Finally the weather has started to cool off; I say cool off it’s still 36+ degrees most days but the mornings are lovely and so I have reinstated my poolside, post workout, sun worshipping. So last week, whilst I took in a moment to rest my achy muscles, I was joined by a few of my desert girls and we took full advantage of the perfect day. There was general chit chat and some self-deprecating humour about how lucky we were to have days like this. However this posed a quite serious conversation, as we realised to the outside world, at that moment, we were the picture of the expat wife cliché. The question is, does anyone back home still see us for us, or is it all sun, sand and selfies?
Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of the stereotypical trailing spouse about my life and there are many perks for my desert life. There are times, when we all laugh at our days filled with ladies that brunch, yoga and mani pedis and I will make this point very clearly, I am very lucky that this is my life and it may not be the case in the future. There is banter between the girls when we see someone having coffee and then swanning off to pilates! We know this is how the world sees us, we know it seems a charmed life to the outside and most of us don’t take ourselves too seriously. But as clichéd as this all is it’s not all what it seems.
I read an article a few months back that really resonated with me and a lot of my friends, as it explored the reality of this life. Now I’m not going to spout on about how hard and terrible this life is and that people should pity the poor expat existence, because I don’t feel that way, but as I sat by the pool that day, conversations ensued and we agreed there are challenges.
make demands on; prove testing to
I say challenges, because that is precisely that they are. It isn’t so hard that we can’t cope (my word we have time for Yoga and a manicure in one day for christ sake) but there are moments that take us by surprise and can be harder to work through. The obvious
- Making new friends
- Adjusting to new cultures
- Being away from loved ones
- Settling the family into this new life
- Finding accommodation pre arrival or post
All stresses that are daunting and overwhelming, especially to the newbie expat that has never left the comforts of their home country. But to me the hardest thing is the aspect you don’t expect, the thing that no one tells you in the welcome coffee or you can’t discover in your online trawling, researching your new destination to an inch of its life. The thing that hits me the most, even 6 years into my trails, stems not from situational issues but emotional ones.
I, like many I know, struggle with the absence of life long friends. Now my avid readers know I have discussed friendship both home and away and the importance it has on both my island and desert lives. I am lucky, that on the most part, my new life has brought nothing but interest and support, but there has been a couple of people who have drawn further and further away from me, as I have travelled further and further. I would love to say that this is an exclusive predicament but it seems so many of us experience a “lost friend”.
I am not naive to think that distance wouldn’t change things, of course you are not there on the door step and there is an element of out of sight out of mind, but it doesn’t make it any easier to digest. Their life continues and birthday messages are missed, Face Time scheduled and not fulfilled, emails unanswered, all of which leaves you in a state of uncertainty. I get that, back home, life goes on but I think some of it boils down to the fact, that this life is not for everyone and some people can’t comprehend why we chose it. Their difficulty in understanding it and your Insta/Facebook posts filled with hot dog legs, lattes, nails and palm trees dazzling in the sunlight, simply reduce you to someone so far from their reality, that some abandon you.
What I will say, on behalf of all my desert girls, is we haven’t changed, only our location has. We maybe a little more relaxed but truthfully we are the same, we pine after home at times, and those connections need to be kept open. We maybe living so far out of our comfort zones, and the support or a chat with a friend that “gets us” is something we desperately crave. We don’t want fan fares and high fives telling us how amazing we are going out on this adventure and you don’t want to hear that we are living the dream. It is so much easier than that. Just ask “how are you” 3 simple words that actually mean so much. We will try not to wrap it up in the happy expat persona and just as if we were down the pub one October evening, we can have a real conversation beyond the sun, sand and selfies.
The reality is we will loose people along the expat way, but please see past the cliché and realise that we have everyday struggles, like everyone else, we just do it in the sunshine.