Thursday, October 30, 2008

Expat wives

My husband's job is about to move us to a new city (Hong Kong) and in preparation I've been doing my usual research, searching out personal blogs by people who already live there to get a feel for what it's like "on the ground."

The other day I ran across this description of the "prototypical expat wife."
"by which I mean sticking out like the Spice Girls at a Mensa convention, diamonds everywhere, body by personal trainer, a general look of disdain for everyone and a palpable sense of ennui"
Ouch. It appears we don't have the best reputation.

I don't think anything in there very accurately describes me, least of all in the "body by personal trainer" department, but it did provoke a disturbing flash of recognition. And I'm not totally sure why. As did this video (from the British sketch show "French and Saunders"), found on another Hong Kong blog written by an "expatriate wife," no less.

I'm not sure whether to be offended, or afraid. Very afraid.


Sandra said...

I think I've internalized a lot of the stereotypes about expat wives. It's probably one of the big reasons why, when we were moving here, I didn't want to live in an expat area. Now I realize how stupid that was, and the best way to slowly go crazy in a foreign country is to deprive yourself of the company of other foreigners.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I checked out that blog, and the guy making fun of expat wives seems to be married to one, isn't he? But that's what's funny, expats have a bad rep, even among people who are expats.

Cat said...

Actually I think the blog author is married to a woman who is from farther north in mainland China and now they live in Hong Kong. I also think they live there because of her career, not his. (Just what I'm inferring based on what I've read.)

The second blog, the woman who linked the French and Saunders video is herself a British expat.

Like you, I had internalized a lot of the same stereotypes and also decided I didn't want to live in a designated "expat" area. But, the more I get to know women who've are living in the third or fourth country outside the home country, I have more sympathy.

It can be exhausting to try to learn something of a new language and a new culture and to feel like an outsider, begin to adjust, then have to scrap it all and start over when you move again. It can be tempting to get a negative attitude and just think, 'Why bother?'

I definitely want to avoid *that.*

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