Expat Truths

IMAG0662So…. do you like my postcard? I got it years ago in Stratford-upon-Avon, birthplace of the bard himself.

I’ve been struggling with what to write here lately, as I haven’t been feeling the least bit amusing or entertaining. Do I write about the 20 pounds of “sad” I’ve gained? (No, eating chocolate and cookies does not solve homesickness.) Do I write about wanting to go home? About the house we are negotiating to sell to our current tenants, who won’t qualify for a mortgage until next year? Or about my husband potentially working in New York City for anywhere from 6 months to the next 2 years? Or about my lack of job and desperate need for more friends?

See why I haven’t written? The last few months haven’t been great, and I’ve felt very lonely. It’s a hard place to be. I realized just before Christmas that the kids are settled into their new schools, they’re thriving and happy. My husband is settled in his new job and he’s happy and challenged as well. He’s also away 12 to 14 hours a day, and I’m here, wondering what to do with my life. I’m trying to figure it out. The positive: I’ve achieved one thing in the last 18 or so months in getting the kids and my husband settled, but what about me?

This morning I read a blog post by another expat; she’s from the UK and now lives in South Africa, and I have to say, her feelings are so similar to my own it’s a relief. She’s spent the last two years feeling like a failure, out of her element, missing her family, without a job. She sounds a lot like me. She says, in fact, exactly this:

“I’m NOT fullfilled, I’m NOT happy, I’ve talked about depression and all the other crap that goes with being an #expat.

It’s NOT just me, I’ve reached out to 100’s of expats online, via groups (face to face meetings) and it doesn’t matter if you’re from the UK living in South Africa (me), Japan, Saudi, USA or from any other country living anywhere else. It’s bloody hard work being an expat.

Lonely, alien, frustrating, well you’d expect that wouldn’t you for the first few months, maybe even a year, But, 2 years on? come on someone please slap me with a wet fish, wake me up, give me Dorothy’s red slippers and wave your wand and send me home please.

But home is where now? I’ve lost friends, people lose interest. They think you are living in Paradise, but they forget you still have the same struggles, health, finances, kids, education etc, etc. But they don’t see the other issues you have of not knowing a single person, not being able to get in the car and popping round to see your mum, not knowing how anything works. It’s not as if you can ask someone to recommend where you buy your car tax from when it’s called something completely different.”

Yep. Exactly. Moving 3,500 miles away from “home” is a loss. Some (most) days I feel like I have given up everything in my life, and while that’s not exactly true, as someone wise once said to me: “You’re allowed to feel your feelings.” I’m grieving for what was and trying to come to grips with what is. And even though I speak the same language (more or less) as the British, this isn’t home. Everything is different. Someone said to my husband the other day, “You’re living the dream.” Meaning, working in London and living on a farm in the country.

Erm, yeah. On a good day, I’d say in response to that, “I’m living the reality.” On a bad day, “I’m living the nightmare.” Isolated? Yep. Unsure? Yep. Don’t know why the other mothers almost never talk to me at the school gates? Well… I’ve found people in the southeast of England aren’t all that friendly. Some are, to be fair, but I’ve gone from a dozen or more people to talk to at school pick up and drop off to … the occasional one or two. Overwhelmed? Completely. Just because I speak the same language doesn’t mean anything about this has been easy.

It’s exhausting, quite honestly, and while we’ve had experiences that remind me why we moved, I’m still on the side of, “Let’s go home now.” Will it get better? Sure. Will England ever be home? Stick with me, and maybe one day I’ll know.

3 thoughts on “Expat Truths

  1. Russell

    Hi Ginny! Still have a friend here! I’m hoping that now getting less travel for work that I’ll be able to get that way to see you! Are you coming to the US for a visit anytime soon? Chicago (we) always have the welcome mat out!

  2. virginiaw Post author

    Russell, I would love to see you in Chicago–I love Chicago. No idea when we’ll get back to the States this year, may not be until Christmas, but I am hoping we can make it over the summer. Miss you…would love to see you over here anytime!!

  3. Laura-Louise Acock

    I too am struggling with this, I moved from UK to NZ nearly 2 years ago, and the constant longing of wanting to go home, see my friends and family is present nearly every day. Making friends in a new country is hard really hard. I know that we’ve made a change for the better but ….


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