I met up with my bunch of girlfriends on Sat for brunch. We're quite a close bunch, we'd all worked in the same company, suffered through endless Budget Reviews and meetings together, had tiffs with Legal and Sales together and so have come to formed a sisterhood, bound together by our mutual corporate suffering.
They've all continued on with their careers, some have moved on to different companies, I'm the only one who has opted out of the rat race. I was asked, "So what's it like being an expat wife?" Erm.. very hard to say... as I've never been any other type of wife, so I don't have a basis for comparison. Hee.
I think most people confuse expat wives with tai-tais. Tai-tais are wives of the wealthy, they have real money, they can really afford to spend their days doing nothing but going to spas, pedicures, manicures and salons. They can afford to waltz into designer boutiques and waltz out with bags and bags of merchandise. They get chauffeured around in lux cars that actually belong to them and play mahjong with gold-plated mahjong tiles. Okay, maybe I'm wrong about the last bit.
Expat wives are different. We find ourselves in unfamiliar foreign countries as we follow our husbands, often left alone with the children while hubby works hard at the office. Sometimes we get lucky and end up in a country where hubby gets a driver, nice housing allowance and maids. Then we get to be a little bit like tai-tais but it only lasts till hubby's next posting.
I don't know about other expat wives but I certainly don't have an endless budget to spend on bags and clothes and what-nots. Staying expat means a chance to save up as much as we can just in case hubby gets sent to expensive Europe and UK to work and pouf! - there goes all our money.
Expats tend to stick together because it's convenient and it's a relief to see others who know what you're going through. It can be quite lonely when you arrive in a new town and you don't know a single person, you miss home and all the familiarity of it and when you find people who are in the same boat, you find that you attach yourself to this group. You identify with them. I do see some expats try to make friends with locals but it can be difficult sometimes with the cultural and language gaps. Sometimes it works... like Dear Hubby made friends with me, the local in KL, and we ended up getting married! Haha!
Some expat wives work, some don't. Most of those I know fill their time by volunteering at local charities and at the schools their children go to, so it's not exactly as if they all spend their time sipping margeritas by the pool. I know of some who love the adventure and travel but I also know of those who get so homesick that hubby has no choice but to ask for a transfer back to their home country.
I'm approaching our stint in Jakarta positively, I take this as a chance to see another city, experience something different. I'm aware I could get quite bored in Jakarta if I can't find things to do but I've made the choice to follow Dear Hubby, so I'll make the best of it!