, no matter the distance.

      All of us can tell stories like this. How is painful grow away from these persons that are part of our life, that our children love as  the true family. And how is extraordinary being aware that this kind of ralationships can be built wherever.

      Cheers,
      Dorotea

    • Rissa

      Hi Kirsty, in a few months I will become a trailing spouse/expat wife and this blog made me feel so much better! We haven’t even started to pack yet and I am already feeling that I am losing my identity. The thought that after we move, it will be me who has the answers to the ‘where do we go?’ ‘where can I get?’ is reassuring. It’s me who has those answers here and I like the fact that this at least, won’t change!

      Keep writing, your words are thoroughly entertaining!!!

    • Em

      Preparing for “my” first expat wife assignment (China) I came accross your blog. Thanks for sharing your experiences. Look forward to new making friends but will miss the “old” ones very much…

    • Jeanne @ Collage of Life

      I am not sure if I comment on this before…even if I did, I have to say, once again, this is brilliant and so true! Well done! :)

    • Patricia

      LOve your blog! Would you like to follow each other? My blog is on spanish designers I promote , style and my experience as a western woman and expat wife in Qatar! 

      Come check it out!

      http://ladiesandthecityfashion.blogspot.com 

    • Barbarosa

      So true as also the last paragraph !
      If it is the partner to follow he’ll receive the nice title of “prince consort”… but mens are certainly not so organized as we are and certainly are not sharing ideas or comfort or  help in welcoming groups.  They could really struggle to adapt in a new environment that is not work !

    • Sandra

      Great article! As an expat wife, I reconglize myself on that story. I remember our first move to Vietnam, what a shock!! first time in Asia for us, with a little one, and getting pregned in the first month there. I was not happy at all. But everything changes when you start meeting people. Making friends make your life so much better werever you are. We still moving and moving, I like this life. Meeting new people is a little bit of a chalenge and more when your kids start getting older, but knowing a new place with exiting things to know and learn, is great!Even tho, the move is one of the most stressful things in a person life, we start been a little bit of an expert, still very stress out, but well…. it came w the territorie, right? I think now a days I couldn t live anymore in a one place, may be onde day we move to a place were we ll feel like home and we stay there forever. For now….forever is a world we do not use. There is nothing forever in life, so we ll enjoy while we can.

    • Melina

      Brilliant Post!!! Loved reading it…and looking back through our blog! Im a newbie Expat, having just done a year in KL but on our way to Doha now…perhaps we can meet up once we are there! Thanks for a brilliant blog!

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05681227038111050561 Melody

      This is such a fabulous post. You wrote everything just the way it is. And you always think you are alone until you start talking to other westerners around you.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07285709209953730580 Fraudster

      Again, fabulous writing. Cheers for the insight on a Sunday morning in same old Melbourne.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10122834410061492424 bloggingher

      lovely post…i totally relate…is that book out yet? :) u really should write one…

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01095913641167115662 Chuzai Living

      I’m ‘training spouse’ in Jakarta and sometimes I feel that we get a better deal. What you wrote is so true and I am nodding as I read. Great writing!

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01023787854786251105 aussiemama

      Another expat wife/trailing spouse/mum here. We moved from Sydney to Dublin (2 years) then Yokohama (3 years) adn now in the UK. I can totally relate to all that you wrote in this blog – tho rather than ‘she’s mine’ i call it ‘girl dating’ as you meet someone for the first time, get to know them, chat a bit, after a few meetings you exchange phone numbers, then wait to see who rings who first, then offer/accept an invitation to coffee ….. and before you know it the deepest of friendships is formed, or not. And you learn that’s ok too.
      Then you add husbands and kids into the mix and again, it either works or it doesn’t.
      it’s hard work moving country every few years, closing one chapter and opening another. Long gone are the days of tennis, lunches, endless shopping, expat clubs etc (tho i hear it also depends on where you are gigging and the industry the employed partner is in).
      The move to the UK’s actually been very difficult cos we’re not living in an expat community.
      Like a lot of expat wives/ trailing spouses i also started blogging just before we left Japan as friends said ‘write a book’ . Love to have your company and comments at ms-havachat.blogspot.com

      meanwhile, onwards and upwards

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10441442451871326442 Chris

      Wow, thanks. I appreciate you wrote this post 2 years ago, but it’s a great inspiration. I moved to Ghana with my husband and three kids from Australia at the beginning of this year. As we live an hour out of the second biggest city, and we don’t have a expat pool of people close by, and it’s been tough. Your post has been a kick up the butt to get out there a bit and enjoy some of the upsides to expat life! And no more feeling guilty about morning tennis lessons….

    • Anonymous

      After 2 years still loving this article!!!

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    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13213887812737407113 Kim S.

      Terrific post! I sometimes think it’s easier to make friends living abroad than it was back in an American city – at least among other expats. You share the same struggles and can empathize with newcomers’ challenges. It’s a small, generally supportive, manageable community. I actually think I’ll miss that easy camaraderie when we go back to the States.

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    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09611096277914899262 CDV

      Loved this post! I immigrated from the UK to the USA to be with my husband, and it’s been an interesting journey of constant adaptation and unpredicted culture shock to say the least! Got to find the humor in it though don’t you!?

      http://leapacrossthepond.blogspot.com/

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    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08563442390740639521 Little Spoon

      I love this – completely spot on. I lived in Qatar last year, Russia and Libya before that and we’re off to Angola; every new start begins with at least one day in the hotel/apartment figuring out of it was the right move. I’ve got a bunch of lovely friends around the world now though, all of whom have helped me out when needed and who I will do the same for in a heartbeat. The bit about being able to show my husband (aka the office dweller) around the city when we’ve just arrived is so true.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11555869161874166113 Megan

      Absolutely right! Thanks for articulating it all. In the past 10 years of doing some “trailing” of my own I have encountered my share of “ladies who lunch”, but mostly I have also met the most important women in my life who have continued to be what I assume will be lifelong friendships, and who have gone out of their way to be there for me and either help me feel at home in a new home, or have joined forces in figuring it all out. People may often be nervous about moving to a new country, especially if they don’t know what they will be doing there, but I have been much more enthusiastic about moving to a new place where I knew I would feel more “at home” with others who know what it’s like to be the new kid on the block than in a new town in my home country. Plus we have friends all over the world whose couches we look forward to crashing on for many years to come!

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    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15026987107815016616 4 kids, 20 suitcases and a beagle

      Now I want to hear the story about the monkey in the kitchen.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15026987107815016616 4 kids, 20 suitcases and a beagle

      Just had 3 years in Kuwait and this all sounded so familiar. Now living in USA and it’s not the expat life, but it’s not exactly ‘home’ yet either. Getting there …

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15026987107815016616 4 kids, 20 suitcases and a beagle

      I agree wholeheartedly!

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15026987107815016616 4 kids, 20 suitcases and a beagle

      I’ve never been an expat wife, just an expat single- but most of what you said applies…and the things you miss when you move to a ‘non expat community.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15026987107815016616 4 kids, 20 suitcases and a beagle

      Just noticed I commented on this three years ago! Ha!

    • Esta Styles

      What about trailing husbands? Think they are a new trend without the wives support network to help them… And often ‘trailing’ wives who are not earning as much as your “expat wives'” spouses (e.g. Many teachers in my experience)… Where do we fit in? ;)

      • http://shamozal.blogspot.com Kirsty Rice 4kids20suitcases

        Thanks Esta, I’ve written about trailing husbands before, but this post was focussed on women. Regarding your comment on teachers, the post was about ALL women e.g..

        “In my experience she’s like any group of women, she’s a nurse, a doctor, a dentist, a hairdresser, a chef, a banker.”

        Cheers and thanks for your comment.

    • Esta Styles

      Ah, this was posted by someone and popped up on my FB feed. Haven’t seen your other posts

    • Tamkara Adun

      I can so relate to this post! I do not like the term trailing spouse…it just sounds so dismal. I wrote a post on this http://womenofhr.com/the-trailing-spouse-to-be-or-not-to-be/

      I was definitely nodding my head when you said “That weekend you’ll see her, leading the way with her trailing spouse behind her, she’ll be showing him how the city works and what she’s learnt during the week” that totally describes me. Thanks so much for writing this post and sharing the true essence of what an expat wife is and is not.

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    • Marta Diemar

      Thank you so much for your article, you made me laugh and cry at the same time … and you gave me hope! I am a new expat wife and mum to a 6 month old in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan (your will probably need to google map that one), what I mean by new is I am 11 days in and I am slowly getting to that stage of feeling a little bit alone when walking around the city. But I am determined to find a friend with the added challenge of my husband working as 1 of 2 expats in the company (the other expat doesn’t have a partner over here) So I have a question… what advise would you give to new expat wife in a random country wanting to find new friends?

      • http://shamozal.blogspot.com Kirsty Rice 4kids20suitcases

        Hi Marta, are you on the 4 kids, 20 suitcases Facebook page. I might put a note out there asking if anyone else is there at the moment. I’ve definitely had comments from Kyrgyzstan before. Let me know when you “like” the page and I’ll put a note out to readers. xxx

        • Marta Diemar

          Hello Kirsty, Thank you so much for your reply and doing that for me! Meeting fello expat wives would be really nice right about now. I ‘liked’ your page yesterday you will be able to find me with the same name. x

    • AnExpatWife

      LOVE this blog… I’ve been an expat wife for nearly 10 years now and am in my 4th and hopefully final country !! I wouldn’t change any of it if I had the choice again. I’ve shed many tears and met lots of ‘ladies who lunch’ but I’ve also met some amazing people, travelled to some great places and even got the chance to study for 2 bachelors degrees…. Your post describes many things perfectly !! It really takes another expat to truly understand the frustrations.