The Expat Niche

I was searching through my bag for a pen while chatting to a new friend when I found my house keys. The Adelaide house keys. It was an impulse buy at the hardware store – I’d collected one of those miniature torches as a keyring. The torch had assisted in the walk to the local restaurant, particularly the part where you make your way through the over grown path without street lighting before getting to the beach. “Can’t we just use our phones?” some-one had asked as I’d bossily taken the lead with my miniature torch.

As I fumbled through my bag, the feeling of the torch had passed between my fingers and a glimpse of the beach house flickered through my mind. I’d used those keys every day since June, in and out of the car, handing them to the little travellers to lock up, leaving them in the door for the last person to make it to the car – and now they would sit in the inside pocket of my handbag, waiting for December – like the rest of us.

“So did you come here from Qatar?” new friends, or old acquaintances would ask as I introduced myself at the conference in Queensland.

“No, we have a place in Adelaide, we’ve been there since June, the children have this really long break in the middle of the year. They’ve just gone back with my husband, I leave on Sunday.”

It’s the story I tell on high rotation. I know it’s boring, but I don’t have a better explanation for who am I, what we do, why we live our geographically schizophrenic life. Each time I answer and mention the house in the Adelaide, the beach, there’s that same little flicker. The keys in the door, the walk to the local restaurant, the neighbours. My heart makes the gentlest of tugs. The things that could stay: the wine in the rack, the football scarves, the jackets hanging in the closet. The things that were thrown out at the last minute: the remaining contents of the fruit bowl, the opened yoghurt, the container of cream. As I’d carried my suitcase to the car I’d put the rubbish bin out on the street for the last time, knowing I wouldn’t be there when the truck came to empty it.

At the conference I heard many bloggers, young bloggers, talking about their tribe. I heard marketing people talk about their brand. I heard writers talking about their readers. Speakers talked about their “niche”. After registration we were asked to add buttons to our name tags with our blog’s “niche”. Food? Family? Personal? Fashion? I looked at them all and decided to make my own.


What’s my niche? My niche is about washing your knickers in the transit hotel. My niche is about finding a obstetrician in Africa, a place for immunisations in Malta and pasteurised milk in rural Indonesia. My niche is about sobbing while you say goodbye to your new best friend, knowing that you’ll never live in the same city again. My niche is about starting a new school, relocating to a new house, buying yet another can opener while you wait for the old one to arrive in your shipment.

My niche is the people who will always feel a slight tug of the heart for another location, a yearning for home, or a previous life. My niche is directed towards the people who rally, supporting each other through new locations, because we’ve felt the same way. We understand how soul destroying starting from scratch can be.

And maybe that’s not even a niche? I don’t know. I just know that there’s a lot of us out there and I’m going to keep coming back each day with the same idea in mind. To remind myself as much as anyone else, that while this expat life can be challenging it remains to be a gift.  It’s not about enduring the journey, it’s about enjoying the adventure.

I can keep feeling for those keys in my handbag while I keep my eyes forward. That’s what it is to be an expat.


What do you think?  Is there an expat niche?

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  1. I think you are an allrounder! Food – all those get ya knickers off recipes, the kids meal planning…fashion – the Babe Ruth costume is springing to mind! Most definitely family though, I think your love and dedication to your family is expressed in every post you write 🙂

  2. Kirsty, I can’t believe you’re only discovering that this is your niche now – you’ve been the leader of it for years!

  3. I agree with Nerissa – I consider you the leader of the expat blog niche!

    For what it’s worth I’ve always labelled my blog an “Expat Blog”.

  4. Is there an expat niche? You really got me thinking this morning… After all these years of travelling we certainly don’t fit in back home where people don’t want to hear about our adventures, they seem to respond with a combination of boredom and jealousy. There are so many different types of expat too, but we are certainly more expat than English… I can’t think of any other niche we’d fit into except of slightly mad!

    • I’m definitely in the slightly mad niche!

    • I still don’t understand why family and friends don”t want to hear about our lives. Sometimes I tell them the bad things when I fell they are jealous but than I get the “so go home if you don’t like it” face.

      • I know what you mean Angela it’s a strange phenomena and yet at the same time they expect you to listen to all the local gossip, even if you don’t know the people they are gossiping about! I just smile lots and nod these days 🙂

        • That’s what I do as well. Makes me think why I still bother, instead of going on a real holiday, flying all the way home to listen to their stories.

      • I’ve been an expat for 6 1/2 years and my Brother and Sister in Law have NOT ONCE asked me anything about our life in the Middle East. I have friends and family that sit almost on the edge of their seats listening to our tales and other friends that have admitted they are jealous of our so called “glamorous” life. I this there is definitely an expat niche and you’ve hit the nail on the head Kirsty. A wonderful read as always x

        • We are expats for over 15 years now. We had great locations and my family wouldn’t visit. Only my Mum did and we had a great time.

  5. Oh my goodness – you just know what to say and when to say it… we’ve been having so many of the same issues this summer (well winter in the south – cause again it’s not holidays there is it and why aren’t the kids in school etc) – our biggest dilemma was what to answer when someone says ‘so where are you from?’ uummmhmm well uumm huhhh (we sound like such toffees) we’re uhhh mmmm between places at the moment really. We’ve just moved from Burkina Faso but are on a long holiday staying at our house in the UK (which isn’t where we’re from originally but.. uuumhhm) and then we’re off down to south africa. But not to stay we’re just spending time visiting family , supervising renovations of the house there and then end of august we move up to Zambia, altho my hubby will have already been there since july as he’s starting his new job and then we’re joining him in time for the kids to start school …. uhhmm huuhhh – ‘oh so where are you from originally then?’ well ummm huhhh mmmmm we were all born in SA but have been living in the UK for the past 8 years and have british passports … ummm huh mhmmm and we call the UK home but.. ummmm. There’s definitely an expat niche and what is even more surprising about there being an expat niche is just how big the expat niche is and how big the pool is of experienced expatters (is that a word?) is. I’m kinda new to the ‘proper’ expat community (moving to the UK from SA wasn’t classed as real expatting 😉 and so far I have been overwhelmed by the amount of people there are out there doing it and doing it so well. It’s so funny and heartwarming to read your blogs and realise that we’re all in the same boat and even with all the trials we are so blessed to have these amazing opportunities and we are richer (not money rich) for the experiences. (p.s. my key rings are country coded – a union jack one for the UK house keys and a baobab one for the SA ones… the torch is on my new home set and it’s a lego cat woman one!!!)

  6. Definitely expat niche and you own it! Your varied tales make our crazy experiences seem a little more normal. We describe where we live based on where we’ve been. (When I’m asked about living in Brisbane I tell them Brisbane winters are like Vancouver summers and Brisbane summers like Toronto summers – so summer all year round.) About cherishing connections while we can because we don’t know what tomorrow brings. Having to make friends fast because we often don’t have time to waste. Keep telling your stories Kirsty and we’ll keep reading and sharing our world with you too.

  7. I think you have a niche, and those who aren’t expats (like myself) still enjoy reading your stories. I hope you have a safe trip home.

  8. Yes! It’s a niche. I was reading Baby Mac’s post today and wondering what niche I was now, and how I didn’t really fit as an Aussie blogger anymore. So yes, it’s a niche (and if it wasn’t it is now!). Let’s have our own expat blogger conference somewhere in the Middle East!

  9. Narelle Wallace Scritchley says

    I’ve been a quiet follower of your writing for a few months now and am compelled to tell you how spot on you always are! We are two weeks into our new move ( this is our 4 th country in 9 years) and it is seriously like you are inside my head! Thank you for putting into words what I sometimes have trouble articulating.
    I’m loving that your niche is writing about our lives.

  10. Kate Digges says

    Ahhh lovely. That made me feel better at the end of my “Jakarta Day”. Terima Kasih Ibu.

  11. Oh yes, I fully believe there is. I also feel that “once an expat, always an expat” even after you’ve repatriated (now that we’re two years in…). The world is just different after you’ve lived abroad. Happy that you have your niche!

  12. Thank you for writing what we all feel. I had so many “Key” moments as well. Is there a solution to the leftover food? Sometimes I can give it to my neighbour but very often it lands in the bin as well.

  13. Indeed there is an expat niche, even there wasn’t one before, there is now.
    Thank you for all you write.
    Best regards

  14. As this is our first and probably last experience of expat life I agree 1000%! Challenging yes, but a privilege and a gift. Thanks Kirsty.

  15. I can so relate! I’m an Aussie living in Tonga – previously Papua New Guinea, UK and Canada too. Plus many moves within Australia.

    Kirsty, would you be interested in reviewing my book, due to be released on Amazon later this month (and print not long after)? I would just love to include your comments and provide another resource for readers.

    Titled Healthy Relocation: New Place New You, it is for women wishing to relocate and resettle in as healthy and happy a way possible.

  16. Yes, we are all in the expat niche. There is no other word to explain it. When you’re home, your amazing and unusual stories produce yawns. I remember bringing souvenier type gifts to everyone. I got several of them back when my family set up housekeeping for me ahead of my arrival.

    So many of the anecdotes you relay are spot on. For me, I’ll remember my 15 years in the Middle East as constant compromises. Adapting to the acceptable mode of dress, concocting a recipe for something we miss but can’t find there. And, occassionally finding something native that we like better than the things at home.

    (I sure miss schwarmas).

    We all will never be the same after this opportuity to see the world from the global perspective. And I like it that way.

    ps: i especially loved your phrase ” our geographically schizophrenic life”. I think it sums things up so well.

  17. I’m so very glad you found this niche. We need you to keep telling your stories, because it makes me believe, even if just for a moment, that I’m not completely insane. We are saving like maniacs to buy a “home” place so we an have some constant in this “my son went to 3 schools on three continents last year” business. (True story) No, he doesn’t speak spanish – he spent the last year frantically trying to learning arabic. And he’s only four for Pete’s sake. Yes, please keep telling the stories. Your niche is right where you need to be.

  18. “…buying yet another can opener while you wait for the old one to arrive in your shipment.”
    Ugh! Why can’t I just think to throw the bloody thing in my suitcase?
    Reduced to tears again Kirsty, thank you for knowing exactly how to express my thoughts for me xx

  19. Kylie Gardner says

    It definitely sounds like a niche to me 🙂 I’m a niche dodger, personally. I write a bit about this and that, lots of some things, only a little of others. I just landed on your blog today, I think we crossed paths on QLD, but maybe not? SO many faces and names and blogs to remember. So you’re in Adelaide now? Me too! High five for Adelaide bloggers 🙂

  20. Kylie Gardner says

    Wait! I remember! I think I met you in Stingray, you were with Bianca. Hi!

  21. The blogs in a niche are generally the most boring, I much prefer those that can’t be classified as anything inparticular.

    Do you hate the word niche? I can’t stand it. But I love it when people say nitch instead.

    Great to meet you at the conference, maybe next year we can have a proper catch up.

  22. I am a big believer of the Expat niche. That’s how I explain the raison d’être of my Lugano blog in English, it’s niche no one has discovered or filled yet. My keys have a heart-shaped sunny Madrid key holder on them. 😉

  23. I believe there is. I label myself as an expat blogger because there are no other niche for me to describe myself. I am from the Philippines based in Singapore. I am
    not a traveller. I am an adventurer in a foriegn land. I think this niche, your niche, our niche is growing.

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