Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Life of an Expat, Part 1



Being an expat is wonderful sometimes. You can pick up and head off to Paris for the weekend. You can take advantage of benefits like housing allowances and expensed train tickets. And you can experience a part of the world most people never will.

But then there's the life on hold concept.

“Hey honey, can we get a dog?” I’ve asked many times upon seeing some adorable Bernese mountain dog sitting next to my table at a Swiss restaurant.

“Sure, when we move back,” my husband will answer.

When we move back. This was supposed to be last May, as my husband was on a three-year contract, but as you can see, we are still here. I know expats that have come to Switzerland for one year and stayed for forty. It’s a strange life to live, when you don’t know where in the world you’ll be living the following year. But it’s starting to get old.

Because I want a dog. I want a piano. I’m an American and I have a lot of wants that don’t quite fit with the Swiss apartment lifestyle.

So the next time we had the “I want a dog,” conversation, I told my husband, no fair about the “move back” statement. I want a date. A thing where time matters, but not place.

Shaking his head, he finally said, “Ok, you can get a dog next summer.”

And I’m going to hold him to that. Wherever in the world we might be.

This series, The Life of an Expat, was written on behalf of affordablecallingcards.net . But don’t worry, it’s 100% my opinion. Stay tuned next week for The Life of an Expat, Part 2, over on ACC.

But in the meantime, what do you think? If you’re an expat, does your life feel like it’s on hold sometimes? What do you love and what do you dislike about expat life?

16 comments:

mrsmac said...

One of our biggest motivators for moving back, whenever we do, is to not have our lives on hold/get our lives started again. It's hard to explain to other people because to others, we are living so how could we possibly be 'on hold'?

But we know this is temporary and it's hard to make longterm plans when you don't know what the future holds.

Jessica said...

I am SO with you on this topic. Jace and I have a lot of 'on holds' as well that non-expats just don't understand... pets, collecting things, having fancy furniture, etc, etc... it will be nice to get back to Australia and be able to do 'normal' things like own a dog. :)

MP said...

I understand that feeling too. For me it's more about having kids than getting a dog. We wanted to stay in China, but I wanted to have a baby. So we moved back. Now the babe's here and 18mos so we're trying to move again. And waiting on the Swiss government...this means no classes, no big purchases and no trips here in the US in the near future. So I guess it sucks both coming and going.

Chantal said...

Glad to hear some of you can relate. It's nice not feeling alone in this strange "life on hold" existence. As wonderful as it is.

Anneliese said...

Also totally with you! I came here for 2 years almost 5 years ago! I found a good compromise on the piano problem though: http://www.roland.com/products/en/FP-7/ It feels like a piano, really, and I'm picky! Lemme know if you want to come play with mine, I don't give it enough attention!
Anna

Chantal said...

Thanks for the piano tip. I've got a 12-year-old Yamaha keyboard that's ok...it's just not the same as the real thing!

Kristi said...

I haven't reached the "on hold" feeling because I am still taking the "it's nice not thinking about the future" nap. Maybe our situation is unique, but we came over knowing we weren't moving back to Atlanta so we don't have a what's next yet. I imagine it will happen though, great post.

Chantal said...

Hey Kristi,
Yeah, I think the "on hold" thing takes a while to develop. When I first got here, I felt like I was on an extended vacation that somehow included strict laundry lectures. But I know some expats that decide to go on permanent contracts saying it's the best thing they ever did, because they finally can settle. So you may have an advantage there.

Kate said...

We have been through the pet thing with our kids so many times. My stock answer - you can get a pet when we have our "forever house". But when when when will that be, they reply. Fate intervened a while back in the form of a stray kitten; which will now be accompanying us to our forever home, if we ever get there!

Chantal said...

That's cute. Maybe I'll find a stray...but I've never really seen one in Switzerland. And I wonder for our generation if there even is such a thing as a "forever house" anymore.

DRosie said...

I think this feeling of "on hold" started before we even left. The toughest part was leaving my business back in the States. I know it will be there when I get back, but who knows if I will even want to do the same thing after my life here. Everything is so up in the air. Little scary.

Chantal said...

I felt the same way when I resigned my job in the states. I had no idea if I would be able to work here, but since I found a job shortly after moving, life seemed less on hold, at least until I asked for a dog...

The Antiques Diva™ said...

My 5th year abroad was the straw that broke the camels back. I went out and bought that blender, a juicer and I even got wild and crazy and bought a toaster! One month later my husband told us it was likely we were moving to Tokyo and all my new appliances were going to be useless (we didn't, by the way, move to Tokyo, as my husband was the "back up" plan and Plan A worked)and 4 years later I love those things I bought to make myself feel at home!

Making the decision "This is Where I Live Until I Don't" was the best mental transformation I've had in my adult life!

Chantal said...

Yeah, the whole appliance thing is a good point. We put off buying stuff too until finally, we just couldn't function without. I found that at least in CH, buying things at the second hand store was a good solution for all you "on hold" expats. Because you pay a third of the price and most Swiss take such good care of things you can hardly tell they're second-hand!

Jill said...

Hi Chantal! I just found your blog and I'm looking forward to reading more. I'm a 9 year (yes really) expat and Switzerland is our 3rd continent. My life and career have been on hold so long they are a distant dream. Fortunately, new things take their place, but I still miss my old life :) Thanks for your blog! Check mine out sometime: http://jillsblog.typepad.com

Chantal said...

Hi Jill, thanks for stopping by. Wow, 9 years, that's impressive. Will check out your blog.

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