There are some crappy things about being an expat

There are some truly wonderful things that come with being an expat. There’s the obvious, the chance to make new friends from all over the world, the opportunity to travel and of course the eternal optimism that comes with the search of an unobtainable upgrade from an airline.

The really crappy things that come with being an expat are usually related to missing things from home. After 11 years away I’ve learnt to go without Maggie Beer pate and Freddo frogs, but it definitely hasn’t got any easier being away from my girlfriends. Sure, we keep in contact easily with facebook and Skype but we all know there is something magical about sitting with a girlfriend and having a really honest chat.

I once worked for a man who called himself a “realistic optimist”. I think because he was the CEO he didn’t want to look irresponsible with the optimism aspect so he made himself realistic. I think I might be an unrealistic optimist.

I  always think everything will work out.  I forgot to buy a ticket? Let’s just check at the door and see if they’ll let me in. I forget to put fuel in the car, I’m sure they’ll be a petrol station at the next intersection. I’m perpetually late because I have this belief that somehow I’ll magically get there in time. I truly believe the 20 minute trip may only take me 5 to 10 minutes and sometimes it does, sadly, unrealistic optimist are further encouraged by their luck.

So when my very good friend Fiona told me she was getting married on January 8th I thought I might have been able to get there, somehow. Even though I knew we had to spend Christmas in Qatar and even though school begins on the 9th, and even though we are financially more strapped than ever and I have 4 children and she is getting married in a country 14 hours flying time from mine……I entertained the idea. I guess I just couldn’t imagine missing it.

I first met Fiona when I was in my mid 20’s, I found her fascinating, in fact there were many nights when we first met that I couldn’t stop staring at her. She was beautiful, not pretty, she was simply, beautiful. It wasn’t just me staring at her, there was usually a crowd of us, men mostly (both gay and straight). Fiona was one of those girls that seemed to have it all, she had an hilariously dry wit, cooked like a chef, skin women would pay a fortune for and she had her own business. She had one downfall.

She had really shocking taste in men.

I was going to say that I found Fiona intoxicating which is kind of ironic because we spent a lot of time intoxicated. There was a group of us, we traveled in a pack. We were a dangerous combination, with our mutual love of champagne and our mutual dislike of going home there were some interesting evenings. The evenings were followed by hysterical “catch ups” the following day, piecing the evening together. We giggled. A lot.

I have many things to thank Fiona for, particularly in that period of my life, but the most obvious is the day she introduced me to G. After I told her the next day that “he just wasn’t my type” she persisted and set up drinks and when I left drinks early she continued and set up a dinner party. When I found out he was coming I groaned and repeated “I told you, he’s just not my type”………within a few weeks G and I were engaged, the rest, as they say is 4 kids, 20 suitcases and a beagle

Fiona’s sense of humour is naughty and wicked. After a long stint away from Australia we met for a drink at the local pub, I was excited about a few hours away from the little travelers and we decided to revisit old times and have a sneaky cigarette. “How much do they cost now” I asked as I pulled money out of my wallet for change, “oh they’re REALLY expensive now, about 30 bucks” she said giving the barman an inconspicuous wink. At that stage I think they were about $12. She kept a completely straight face as I monotonously poured $30 worth of coins in to the machine, after pushing the button what seemed like thousands of coins spat out on to the floor. It still makes me laugh.

A few years later it was Fiona who put her hand up when G was looking for someone to come and stay with me in Canada after the 4th little traveler was born and he needed to travel for business. It was Fiona who boarded roughly 7 different airplanes traveling via Pluto, Mars and Venus to get to Calgary because we did it all on air miles. Her luggage lost for two days, she persevered through my post natal “oh no they smashed the vegemite!” I’d asked her to bring it, there were shards of glass and vegemite all through her suitcase. She apologized for the inconvenience. How she didn’t slap me I’ll never know.

I’m not sure how she got through those couple of weeks with the little travelers and I. We were living in a parallel universe at the time. Fiona a single career woman living in a fabulous area in Melbourne, couldn’t have been further from my life on a cul-de-sac in the burbs. The little travelers were 6 weeks, 2, 4 and just 6.

She had excitedly arrived with Bill Grangers new cookbook with visions of us all sitting around the table, looking like Bill’s family and friends, stripy shirts and white teeth to match our pristine white pants, we’d be busily chewing while the children entertained us with their cuteness. Fast forward a few days, after a day of finding one child hanging on to the automatic garage door while the other pushed the button making it go up and down, Fiona was picking up the Spaghetti Bolognese off the floor when she looked at me and said “I had no idea, what was I thinking?”.

It was while she was in Canada that she told me about Carl. They’d met a few times, it was still new but she really liked him. She said he’d been married before and had kids. I looked at her incredibly flat stomach, perky boobs and thick glossy hair and wondered how I’d cope if G and I split up and he bought home Fiona. I couldn’t think about it for too long as I was starting to taste the vomit in my mouth. In my post natal state I envisaged her with the little travelers being “that” Mummy, the relaxed Mummy, the Mummy who remembered to put deodorant on and didn’t have throw up on her shoulder, toothpaste on her shirt and wobbly thighs.

Over the next year Fiona fell madly in love, but she did it like a grown up. She become friends with the ex wife, not fake friends, real friends. When I asked about the children, she told me all of their achievements, who they were and what she liked about them. She didn’t try to become their new mother or their best friend, she was herself. I thought back to my original thoughts, she was exactly what I would have wanted if G had to be with someone else (just not with such a flat tummy and beautiful skin).

The best bit though, was for the first time I saw a man who truly loved Fiona and over the past 4 years they just get better and better. Without controlling each other they both make each other better people, it works.

So next week a group of girlfriends will watch Fiona get married, I imagine with a little tear in their eye and probably up until 15 hours before the big moment I will hold on to an unrealistic optimistic hope that I will join them.  There are some crappy things about being an expat.

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  1. Such a beautifully written post, and I really feel for you. That is a crappy thing. I haven’t had to face that yet, but I am expecting to… weddings, funerals… we are so far from home huh? xx

  2. Thank you. Yes, it’s one of the sucky things. You hit the nail on the head with the funerals…I missed my grandmothers as I was very pregnant and she died just a couple of weeks after I had been home. Sometimes all of the practical thinking and logical conversations don’t make it any easier! Thanks for the comment. Kx

  3. So sorry that you are having to miss your friend’s wedding. That is crappy.

  4. I remember being in Korea when my step brother died and having no way to get home. Horrible being away for the big stuff. I hope you find a way to get there too. Another unrealistic optimist perhaps?

    Oh and what an amazing friend to come over and help out. Truly a great friend!

  5. Great post..sorry you will miss the wedding. I would be up set too and pictures are great but not the same as being there.


  6. Oh, hon. I really enjoyed reading this post, and I’m so sorry you can’t be there.

    Just living across the country from our family and friends can get tricky – we’ve missed out on a fair bit over the years, and I get a little sad when we’re not there on Christmas Day and I can hear my great-nephews in the background (my niece & nephew are my age). So, I can imagine how hard it is to for you to get to this stuff.

    Have a drink for Fiona on the day anyway. Make it a champers! You’re a great friend. x

  7. that was a wonderful post… am so sorry that you cannot afford to go… and that you are so far away from your friend… stupid thought but maybe someone can set up a laptop at the wedding on a chair and you can be on skype watching the whole thing and then they can move the laptop into the reception… not the same by any stretch of the imagination, but maybe you will feel like you were a part of her day, and she will feel like you are part of her day… cheers lovely one

  8. Aw, you make me want to go and hug my girlfriends right now! Sounds like she’ll be missing you just as much on her big day.

  9. Totally understand this, i have missed so many weddings of friends & family due to living interstate or my husband being away or 4 babies (normally a combination of all of the above), i just suck it up & consider that it’s just not my time!! Happy thoughts, no doubt she’ll be thinking of you as much as you will of her. Love Posie

  10. I feel for you! When I first moved to Canada I had no idea that 1 year later all 3 of my sisters would become pregnant with their first children.

    I love Average Girl’s suggestion. Geeky, yet practical.


  11. Thing is when you’ve moved around a bit you’re always going to miss something. I miss people now in NZ and Canberra now that I live in Queensland. But when I was in Canberra I missed out on all the Queensland action with relatives and friends here. Sometimes we just have to enjoy whoever is around us and catch up with the others with at least all the great technology and cheap phone calls etc. I do still feel for you though as she sounds like such a beautiful close friend!

  12. I loved reading this post (and did so with a wee tear in my eye). Thanks for describing so beautifully what all us expat ladies are truly feeling, especially at this time of year. I’m so sorry you will miss out on seeing your friend marry but I’m sure you will be very much in everyone’s minds (and hearts!) on the day. Nx

  13. Fiona sounds like an awesome friend and you too.
    I hope you get your wish !

  14. PS the word verification was HEART …amazing !

  15. I feel this way alot, but particularly at Christmas or of course, when someone near and dear to me passes…and I’ve not been there to see them for one last time.

    As one in the unrealistic optimist club, I hope you can be there somehow. What a fab friend!

  16. This is a lovely post x
    I really feel for you. I don’t know what it’s like being an ex-pat but I can tell you that being on the other end sucks as well. My brother’s an ex-pat in Hong Kong. He’s got two gorgeous kids whom I missed their births and subsequent birthdays. We only get to see them around once a year. It really sucks, but he’s there for work and as I say to him ‘you’ve just gotta do what you’ve gotta do’. Doesn’t mean you can’t have a good whinge about it though. Sending lots of optimism your way – there’s still 9 days to go…..anything could happen….
    Jac xx

  17. I am sure fiona would wish you were there too. x

  18. Not fair. Simply NOT FAIR!! I loved reading about your friendship, such a good connection is so special. Maybe you could make a time to see Fiona after the wedding, something to look forward to!? Take care xo

  19. Don’t you just LOVE girlfriends? What a lovely post. I’m missing mine too, at least Skype is better than nothing.

    Happy new year!

  20. She sounds like an amazing friend and it does suck that you have to miss her wedding. All the great things about being an expat do get slightly overshadowed when we have to miss things like weddings and baby showers. I’ve missed quite a few over the years. Seeing the photos on facebook just isn’t the same.

  21. I totally get it. Sometimes it really is just crappy being an expat. Miss an old friends wedding? Check. Grandfather’s funeral? Check. Children being born? Check. And in these crappy moments, it’s hardest to remember what’s good about being an expat…

    It sounds like Fiona is a wonderful friend. I hope she has a wonderful wedding day. You’ll be in her heart, for sure.

  22. I’m so sorry you cannot be there. That is hard. This piece probably means so much to her!

  23. Fiona sounds so funny!! Must be hard to miss her wedding. That business with the cigarette machine is side splitting. Sometimes it sucks to be an expat indeed.

  24. It does inhale violently to miss so many of the milestones in our friends’lives. I’ve missed too many to count.

    I’m sure you’ll have a perfectly lovely time the next time you see Fiona as you look at pictures while she recounts the day for you. In some ways, you’ll have her undivided attention—a gift neither of you could have if you were there. Sigh.

  25. It is a suckful situation definitely. Just being across the country can be difficult enough at times, let alone on the other side of the world. x

  26. Aww that is quite sad…I need to send you some fredo frogs….

  27. Sorry to hear you’ll miss the wedding. Such a nice story about friendship. I have a good friend getting married too across the ocean…

  28. Some things just suck don’t they! It sad that you cant be there but reading all of your post about the friendship you have with Fiona I am sure she totally understands. I hope you haven’t shed too many tears …. thinking of you!

  29. Even after 20 years, the women I pick the phone up to tell things to are still mostly in England. And even when you make friends as an expat, they often piss off back to England (like Nicola above) and leave you high and dry! Just kidding.
    Sorry you’ll miss the wedding. I have missed more weddings than I care to remember!

  30. PS the word verification was HEART …amazing !

  31. Thank you. Yes, it’s one of the sucky things. You hit the nail on the head with the funerals…I missed my grandmothers as I was very pregnant and she died just a couple of weeks after I had been home. Sometimes all of the practical thinking and logical conversations don’t make it any easier! Thanks for the comment. Kx

  32. that was a wonderful post… am so sorry that you cannot afford to go… and that you are so far away from your friend… stupid thought but maybe someone can set up a laptop at the wedding on a chair and you can be on skype watching the whole thing and then they can move the laptop into the reception… not the same by any stretch of the imagination, but maybe you will feel like you were a part of her day, and she will feel like you are part of her day… cheers lovely one

  33. Miss Nancy Pants says

    I wish I knew about ‘expat’ blogs when I moved to Perth 19 months ago. I’m Canadian, and the crappy things about being an expat are the things driving me, *i mean flying me* home. I can’t imagine another 1, 5, 10 years feeling this way, missing my family and friends this way. . I admore those who do it, and I also admore those who cannot, I have to feel like I did not fail, but that I tried and it just didn’t work out and that’s ok!

  34. LOVE this blog – wish I could emulate your style on mine. Very witty, observant and inspirational. I can soooooooo relate to being an unrealistic optimist, I can now label myself accordingly!

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