Tips for the Expat Housewife
Friday, 2 November 2012
+Get a routine.
Without a job dictating how to schedule our day, all of a sudden the day seems much, much longer and the 10+ hours our partner is away at work can feel like a lifetime. In the beginning, it will feel like a vacation - sleeping in, napping, showering in the afternoon, watching TV & movies. Enjoy it but do know that it will get old and pretty soon you'll be pacing. Try to make a routine for yourself even if it's simple things like waking up, breakfast, read the news, respond to emails, shower, make bed, go for a walk to the store, etc. It helps to have a bit of structure.
+Reach out to groups.
If you are in a location with a lot of expats, particularly within a specific field, there will most definitely be expat groups already in operation. PWC (formerly Petroleum Wive's Club,) nameyourcity Expat group, nameyourcompany Wives - they're all there because for most foreign employees, there is a spouse who is looking for something to do. Sometimes you'll meet someone who will connect you but sometimes you'll have to take the step on your own. They'll help in making some friends, giving activities to fill your time and it's always good to have a community of people in the same situation as you. You'll be able to ask questions, get recommendations and even have people to vent your frustrations to.
+Make your house a home.
You will inevitably spend a lot of time in your home so make it feel comfortable. Rearrange furniture, organise cupboards, buy a few things to decorate, put photos out. Sometimes it seems silly to invest in a place you know is temporary but if it makes you feel comfortable, it's worth it.
When you do meet people, it will be difficult to commit to activities if you can't get there. Choose housing close to public transportation (if there is any,) learn to drive, buy a car, hire a driver - do what you need to do in your new city so that you can access people and places.
+Your partner will work A LOT. Prepare yourself.
In the beginning, you'll hear all sorts of things leading you to the impression that your partner will work 9-5 and have weekends and evenings to do whatever you'd like. You were brought there because the company needs help which generally means, there's more work than there are employees. My husband works 12 hours a day, eats dinner and pulls out his computer for a couple of hours at night. I hate it, but it's normal.
+Learn to cook/bake a couple of things.
Life in the expat housewife lane revolves around tea & coffee mornings and evening get togethers where you will probably be asked to bring something. There will be a range of women there from those who can put together delicious little things at the drop of the hat to those who get lost in the kitchen. I found it embarrassing to always show up with something store bought so it's a good idea to perfect a couple of fall backs and keep those ingredients in the house for last minute events.
+What have you always wanted to do?
Think back to the days where you thought, "I really wish I had more time to __________." Now's your time. Occasionally you'll find yourselves in locations that won't have a photography course but buy a book or find an online program to do that thing you've always wanted to do.
+Stay positive about your career.
It's easy for career-oriented women to get a little down on the situation because they feel like they're getting behind and losing touch with their industry. While you aren't working towards that promotion, you are not just sitting around doing nothing (even if it feels like it sometimes.) You are learning about new cultures, you're seeing working life in other countries, you're adapting and you're doing something that a lot of other people are too afraid to do. Your experience abroad will most definitely bring new perspectives to your job when you return so don't discount it.