In my next life, I’m coming back as an……

“In my next life, I’m coming back as…..”

Do you know what comes next?

It’s hysterical.

I’ve heard it at parties, I’ve heard it at work functions and I’ve heard it from the big, fat, sweaty, hairy guy whose wife is standing next to him with a fixed smile on her face.

“In my next life, I’m coming back as an Expat Wife”

Do you get it?

Can you see how funny the joke is?


You know, because it’s so easy. Sooooooo easy being an Expat Wife. You just sit around having tea parties all day and when you’re not doing that, you’re shopping and getting drunk.


The first time I heard it, G and I had been married for about a year and I’d just found out I was pregnant. We were considering the expat experience while I took my maternity leave.  G’s new boss was in town and he’d taken us out to dinner. He was a seasoned expat and was explaining to me how ‘easy’ my life was about to become.

Now, THAT’S a joke.

This is not a piece about how hard it is to give birth or raise a child in a foreign country. It is not a piece about health care and being terrified that you may need help that is simply not available. It’s not a piece about bomb scares or low flying planes or being told to avoid certain parts of the city on certain days.

It is not about trying to get the bloody phone connected or discussing your thrush with an audience of 10 while you spell out C.A.N.E.S.T.E.N. only to leave empty handed. It’s not about getting lost ten times in one day. It’s not about being 45 minutes late to pick up your child from his first day of school because you just couldn’t work out how to get from one side of the ten lane highway to the other.

It’s not about being out of your comfort zone, not being able to read the signs or speak the language when you first arrive. It’s not about finding a toilet and then trying to work out exactly how you will convince your 7 year old to use it without either of you throwing up at the stench. It’s not about the birthdays, weddings and family gatherings that you’ve missed, about feeling 21 hours away, because you are. About the grown children that you left behind that you now speak to on Facebook and Skype, trying to read or see the hidden signs that you’d immediately see in person.

This is what it’s about.

It’s about making a joint decision to leave your home, your career and your family and then having to listen to some wanker tell that joke.

Yes, there are fabulous aspects to the Expat life. There’s the travel, the new friends, the possibility of new beginnings. Perhaps for some it’s the chance to save money, for others maybe it’s the possibility of having help around the house allowing more time with children. For many it’s a chance to study or to develop a new career, an online business or a consultancy.

We are all individual, we all arrive coming from different situations, but there is one thing I think we all agree on.

Whether it’s Singapore, The Hague or Doha, in the early days, it’s not bloody easy.

What are you coming back as in your next life?

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  1. Love it, Kirsty. People are so insensitive sometimes. There are challenges to life no matter where you are or what you do, and they need to remember that. 

  2. If it was just so so easy, we would all be ex pat wives.

    It is the fear of all you mention that keeps us in the safe and boring!

  3. Donna Coghill says

    Funny how this ties in with the discussion I was having with Ange Sullivan this morning.  How when our husbands need a change we just up and go and move to the next expat location and build a new life for ourselves and the children.  No questions asked, often with no help offered and no whining as what would be the point.  I’m coming back as an expat husband with an expat wife who will deal with all the life issues.

  4. So agree with the comments!  There are many things I am grateful for, but on some days I need to work hard to remind myself of those. 

  5. I quite fancy a stint as a bloke. Just to check it out. Love this piece Kirsty.

  6. Well said, and I completely agree with Donna – I think I’d like to come back as my husband…..

  7. Oh dear – I love it and the stereo type thing is spot on.  If only I hadn’t just written a post about Whinging Poms…. (feel suitably chastised)

  8. Fantastic piece, Kirsty! So bloody true… it really annoys me that your average Joe has such a skewed view of what it’s really like – and that boss you mentioned should have known better! Sounds like the smooth salesman type if you ask me.
    I just wrote a piece on the same subject though nowhere near as well put as yours!

  9. ValerieHamer says

    Ugh, I hate crass comments like that. Nicely written and a good read. Cheers.

  10. I dunno I suppose it depends what country you end up in! Yes of course I might be sobbing into my G&T if I could not speak the language but since I am a Brit in USA I guess it is all pretty easy. Generally life here has been easier than in the UK so maybe I am one of the lucky ex-pat wives!! I do know that I count my blessings

  11. I’d come back as the bloody idiot who is too daft to realize how stupid he/she sounds when they tell this joke! Such Neanderthals have no clue that it’s 2011. Seriously, great job telling it like it is. Despite such utterings, I’ll take challenging, constantly learning, traveling, exploring new cultures, learning more about yourself and your world and living life to the fullest over safe, staid and boring any day. Hands down. Well done!

  12. So agree with you….been in Spain a year now and though the weather is beautiful I am feeling frustrated that my Spanish is good enough to converse but not quite good enough to make friends. Have managed so far with Doctors’ appointments for my kids but got a doctors appointment of my own on Friday and a bit scared that I will not make myself understood effectively. ….thankfully, the kids have settled in school but there are still lots of low level anxieties that are difficult to cope with….

  13. OMG so true!  Brilliant Post!  And perfect timing after I had this conversation with my family yesterday.

    Oh and as for the Caneston….I had a very interesting encounter with a pharmacist in Spain who could not understand me so resorted to charades.  In a very full chemist she loudly spoke Spanish (thankfully I was too slow to pick up what she was saying), pointed to her vagina and nodded her head at me with a smile!

  14. Good luck with your appt Sian 🙂 I posted this entry about my experience with a medical appt in Spain if your interested:

  15. That joke is no way funny AT ALL.  I have been an expat wife for almost 3 months now, and it is friggen hard work!  I was also sold the “how easy it would be” line too, but I kind of knew what to expect after living overseas doing the working holiday thing years ago.  
    I did not expect finding a good school with vacancy to be such an issue or how much my kids do not like the local food.  
    But I am getting there and now enjoying it more and more and missing my old home less and less.  
    I do find it interesting, that I do seem to have a little more time for my hobby (sewing) but only because I dont have many friends yet 

  16. Hi Cat, I just had a look at your “hobby” – you have made some GORGEOUS stuff – love the fabrics. If anyone else is interested just click on Cat’s icon and it will take you over to her blog.

    Good luck making friends. I’m sure you’ll have your own little network happening in no time. Let me know how it goes.


  17. Ahh yes, the slow talking pointing at ailment in foreign pharmacy routine. I did something similar in Malta, looking for Urals. I’m still not sure what they gave me but it worked!

  18. What a great way of explaining it. It’s “the low level anxieties” that gently chip away. 

  19. It’s often passed off as a harmless joke (one I initially laughed along with) but when you really scratch the surface it’s incredibly demeaning.

  20. just read it – you covered it all really well.

  21. thanks Megan

  22. Clairey – you are far from boring!

  23. yes, some days are diamonds, some days are really crap!

  24. Oh thank gawd.  And thank you.  I have been sitting on a draft blog post titled ‘Do I do nothing all day?’ for months, trying to get my ranty thoughts in order.  

  25. Hee-lahr-i-ous, not. Great post, Kirsty. I also had plenty of the ‘it will all be manicures and gin slings’ comments. *Gazes off into middle distance imagining that life*. Not if you have no help, a career, kids, grad school, an often absent husband … Still, would we change it? At least it’s never *boring* 😉 x

  26. valentina vaselli says

    expat wives thinks alike..
    hereis a piece of mine (the english version is below the italian text, i also cited your expat wife article thanks to which i discovered your blog
    I had a huge fight last saturday with my husband as he told me I used to have always so many interesting things to say and since a lot of time whenever he comes home and ask how it was my day Im just telling nothing  interesting, baby was good, went to supermarket and he doesnt understand i can accept to have no interesting days…well, like if i would accept it!!
    What im supposed to do, cry all the time about my loneliness? I live in a small village with nothing to do or to see on the outskirts of one of the most expensive and dull cities in the world where the only hobby of wives is shopping cartier and vuitton, to do savings im cleaning and doing evertyhing myself cause nannies or cleaning ladies cost about 30 euros per hours, for the same reason  i dont have my own car so i go s by walk with any kind of weather to do all the grocery, administrative stuff etc, in my days the only conversation not made through skype beyond une baguette s il vous plait is with my husband when he comes home, all of this while my phd and my barrister license are locked in a drawer .
    well, i try  to be happy of what i have: the luxury of choosing to look after my baby instead of having to go back to work when she turned 4 months old, the chance of traveling to friends and family when he is traveling for more than a week around the world so i can have an interesting week in exchange of  2-3 very dull, and while im in the dull period im growing the baby in a save and clean environment, respect that this choice bring us   financial security (believe me that in Italy professionals 30 years old get on average 1000 euros per month to live im the first and only of my friends that because of ld afford to marry and have already a child) ? i do my best to look at the half full glass but to have him complain about my half empty drove me mad.
    I was already thinking about  it but the conversation made me serious about writing an expat wife contract that must be fulfilled before deciding which job he’ll take and therefore in which city to move, made on the outcomes of our precedent expats experiences as a couple and my one as single. i want to move to a place where there are take away restaurants  if im tired to cook one night, i want to move to a place where the supermarket makes home delivery so when he’s out on biztris i dont have to go up and down like a sherpa with groceries, even with the snow and ice all over the road, considering that we have guests for dinners 2-3 times per week and i prepare the whole stuff i want to move to a place when to have a cleaning lady once per week doesnt cost like a return ticket to visit my family in italy because then off course i will always choose to buy the return ticket, i want to move to a place where there are taxi if i need one.Im still thinking about more clauses, im sure there are. Then finally i will have some free time to play my chace to make friends and get back a social life!

  27. valentina vaselli says

    and yes, I also enroll to comeback as the expat husband 🙂

  28. Talesofataitai says

    I’m coming back as a big fat massive hand so I can go and royally slap that ARSEHOLE in the face. From one ‘expat wife’ to another, I salute you.

  29. Thank you for your lovely words Kirsty.  My sewing hobby is keeping me sane and and I am slowly making some friends.  Now to tackle the issue of my kids eating the local food….how to solve that!?

  30. I have a friend here in Atlanta who has settled three boys into 2 different schools.  This is their 3rd school in 4th year and 3rd different language. One month into school, her husband says “What do you think about living in Miami”.  Definitely coming back as the bloke with the amazing expat wife.

  31. And let’s not forget about all of the women who are expats because of their OWN work. A whole sub-section of Expat Wives…

  32. Mbhudsonarney says

    You must remember that there are many of us who would like to come back as the expat wife in order to have the chance to live like you do, with all the complications it involves – not because it is easy but because it is interesting, an adventure and a challenge.

  33. Definitely Rachel, we come in many different forms and need to support each other in our choices.

  34. Bla bla bla,I’ve been an expat wife myself, you should try living in Aberdeen as a local( like normal people so kids go to the local school, no 4×4, no amah, just a normal life) Nothing wrong with that.

  35. You’ve hit a nerve! Great post. Stupid man. 

  36. Well I’m an expat and a wife…but I’m the one that’s moved us…which means I get to play both roles! I have the stress of moving and settling in the family (because of course only wives/mothers can do that) and I have to settle in at work. So yes, in my next life I’m coming back as….hmmm…..

  37. Exactly. I feel the need to buy you a drink. Kx

  38. I’ve not lived in Abderdeen *excuse me while I find a big piece of wood to touch* but I have lived as a “normal person”, in both Calgary and Houston. We went back to the suburbs, drove  minivans and were both working. Thanks for your comment – your blah blah blah has given me a few giggles today.

  39. Absolutely, I chose this life, I just get a bit peeved when people suggest it’s an easy ride – particularly when I meet women who are knew to Doha and really struggling with getting adjusted, I think it’s easy to forget the daily hiccups that come with trying to get something simple done. You’re bang on though when you say “it’s interesting and adventure and a challenge” that’s exactly how I feel about it.

  40. I just laughed out loud. Thank you.

  41. Love this post!!  You hit the nail on the head with this! 🙂  It’s amazing how many times I heard that same “joke” over the past three years, and each time I found it harder and harder to smile that fake smile.  But, the real kicker is that even now that we’re back home, I still hear that same “joke” and still have people comment about how easy my life must have been as an expat wife.  It’s so sad to think that so many people have such a skewed perception about what it means to be an expat wife… It’s not as easy as people seem to think.  At times I’d like to tell people to go move to a new country, try to learn their language, figure out how to do some of the “easiest” daily routines while not speaking the language, deal with living on the other side of the world and multiple time zones away from your family and friends, etc…  And, then after attempting to live like that for even a week, get back to me and tell me how “easy” of a job it is… Gah!!  🙂 Either way, I definitely admire the fact that you’ve been an expat wife for so long now.  We’ve only been home for two months, and I already miss the expat wife lifestyle tremendously! 🙁  Things were always new and interesting, and every day was an adventure…  “Normal” just seems so boring now.  I’m already itching for the chance to be an expat wife again. 🙂  

  42. ‘it will all be manicures and gin slings’…seriously, sounds like my life!! I guess I am one of the lucky ones. Expat life works for me just so relieved to be a million miles away from um certain family relatives that get on my last nerve!! Also once you are used to sunshine like I a now for at least half the year it would be impossible to go back to freezing uk

  43. I’ve never heard it, and I’m rather glad I haven’t! What self righteous asshat would say that!

  44. Gweiposter says

    I’ll echo the last person, I’m definitely coming back as an expat worker, you know the one that says good bye and leaves for the office every morning ( could be a woman these days)

  45. Beautifully written, thank you.. I have been an expat wife for 20 years and I had to tell my husband that that comment was not funny and that if he ever said it he would become an expatwife in THIS life time. Needless to say he got the point.:)
    Thank for the very very honest laugh.

  46. Hi, love this. I wrote about the exact same subject about a year earlier. Unfortunately, my article makes me sound like a bitter expat spouse whereas I really wanted the tone to be light and amusing, like yours. Well done!

  47. A man.

  48. I am coming back as an International, not an expat. I don’t like the term expat anymore as it misleads people. There are too many different species of expats

  49. Agreed! I can still remember the very first time I heard the term “expat”. It wasn’t said with love, quite the opposite. In the world of expat women, we come from all different angles in our reasons for why we are where we are. Some are on a journey, some have moved permanently. You can’t put us all in the same box. 

  50. It might have been easier if you had spelled Canesten correctly…

  51. Ha! Yes maybe!

  52. An expat wife with 3 very young children is the LAST thing I’d come back as…!!! Aaarrrggghhh!!!


  1. […] all know how much I love the term expat wife. Well I love it even more when it has a bored in front of it. My little anonymous friend appears to […]

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