No Job, No Office, No Need For A Card – Really?

Perhaps I wouldn’t have understood it either had I not found myself in the same position. No job, no work email or office address, and more to the point, no work permit – but there I was, in desperate need of a business card.

The first time I was asked was within days of leaving Australia, new in Jakarta and having just met a table of brand new faces – I was asked for my card. I’d finished work a couple of months earlier.

“Oh my business cards only have my Australian number on them – I really should throw them out.” I stood rubbing my pregnant stomach thinking about why they were still in my purse. The final tangible existence of a job I’d loved.

“You should get a card” a seasoned expat suggested. “You’re going to meet a lot of people over the next few months while you’re looking for a house and setting up a new life. It’ll save you having to scribble out your number on a piece of paper. Just put your details on a card.”

She was right. Over the next few months I would meet a succession of people to exchange numbers with. The fellow pregnant woman who knew of a great doctor. The workmen who miraculously made the power reappear, the phone line return, and remove the massive rat that was eating a snake from the front yard. Our class of 20 at ante-natal. There were newcomers groups to join. They were incredibly social and welcoming with tips of where to find things and contacts for all sorts of randomness. We went to barbecues, dinners and parties where I’d find myself at the end of the event scrambling for a pen and a scrap bit of paper to write down my number.

Over the next ten years a pattern would develop at each new destination. I’d consider a card, realise I really needed a card, think about printing a card, and then we’d find out we were moving. Cards were handed out by those far more organised than I, useful cards, cards with names of family members and map co-ordintes, cards that answered the questions I’d usually arrive home and begin asking myself. Questions like “Was it Noha or Nour?” “Did she say she had a son or a daughter in Grade 3?” “Where did she say they were living?”  Things that would have been useful to get to the birthday party your son was invited to on impulse in the carpark.

And while I didn’t have a card, those cards made sense to me – it was a tweet that made me realise there were maybe a few who didn’t understand.

“I’ve been told there are unemployed expat women with business cards with their family details on them? Really?!”

The tone mocking, the suggestion bleak. I mean, who did these women think they were? They didn’t NEED a card. Were they pretending to be important? And while I was tempted to be outraged by the author, I realised that perhaps in her single, childless state she should be forgiven for having absolutely no clue on the day to day runnings of a family. She was yet to enter a sports store with the task of buying four sets of sports shoes. She was living in a world where you made one appointment with the dentist, not four. She promptly booked and paid for airfares home without trying to strike the same deal for six travellers. She boarded planes, trains and busses without wiping out the front two rows with a stray child under one arm and a bulging baby bag on the other. If she had six people at her table it was called a party, not just dinner (again). She was yet to experience that everything was about to take four times longer than usual, that she now had a few extra calendars, events and meltdowns. And yes, these things can all be managed with full-time jobs – (not for G and I though, hats off to those who do, we had to employ help) but sometimes life just doesn’t work out the way your planned or thought, and for whatever reason you may find yourself “at home” with someone judging whether you need a card to introduce yourself. Really.

I now have two business cards: one that I hand out for freelance writing, another that I use for BloggingME. I could still do with a card that has the names of my children (it may stop me from getting them mixed up) and a mudmap with the GPS co-ordinates of my house because these are details I hand out on a weekly basis. People may prefer a card instead of “you know the road that runs from Landmark to the intersection with the four signs – our place is kind of halfway between there”.

Of course technology has meant that paper is slowly disappearing. We stand side by side tapping at screens while exchanging numbers, connecting via text, Facebook groups and email. Our signatures digitally encrypted, our validity unquestioned by its lack of embossment.


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