10 things I discovered about myself living as an expat wife


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November 2009 we packed up everything we owned put it on a slow boat to Canada and told family & friends we would be back in a couple of years.  
November 2014 is almost on our door step and we are still living on the ‘wrong’ side of the globe.
Prior to our first international ‘gig’, hubby and I had move domestically around Australia 7 times in 9 years, delivered 4 babies in 3 states, owned 2 homes, rented 4 houses, and had 6 cars.  
Seriously, that is almost a ‘Betty and Jim’ question straight out of my math book circa 1980……..Can you see a pattern forming here….
“What are the odds of me and hubby returning to OZ in the said time frame?”
a) yes they would return in 2 years to the date
b) no they would be back in OZ earlier than expected
c) jump on the ‘travelling train’ and wait for the engine to run out of steam
I’m going to go with c) .
Had you told me 5 years ago that was the plan to keep on keeping on across international borders, I am not sure I would have believed it.  
Would I change a thing?
The experiences I have achieved, the people I have met, the houses I have got to live in, the food I have been able to taste, living in below freezing conditions (well it was below freezing outside, I had the heater on inside) the countries I have seen, the languages I have learnt, the stories I have heard and the person I have become, it is all such a fantastic time in my life and I am pretty sure I would not be the person I am today if I didn’t get to live this way.
So what have I learnt about myself living as an expat wife?
1.  I love listening to people talk about themselves, I love hearing their stories, their life experiences, and trying to discover why our paths crossed at this given moment in time.
2. I very rarely ‘crack’ under pressure.  Some of the things that this expat life has thrown at me (finding out hubby had cancer 3 weeks into our 1st  international posting – that story here ) and still I have managed to hold it together, I am not sure I would have acquired that strength living at home with a tight support network to fall back on.  
3. A tolerance and understanding of how different religions, cultures and languages (amongst others) bring such wonderful diversity to our world.  I have met more mormons and more muslins living in the Santiago area alone that I had ever met across my 30 odd years living in Australia.  They are happy people striving for the same things in life that other families live for – we just go about our business a little different to each other and that’s ok.  Without this expat experience I probably would have thought all mormons have multiple wives, live in three houses with one massive backyard. A.K.A Big Love!
4. I have a renewed appreciation for families that do not speak the countries native language.  Navigating through a new life and finding your feet as an expat when you do speak the language is bloody hard so mixing it up when you don’t understand a spoken word and you still have to buy bread and milk for the family that doesn’t make for fun times.
5. I have fine tuned my problem solving skills.  Food needs to be bought, cupboards need to be stocked, doctors need to be found, schools need to be researched, houses need to be inspected, gas tanks need to be filled. (get out of the car, stay in the car, leave a tip, don’t leave a tip, watch that they charge you the dollar amount and not the litres amount) all these things need to be managed and accomplished within moments of touching down into your new environment.  Kids don’t really care where it comes from or how it gets there, they just need it done – so that’s what I do, get it done.
6. I have become a bloody good logistics analyst while living this life.  I can not begin to tell you the logistics that go into moving, living in a hotel for 9 weeks as a family of six with an incy wincy kitchen, to finding a home big enough to host the Golden Globes without purchasing unnecessary furnishings that just get left behind or handed off to other expat families, then moving back into a hotel room again for another 9 weeks, making sure you have held your pantry party not too early or else you are left with nothing in the cupboards and their is still a weeks worth of school lunches that need to be made or holding it too late may mean everyone has already left town so you have to throw it all out.  
7. I dislike travelling with my children, I think it is age relevant, (my age not theirs) but I reckon they have become a tad spoilt so seeing them dismiss an opportunity to visit a new town or country leaves me a little grumpy.  Perhaps back home in OZ, most likely only having one holiday a year our girls would be a little easier to travel with and a tinch more grateful for their experience.
8. How to keep filling up my cup when family and friends aren’t close at hand.  It is extremely important to be able to read your own signs when you are a million and one miles away from your strong support network.  If you miss the signs and let yourself go it can become a lot harder to pull yourself out of your dark place and spending to much time like that isn’t healthy for your mind, body and spirit, especially when the immediate people surrounding you don’t know you well enough to recognise you may have ‘dropped the ball’.
9. I am happy being a stay at home mum.  I travel on my hubby’s work VISA therefore ‘technically’ I am not allowed to work (earn a wage) and I am happy about that.  I manage enough day to day work that I have realised my strengths do not lie with holding down a wage earning career in tandem with motherhood, so I just get on with my task at hand and attempt to be the best I can be.
10.  I am beginning to enjoy the roller coaster lifestyle living as an expat throws at you, that the idea of heading back home to ‘stay put’ sometimes becomes a little daunting – maybe I will not be able to handle it, after 2 years will I be looking for a change again or will it be out of my system?
Without a second thought, I am extremely appreciative and immensely thankful for the opportunity I have living the life as an expat wife, I realise it isn’t for everyone, but for me it is a perfect fit.
What have your learnt about yourself living as an expat?

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