Don’t Apologize For The Good Bits

A girlfriend of mine removed her recent family holiday snaps from Facebook. I know this because I wanted to go back and have a second look, I was interested to see whether they’d tagged in the name of exactly where they stayed. The shots were, as they say, picture perfect. The beach looked beautiful, the food fresh, every shot said come to Asia it’s bloody amazing.

“Where are your holiday photos? I wanted to get the name of the area you stayed in?” I messaged her.

“I took them down – my sister in law said something about them. It was just easier to take them down”

“??????” I’m not sure why I felt the need for six question marks

“She thinks I’m bragging, she said she’s sick of seeing photos of our perfect life.”

“WTF?” my caps lock were slow and definite.

“I know, but it’s just easier to take them down. I always feel so guilty when she comments about us not living in the real world.”

The real world. I wondered about the real world. Was the real world where you had family nearby? Was the real world where you took your trees and your parks for granted? Was the real world ducking into the shops in your beach gear and not worrying about offending someone enough to be arrested.

Yes, the real world is mundane and boring – until you don’t have it anymore.

I was in the shower when G came home last night and asked if I minded helping out a colleague.

“Their son is in hospital, between him and his wife they haven’t had much sleep. He sounds really tired. He needs to go and take over from his wife at the hospital and I think I should drive him. Are you cool to watch their daughter while I do that?”

Of course.

Sometimes expat life isn’t pretty. The moments where we’re out of control, alone, and a little helpless on foreign soil are perhaps not the moments we share on Facebook. Maybe we should.

We have to stop apologising. If you’re lucky enough to get some perks in this gig, enjoy them!

I produce a podcast each week with a girlfriend. It’s a podcast for expat women called the Two Fat Expats. The name is meant to be a play on words, an encouragement to live a fat expat life (plus we’re both a little bit fat…just a little bit.)

Expat life should be fat. Full to the brim with juicy experiences. Who knows how long it will last so don’t wait. Don’t apologise. Feast while you can. Live a fat expat life. And share your pics because I’d LOVE to see them.

  • http://www.atotaltaitaitale.tumblr.com/ aTotalTaiTaiTale

    I felt exactly the same… After several people made a few remarks on my pictures (some jokingly, some not as jokingly) of my “perfect” life i noticed I started to post less and less on my facebook. I didn’t want to start making groups of people I wanted to share pictures with and people I would exclude so I started a photo blog (well a tumblr since most blog hosts are blocked in China) and post there everyday. People who wants to follow, do and the rest don’t. It’s slightly less in the face of my friends 🙂 Unfortunately I won’t have those cute x Years ago reminder from facebook in a few years 🙁

  • Elizabeth Foreman

    Urrgh… Facebook is not the be all and end all of a ‘perfect life’!
    My parents were expats before I was born… I’m 23 so we aren’t talking internet days here, they have box of photos from living 2 years in Hong Kong and a year in Sydney, both very different from the life I grew up with in Auckland. To me it’s always looked perfect, there was a good income, wonderful perks and great friends. I was born when they wanted to settle down in a stable and known environment. I lived in the house that was paid for from expat workings, have amazing connections because of people my Dad worked with in HK and I grew up in a wonderful country on a beach. My parents working as expats made not only that but also made it possible for both my parents to stay home until I started school.
    Facebook became popular when I was in high school and me, like many of my peers have a very special place in our hearts for it. I’m not sure about anyone else but for my high school years Facebook was all about bragging.
    So I think you should share all the fun stuff on Facebook. All my high school friends are having babies at the moment (like seriously, there seems to an announcement every other day) and we live all over the world from each other so the photos are great. Am I jealous I don’t get to meet the babies, absolutely… Do I still want more pics… YES!!!

  • http://ms-havachat.blogspot.ie/ ms-havachat

    Yes!

    We’ve all received similar comments or the facial expression from those who have never expatted and FB is the prime source of envy n jealousy.

    I love seeing friends expeditions as they either go where I’d like to one day go too, so recommendations are welcomed or they go to places I’ll never get to and so I live vicariously thru them.

    Sometimes I’m a little green …. how do they afford to travel every-single-holiday? Why can’t we?

    I don’t apologise for the life we live but I’ve also learnt not to flaunt it either.

    Guess that’s why the every day ups n downs of expat life are my chats rather than a fat expat life. It takes all kinds and together we are a formidable community.
    X

  • Pegasus

    I cannot count the number of times I have agonized over a “do I or don’t I post it” decision or immediately delete a post for fear that I’m seemingly bragging. I’ve even resorted to creating a more exclusive and private FB group and have hopefully filled it with people either genuinely happy for me and my family, or interested in the places we have been. That has taken a great deal of the pressure off. It’s funny, but the same people who seemed to be bothered by my “perfect life” posts, were equally unhappy when I posted occasionally about the struggles in our expat existence…..sometimes you can’t win.

  • http://www.expitterpattica.com Expitterpattica

    My philosophy on this is pretty simple: I ask myself “am I posting this photo on FB with the aim of showing off?” I’m completely honest with myself (because we all love to show off the good things right?) If any part of me replies ‘yes’ I don’t post the picture/update or whatever. If I feel that I’m posting the photo out of a pure motivation to share my experience with people who love and support me and are happy that I get to travel, then I post it and don’t give it another thought. If my motives are pure then it’s not my problem if someone reacts out of smallness. And if people really think that selective FB photos and updates reflect the entirety of someone’s life then it’s they that are not living in the ‘real world’!

  • Leslie

    Having just repatriated after 11 years, I am kind of seeing it from the “other side” now. The “real world” means driving kids all over the county to a million activities that we didn’t have overseas (that I am thrilled they have but still…), cleaning my own damn house, watering my own damn garden, paying bills again, etc. etc. This is the “real” world. And it ain’t pretty, people! LOL But there are some good things, I am learning,……Being an expat —-well, it’s not all sunshine, all the time. But there are some incredible perks…I LOVED that lifestyle for the most part, especially the travel and the household help. I posted travel photos (and we traveled a lot) and I’m sure people rolled their eyes. I can kind of see that now. However, I think most of my friends wanted to see what we were up too. I say enjoy the expat ride, but always remember to be sensitive to the folks not living it. For as imperfect as expat living it, for me, at least, it is head and shoulders more exciting and financially less stressful than living back home. We plan to go back out at some point. And for those that have never lived it and are struggling to make ends meet, it looks pretty damn good and I can understand their envy.

  • http://www.dazeofmylife.com Corinne

    Yes! You have such a way of putting down how I feel, Kirsty!

    Our expat life has just come to an end (for now) and I made sure we lived a full life and took as many opportunities as we could. And hell yes, I posted about them.

    I just wrote a blog post about how everyone keeps asking what it’s like to be home/back/in the real world. Which baffles me as we’re living in a city I’ve never lived in before and had only visited a couple of times in life. People’s perceptions are funny thing. I also keep being asked ‘Isn’t Brisbane a bit boring?’ Life is what you make it. I want to make my life full and suck the most of wherever I live, whether it be ‘boring’ Brisbane or ‘exotic’ Dubai (note: these are words I wouldn’t use to describe either city but have been used by people around me). xx

    • http://awelshgirlinaus.blogspot.com.au/ Beth

      Hi Corine,
      I now live in Brisbane and it’s literally the other side of the world from mybirth home, yet a lot of my friends think I live the ‘exotic’ life here! I wonder if there’s such a place as the real world anymore…? PS I hope you settle in to Brisbane life – it’s an easy place to live. x

      • http://www.dazeofmylife.com Corinne

        Ha! Exactly what I mean, it just the way you look at it. I’m really enjoying Brisbane, it really is an easy life. Just have to build up the social circle a little! x

  • salllyw

    I’ve lived the expat life and now I live “real life”. Expat life was….fatter!! We loved it so much and there were some really perfect bits that we celebrated and posted about and probably boasted about. But we also paid the price. A price I know my sisters, friends, other nay-sayers wouldn’t ever be able to pay. The rough bits of settling in and constantly making new friends or saying good-bye to old friends, the times no one understood what you were trying to say, the times you thought you knew what they were saying (but didn’t!), the second-guessing about choices for our children, for our health, for our marriage. We worked hard and yes, we partied hard. Every choice has it’s consequences and the choice to be an expat resulted in wonderful consequences that were well-worth the price. Miss it so much!

  • http://lifethroughthehazeblog.wordpress.com Kit @ lifethroughthehaze

    Wow I am sorry but the SIL sounds just a tad jealous frankly. There are good and bad bits about life regardless of where you are whether you are expat or not. One of my friends is out shopping for a brand new car that we would dearly love but we can’t possibly afford but they keep putting up pretty pictures of new cars they are looking at. Am I jealous of course. Would I tell them in a passive aggressive way that because I am jealous they should take their pictures down and stop bragging that they can buy a new car. Dumb example I know but you get the picture.

    Sure it can be hard to see friends or family off doing and enjoying amazing things but they are at a different stage in their lives, relationship, career whatever to where we are. Plus for our friends that have chosen an expat life they have had to make huge sacrifices to do that. I know from my mum that while we lived in Fiji and went away to resorts etc and had amazing holidays she really struggled with homesickness and missed home and her family everyday. So for mum sure the amazing life she had for almost three years was an opportunity like no other but she gave up so much for it. I don’t think putting up holiday photos is bragging about a great life!

    Hugs for your friend!

  • TyphoonsandTantrums

    Thank you for bringing up something that has often lurked in the back of my mind. This Expat shaming is something I get all the time, and I have had family member’s ask me outright if I fled the country because I thought I was too good for their way of life. WTF indeed. So I downplay it all, leave out details but that’s doing the whole experience, and the people in my Expat life a disservice. Living fat is the way to go!

  • Katie M

    That really is awful. I’ve occasionally had hints of this, but I just ignore it. When I’ve had a lovely experience, I want to share it. My parents and in-laws are on my FB and they love the pictures.

  • http://www.muddlingalongmummy.com/ Muddling Along

    That’s an awful thing to happen – one of the things about social media is that it does show life through a filter but it is there for our memories and not everyone else’s (I love Timehop and being able to look back over things) – I’m making more of an effort to be honest about the bad stuff but it doesn’t mean you should gloss over the good things

  • Doreen

    Amen…. I totally agree, you must live to the fullest AND I would invite us to think about continuing to live big, full out and develop a new adventure when you return to the “real world”. We don’t ever have to settle for less, we can take the steps and think into the what’s possible….I love your title.

  • Zoe Wassermann

    I cannot tell you how much I understand this post. Family have often commented on things we do and jealous is the only word I can think of. But the price of these small ‘luxuries’ and they are small when you consider the LARGE things we surrender as expats. I have sat in a hospital with my youngest having surgery and me eldest in a friends care while my husband is a million miles away unable to make it ‘home’ and no family to count on either. I have stayed up all night for weeks on end with the same sick child and still had to do homework and all the other chores for my eldest because Granny is on the other side of the Equator and cannot do a school pick up or make a dinner here and there. My son has had 12 surgeries in 12 years and if I can give him a small luxury here and there, why should I be embarrassed… because that is what the other side of FB does. When living in Saudi we counted down the months (YES months) till we could go to Dubai or Bahrain and go to a cinema…. SO yes I will post it thanks.

    • Gerhard Meyer

      months? In Saudi Arabia I count the days…lol Weekends last for months.

  • Phoebe Thomas

    Expat life IS real life. If it’s not then I haven’t yet led a real life and I’m about to turn 50! Expat since birth, this is my real life…I can’t be alone.