It can be hard being an Expat
I knew there would be big chances ahead when we made the decision to become expats back in September 2010. We didn’t really give it a lot of thought, the two children were on board and the 3 adult children that had already left home were already planning their future holidays.
We arrived in South Africa on January 19th 2011 and now approaching our 2nd anniversary, all the family have been to visit, friends have been out and we’ve had several trips back to the UK to visit everyone.
I didn’t realise how hard things would be, I knew things would be done differently, just didn’t know how and I’m still making sense of most things. There was little (no) support from the company and we (I) were left to our own devices to everything from register a SIM card to enable me to phone an agent, to view a property, to have proof of residency to be able to register the SIM card. Plus bank accounts, buy a car, furniture, fight with customs to release our container.
On reflection I’ve had fun, I’ve gained a lot of knowledge and experience, both positive and negative that will stay with me for the rest of my life, but this is where the depression has crept in, well not so much as crept in but hit me smack bang in the face.
When all the family and friends came to visit, they were on holiday, I wasn’t and am still unable to work here, but I have volunteer work and I keep having to interrupt it to entertain, when I’ve been to the UK, I’m still expected to entertain and move round from house to house trying to see everyone in such a short time, then I arrive back home and I’m on my own again.
We’ve had emergency dashes back to the UK when my dad had a heart attack, attending two family funerals and been at the end of the phone when my sister nearly died in Childbirth and when her step son was crushed by a wall at school (he survived but it was touch and go for a while) and I’ve felt guilty, for not being there, a self imposed guilt.
I’ve also felt neglected, our life sounds so glam, fun, exciting especially when I post endless photos of our Safaris and trips on face book and no one wants to tell me about their ‘boring’ lives, but that’s what I want/need to hear, to know I’ve not been forgotten, that I matter to others.
We’ve not had an awful lot of support here, either from the company or from our family, they will disagree, and maybe they’re right. No one flew out to us when after 8 days of arriving our eldest son was rushed to hospital with a collapsed lung, or when the youngest had to have surgery to repair a broken arm or when I had surgery on my neck. We’ve never had medical aid before, it wasn’t set up on our arrival and it cost us a fortune, everyone laughs at my little antidotes, despite us being all serious, upset and often in tears when I call ‘home’
It took me 39 years to become who I was, to form my identity. A daughter, mother, wife, career woman, student. 2 year down the line I’m still trying to discover who the new me really is.
For the first time ever I am lonely, I am alone, I am a little bit lost and I don’t know how to change things. Talking to many, many expats this week I’ve been made aware that this is actually the new me, life will never be the same, even if I do return ‘home’
So today I’m making changes, I’m still depressed/sad/lonely, but I’m bucking myself up (family advice they seem to think it will work and be easy, after all they have their own set of problems)
I’ve torn up my to do list that I’ve been adding to and decided to get on with the important stuff, like finding a new gardener and accepting it will be more like care in the community and accept that after a whole days work and a days’ pay that the garden will still look like it needs doing and the gardener goes home with a full belly, money in his pockets and no doubt something he’s seen lying around and needs and I’ve done my good deed for the day.
Suzanne J S is an Expat mother living in South Africa; check out her blog at http://www.chickenruby.com/