Expat Interview with Alexia
I named my blog Share-the-Love as I want to share with you the life and story of expats all around the world. I want to promote a global mindset and openness to different cultures as well as various forms of life. Being the Expat Partner always comes with a price to pay: You have to define your professional identity all over again. To help Expat Partner who struggles in the beginning (as we all did), I included several interviews in my Expat Partner Career Guide. These interviews show you different approaches to the challenge of moving abroad and continuing a career path, and they show that struggling, in the beginning, is totally normal!
This week I want to share with you one of the interviews of the workbook with Alexia, who lived and moved abroad to exotic countries and found herself in many different roles along the way. I am sure you can learn a lot from her point of view!
I met Alexia virtually through Instagram and love to follow her blog and how she mixes lifestyle topics with the common topics of living and working abroad. Thankfully she shares her story her and her learnings of her journey!
My name is Alexia, I’m a 30-something French girl who moved to Laos 8 years ago on a 6-month internship and never left Asia since then. Two years ago, I gave up my executive position and followed my boyfriend to the countryside of Sri Lanka for his work. I became quite depressed and bored as an expat wife so I decided I should do something with my life (was turning 30…) and started a blog called The Wife-Life Balance about a year ago. I’m not sure I would qualify myself as a successful blogger as I have an average of 50 visitors a day and must have generated 2 dollars so far… but I’m glad you enjoy it. I am now starting a new blog called the French Accent ( www. thefrenchaccent.net ) with a few contributors, and we have a lot of exciting things coming. I bet this blog will be a lot more active and successful than the previous one!
The Expat Partner Interview
1. Is there a difference in writing about lifestyle when addressing Expat Women?
That’s an interesting question to start with. I feel like as an expat, the life(style) is a lot similar and a lot different at the same time. When you move abroad, you do need to run a household, and go to work, and deal with traffic, pay your bill and organize playdate or girls night and so on…as you used to, back home. But what was once easy has become a lot more difficult, things like figuring out how and when to pay for your internet bill is now challenging. And what was a burden before is now taken care of, you don’t need to do your house chores anymore as you have employees to do it. The expat life is generally a lot more comfortable in that way than the normal life (at least in developing countries).
However, things are sometimes missing in the country/city you are posted. Imagine receiving healthcare treatment in a language that is not your mother tongue nor your doctor’s. Imagine then for anything a little bit more complicated than a cold or the stomach flu, you need to cross a border to receive what you consider proper treatment. Life is more often than not easier and comfier, but once in a while, it gets pretty scary and challenging. So yes, writing about lifestyle is a lot different as routine things like your annual check-up become a trip to Thailand and a day of shopping with the girls become a girl’s weekend to Kuala Lumpur. But it also remains the same as you still need to figure out your own life like everybody else and in that people can always relate. You know expats also wonder if it is ok to drop off their kids at school in pajama because 7.30 am is really early or how can they maintain a healthy diet without spending the entire day in the kitchen or when and where will they find out time and energy to incorporate exercise in their daily life???
2. For many Expat Partners, the move abroad often means, leaving a career behind and experience a very different form of lifestyle when it comes to responsibilities in a relationship and independence. What are your personal experiences and what would you recommend Expat Partners that are afraid of becoming the “dependent partner”?
When I decided to follow my boyfriend two years ago, I left behind a career as an executive in the telecom. I was managing a team of 30 people, a $$$ annual budget and suddenly all I need to manage is: what’s for dinner? There was quite an adjustment to be done, and it was not easy. At least it wasn’t for me. Two years in and I still haven’t adapted to it 100 %. I am lucky my partner has always been very supportive of any project, volunteering or even hobby I’m starting, and he is not the kind to make me feel like he is the breadwinner now, so you know I have to listen to him, neither did he ever questioned any of my expenses; which makes it fairly easy at home. But in the society it’s different, it is still very difficult to be seen/presented/ or even present yourself as the “expat wife” or “the wife of”. Our generation (of women) have been brought up to be independent ladies, we are asking for gender equality and complete freedom to do whatever we want, so deliberately going into the older scheme of Mr. is at work and Mrs. is at home is not well perceived and is self-questioning. It is also very scary to be in a position where you are not financially independent anymore. You worked hard to gain that, and you are freely giving it up. You must admit it is something quite stupid to do, and you do, feel stupid from time to time. But love is love, and sometimes it requires you to give up on your little comfort to give your partner the chance to grow and succeed in their career. I think it requires a lot of trust in and strengths from the relationship (or a lot of naivety, you decide). It is a choice that needs to be largely discuss with your partner before being taken, and once taken, remember it is a choice you made TOGETHER so you can’t question it at every stupid fight you’ll have, and you can’t end up blaming each other for the miserable situation you think you are in. This is, in my opinion, the key to make it work.
Also, make sure you implement a system where both people are protected health-wise and money-wise before you go!
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3. You are becoming the master of starting all over again, and your next move is ahead: What are your personal tips and tricks to start from fresh again and again? How do you make yourself at home?
Hahaha, yes! We just moved again but this time was a lot easier as it is for the same company and within the same country. We moved from the countryside of Sri Lanka to its capital city Colombo. After two years in the jungle, let me tell you, you can only look forward to that move! There are so many things that come into the process of moving into a new country or place, that I know it can sound very daunting or scary. Honestly by now, after 6 moves to 3 different countries, I have all the administrative and organizational parts figured out, so that has become easy. The difficult part is the sentimental one, leaving your friends and some of your favorite places/habits/things behind and having to do built it all over again. This is the scary part for me. I think overall, we were always very lucky to meet someone through work, and that person slowly became a friend and introduced us to the expat community. Our works also (well now his work…) require us to network, so our social life is quite active from the beginning. But being active socially doesn’t mean not feeling lonely… And when you do, you will need a home that feels like a home. If you want your house to feel like a home from the beginning, get into the habits of moving with what you love (things you are attached to) more than what you need. I know it seems like counterintuitive advice and it doesn’t make your life easier in the first days in your new house, but at least it will help to make it into a place you can call home. When we move, we move first with our paintings and pictures and the few decorative objects that we have bought while on holidays or that my son is really attached to like his baby blanket. The plates and cutleries or the fancy coffee machine can always be bought again or received later. Yes, you are going to eat off plastic plates and have shitty coffee, for the first days, but what you need is familiar objects or even smells (your favorite candle fits in your carryon) to make you feel good. So, take your favorite throw, candle or pillow, you’ll be glad to find your favorite items for your first evening in your new home.
4. Being the Expat Partner can be lonely from time to time. How do you manage to find new friends after moving to another country?
As I was telling you earlier, I am not a pro at making new friends as an adult, I think I just got very lucky every time. I remember it to be a lot easier as a kid. By the way, if you have kids, it totally helps. They usually do most of the work for you. They make new friends at school and then they are invited to birthdays or playdates. When they do, don’t just drop them off and leave, make sure to stay a few minutes so you can meet the parents. If your kids clicked together, there is a good chance you will too!
When you don’t have kids, I think it is slightly more difficult, but the key is don’t be shy and take every opportunity that is offered to you. If you are invited to an exhibition, go; if you are invited to a Sunday brunch, go…. yes, you will be the new kid in town, yes, it is scary to walk in a room full of people who know each other, and you don’t know any of them. Yet, it is still your best luck to meet new friends.
I would love to hear what you learned from this interview and hope it helps you along your way to live a happy Expat Life abroad. I am so thankful to Alexia, for sharing honestly and straight from the heart. Thanks so much! I linked her website and instagram next to her picture above. She is currently moving her blog to a new address you find on top. I am excited to follow her journey further and can’t wait for her new website.
If you want to know more about the Expat Partner Career Guide, this interview is published in, click here.
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