There are many life scenarios where that element of self doubt creeps in and we smile and nod our way through that awkward dinner party conversation, which you have absolutely no clue about. We have all embellished a CV or done a little bit of self PR in an interview but these are socially acceptable moments to sprinkle a little of that BS glitter. My question is when does that fake it till you make it attitude become detrimental to your expat experience? Do we really know who are the oscar winning actresses are in a sea of bad ass, we totally got this women?
When I first got off the plane in this land of sand, I was daunted to say the least. This was a million miles away from the Prague bubble we had created for the past 4 years and I was fully aware that this would be fundamentally a completely different proposition. Here I would have to put myself out there, push the boundaries and live outside my comfort zone for some time to make this work. Terrifying, yet at the same time a little liberating, I could completely reinvent myself, be someone new, lose all the traits I wasn’t so keen on and relaunch Jersey Girl desert style.
So there I was ready to embrace the social delights this new world had to offer and based on some colleague advice passed on through Hubs, I joined a ladies group. I walked into the first coffee get together and felt like an immediate fish out of water. Firstly I was definitely the youngest in the room and completely underdressed. At this point I should have just turned and ran for the door but I was supposed to be in a brave new world, Jersey Girl 2.0 was ready to be relaunched on this group of overly confident women. I had to stick in there.
I felt like I was in the midst of a David Attenborough documentary (cue THE voice over in your heads dear readers) watching this social interaction unfolding before me. A group walked in, preened like peacocks, dressed to the nines and hair coiffed to new bleach blonde heights. The alpha of the group entered and the others surrounded her, as they exchanged air kisses and far too many darrrrrrlings to count. The handbags were as fake as their smiles and status driven conversation continued over bad Nescafé and click clack of high heels. I just sat there, smiling and nodding thinking WTF am I doing here and why has the women who invited me here, had a personality transplant since I last saw her over coffee!?
Thankfully amidst the insincerity of the room, I met 2 lovely ladies, who looked as shell shocked and out of place as me. Perhaps it was our mutual bewilderment of the Stepford robots that brought us together but I am pleased to say we are still good friends and never returned to that jungle of middle age and hairspray. Obviously I am giving a tongue and cheek perspective here, whilst this did happen it isn’t the every day norm but
there are moments to turn up your BS radar and sniff out who is blowing smoke up somewhere they shouldn’t!
1) That typical response of “we must get together, I’ll call you”
When that guy you dated said it, it was BS then and its BS now. Just because the kisses and pleasantries were exchanged in the mall, does not mean there is any real intention to renter your life, 6 months after she last told you she’d call.
2) When that mum at the school gate asks you how you’re summer was and they say “My summer was amazing, we had such an incredible time as a family, we really didn’t want to come back”
Translation……it was great for the first 3 weeks, then asking my parents to borrow the car made me feel 17 not 45, the kids were constantly “bored” and drove me to drink the copious amounts of wine, which added to the 3kg to my waistline. Thank god I’m back and they’re in school and I’m in the gym!
3) NO ONE is happy all the time. Sure you can be positive but if you have known someone for a couple of years and they are still “living the dream” they are lying. Even the most happy clappy amongst us, gets pissed off, homesick, angry and just has bad days. So the day you can’t handle being around their upbeat jazz hands, maybe the day they need you.
4) The social chameleon is a rare sighting but I have seen it desertside. That person that is polar opposite in every different scenario. The lovely yoga pant wearing, no make up, down to earth coffee drinking lady that helped me navigate my early days, shred her leggings and became a power hungry mean girl. Beware the ever changing face of this one, you never know who you’re going get and they may even ignore your existence in one location and be you’re best gal pal in the next.
I jest somewhat and I am happily immersed in a wonderful group of ladies who my Kuwait life would not be the same without. However, we all have stories of our early days or meeting newbies and knowing that one of us is not being entirely honest with ourselves. There is definitely a self preservation of not letting your initial expat guard down, the more seasoned of us know how transient this lifestyle can be and therefore are more distant in making meaningful connections. Others think they’ve been on this gravy train so long they know it all, lording their expat wisdom on anyone that will listen. So how do you know what’s real and whats not or should I say who’s real and who’s not?
The answer is you don’t always. In all honestly even I have had that “fake” conversation, when you’re tired and caught by someone you know will corner you into a long conversation. I have plastered on that smile and declared its all good, when really I want to say is,
I’m shattered and sweaty post workout, need a double shot of coffee and I want to get home to catch up on GBBO!
Instead I hold a pleasant but short conversation with no real desire to be there. Does this make me fake? No, it makes me human, we all fake it to make it sometimes, just make sure 9 times out of 10 you’re more Prada than Prado.