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The Expat Wife May 18, 2011

Posted by howibecameawriter in Uncategorized.
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Along with a group of expat friends we went to the theatre last week to see a revised version of a local production called The Expat Wife. A whole play dedicated to the misfortunes, misadventures and experiences of expats? We knew we would be in for a good laugh.

As we walked through the entrance to meet the rest of our party, one of the expat wives (new to Asia) said she suddenly felt quite uncomfortable coming to a play where expats would basically laugh at the locals. For a brief moment I agreed with her but once the play started, we knew it was less about how the affluent expats were supporting the local economy and more about how the richness of the experience of being an expat would be supporting us.

It dawned on me in the first act that I was an expat. I know that sounds ridiculous but you just go through day to day life, doing all the normal things, grocery shopping, paying bills, deciding where to go for dinner on Saturday night that I had never really stopped and thought “hey I’m an expat“. I suddenly felt very lucky and privileged to be one of very few people able to encounter such amazing experiences half way across the world.

During the interval queue for the toilets however, the girl expats in my group all decided that the play was a little outdated and we had actually turned the traditional image of an expat wife completely on its head – as one of my friends rightly pointed out, her days are filled with “Pampers, not Prada“. As for the rest of us with full time jobs and working hours to rival our husbands, the whole expat wife thing has passed us by completely and we have made way for a whole new generation of expat wives, doing things our own way without relying on the husband’s bonus to buy ourselves that pair of Jimmy Choos.

I never cease to be amused at such gatherings where there is a large concentration of expats (in Asia this is usually festivals or gigs with bands from our home countries or events like the theatre) mainly because alcohol is the main differentiator between the cultures. We arrived at the theatre with about 30 mins before the play started, and it was Friday night, and we had all had long weeks at work, and we needed a drink (did I mention it was Friday night already?!) So the queue for the exorbitantly priced wine (where all the expats swarmed towards) was significantly longer than the one for the food (where the few locals brave enough to go to the play headed for). Who needed food? I had had a bowl of soup and a McFlurry 5 hours ago. “Can we take the drinks into the auditorium? No? OK then I will have to double my drinks order please!” You would never get a sensible local doing that.

It’s funny the things which make you take a look at yourself in a different way, and I wonder whether there will be a local version of the Expat Wife as seen through the residents’ eyes – it might not be as funny but I’m sure we would learn a thing or two about our host country!

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