Things we don't tell people about being an expat

John and I are currently in a state of awe that we have lived here as long as we have. Our original battle cry was "just 3 years!" But now, it's "as long as we're allowed to stay." There have been whispers of building our life here rather than just thinking of this a brief stop for a time (cue cheers from my derby team.) John and I are exceedingly happy here. Things here just make sense to us. Our life here makes sense to us. Expat life is where it's at for us.

But there are things we don't tell people about being expats. Things that we fear will scare people off from taking the plunge. Things that we fear will make our family sad. Things that we haven't said because well, it sounds like whining and the last thing people want to hear is whining from someone who is living their dream overseas. 

We like to be loop-adjacent but not necessarily in the loop.

There was this thought from a lot of people for a while that we wanted to be kept in the loop about EVERYTHING. Which while really really nice and quite thoughtful. What was suppose to be kind hearted "hey I know you can't come but I'm going to invite you anyway so you know what's happening" to an expat comes off as "look at this happy joyous wonderful thing where everyone you know and love will be and you won't." I'm not talking about big life events. No. Keep inviting us to your weddings friends and family! Keep telling us that you've procreated! We want to know where to send the gift! What I'm talking about are barbecues, Christmas parties, baby showers, birthday parties. The little things. We know these happen without us. These happen without us all the time. The less you mention it the better we feel about missing everything. 

There is nothing extra-special that we did to end up here.

There wasn't some magic or special thing about what we did to end up in Switzerland. John seriously just applied for the job he got just like you can apply for any job. All it took was John's willingness to apply. The worst they could have done was screened him out of the hiring process. He interviewed for it just like any other job. Okay, so he had to make sure the cat was locked in our bedroom so he didn't walk across his keyboard during the interview because it was done via Skype but that was just good sense. No one got him the job. He had no connections in the organization. He didn't do anything special other than having a unique skill set that they needed. If John hadn't applied they would have found someone else with that skill set. 

Going to Canada is not a vacation for us.

This is the whining part I warned you about. Going home to Canada is anything but relaxing for us. We developed a strategy that involves not telling people our travel dates until we absolutely have to. Or in some case not telling people we're in town until we're actually physically in town. People want to see us. People want to do things with us. And we want to see people and do things as well. But our trip is only so long and we try to cram in as much stuff as possible. We actually have a priority list of people we visit with. True story. Ailing and/or older relatives are at the top of the list. If my Oma Regina wants to spend every morning of our visit in July with us she gets it. Will she ask that of us, no. Never. BUT we would be willing to do it because she's the last grandparent I have...and she makes the best breakfast!! Then it's family and close friends (John jokes if you have dogs he can play with you immediately get bumped up the list *coughllamaandVennessacough*.) After that it's who ever we can squeeze in and is willing to work with our schedule. These trips home leave us exhausted and exhilarated after trying to fit being away for X number of years into 10 days. 

Our life is mostly made up of what our life would be like in Canada except it's in Switzerland.

Yup. Regardless of how glamorous our life sounds from the outside laundry still needs to get done. Someone has to grocery shop. The water heater still broke last year (in the middle of a heat wave thank god!) We still spend days sitting on the couch binge watching stuff and we still argue about stupid stuff like "why won't you take your gear upstairs!?!" and "where are all the coffee mugs?!" Our life, just like everyone's is dotted with exciting moments but we don't have any more exciting moments than the average couple. Our moments are just viewed through a lens of being expats which somehow makes things seem slightly more exciting. 

We are fully aware of how pretentious we sound and we try to curb it.

I wrote the following sentence last week, "my husband and I went to Bordeaux for Thanksgiving and took two cooking classes while we were there for the weekend." That is a sentence that a) I never thought I would ever in a million trillion years type and b) that is the most stuck up sentence ever to leave my brain and be typed with my fingers. And trust me there are a lot of sentences. So many. Such as;

"What time would like to eat dinner tonight? I need to know so I know when to start marinating the duck breast in Armagnac?"
"Do you really want to go to Paris again?"
"I'm pretty meh about going back to Rome."
"I bought the first class train tickets instead."
"I prefer champagne over Prosecco." 
"Do you just want to go to Germany for the day?"
"Maybe for our next vacation we can go some where outside of Europe."

We've paid duty on Christmas presents

Yeah. That happens. 


Unknown said…
So because I have two dogs...that's like double priority right? :) DOn't forget, I will also ply you with soap.
Sarah said…
All of the yes!!!!! No matter how cool your life sounds to everyone else it isn't EVER as glamorous as all that. "Living in an RV must be so fun and bohemian!" Until I can't vacuum, the dog barfs on the bed, we both get sick in 200 sq ft, and all of the cupboards fly open spewing our things everywhere. Other than that my whole life is WAY more elegant! Glad to know that we can still make the trip out to see you!
Hennie said…
There are upsides and downsides for expats in Switzerland – or expats in general. But one thing I love about being an expat in Switzerland (and this is true for most of central Europe) is that I can say sentences like “Do you want to go to Germany for the day?” Having so many countries and cultures just around the corner is probably one of the things I’m most grateful for as an expat.