What do you think about The Great Juxtaposition Of Expat Life?

Many expats find a side of themselves that would have never surfaced had they not relocated across the planet to their new home away from home. Have you ever wanted to try your hand at writing non-fiction – with a twist? Inspired by recent day-in-the-life experiencs, expat and corporate crusader Leonora Roccisano shares her story, albeit with wonderment through the eyes of a not so recent newbie to expat life!

When you start life as an expat, you fear losing connection with life back home - relationships, ways of doing things, of spending your time.  You construct so many plans to manage a kind of transplantation of life back home into your new world: phone calls, Skype sessions, Facebook messages, trips back, and the like.  Conversations with home are regular, and something like the following:

“How is Frank, how did his appointment go“

“Oh, he’s just getting old, the vet just put him on some tablets.  Same one’s as Tommy next door had to get put onto.  Bit of a worry really”

“Oh, poor Frankie, I miss him”

Followed by making yourself a vegemite sandwich to get over the homesickness and worry over Frank, or, more likely, a sombre but cheeky beer at ‘Boomarang’ or 'McGettigan's', whatever takes your fancy.  

Over Skype, the chats are something like this:

“We went to Bintan over the weekend, it was funny to have to take our passports on a ferry ride.  Not much there, I miss the beaches back home…”

Followed by pouring yourself a sombre but cheeky glass of the Barossa shiraz your parents brought over on their first visit - of many more to come!

Then life happens, work kicks in and you meet new people, the vegemite sandwiches become less frequent, the wines less sombre but more cheeky.  

Text messages become the platform of choice more frequently and read like:

“Sorry I missed our Skype session … things are just so crazy here at the moment, it’s a bad month, we’ve got two balls and a charity art event this week, the helper is unwell and Keryn is away in China for work Thursday.  Next week?”

These kinds of conversations can be heard in every bar and cafe across Singapore, every day.  And normally without inflection.  It’s not until one pauses to listen to responses from people back home - awkward silences, dismissive comments and questions when you’re going to come back home into the real world - that the need to filter becomes compelling. 

The transformation may be a swift and seamless one, but we are aware.  One only needs to hear one’s self speak on a call or two back home to realise the risk that is run: ‘Did I really just tell my friends I’d be happy to meet them in Bali because I need some new sundresses?!'  

As I write this, I sit in a villa shading my wine as I look out over the most spectacular ocean views and wondering where my villa assistant is as I’ll be ready for lunch soon.  The reports I’m sending home miss much of this detail for fear of how opinions of me might change. Perhaps another cheerfully cheeky wine as I contemplate wording of the next message. I have another friend who so self deprecatingly admitted to catching himself recommending his ‘realtor’ at an art show.  

Most expat women I know have had to place a yearly limit on their ball attendances for fear of going broke or getting broken and colleagues who, at the end of most weeks, tally the hotel and airline member rewards they accumulated since Sunday.  The stories they send home, however, are quite filtered indeed.

Friends of mine truly did feel homesick when they learned they’d miss a good friend’s birthday, but he had to be in India for work, this gave her a great opportunity to join him for the weekend.  As it turned out, they ended up at the Indian fashion night of nights  and after party, drinking champagne and brushing shoulders with models.

 As they flopped into the hotel bed in awe of India and the night just had, they scanned Snapchat for news from home and quickly agreed they would not have traded their trip in for what would have been, not so long ago, a yearned for night of Pictionary had in Adelaide - even with the exceptional and cheap South Australian red.  

But during the next call from home, taken whilst loading up a taxi with Huber’s, they struggled with how to tell their friends back home about their India trip.  Some parts were played down. Some parts were diluted with disclaimers like... “oh, that was just the hotel that Tom’s work made him stay in.”

And so there lay the great juxtaposition of expat life.  

We know we sound and probably look like wankers, but with that often comes exciting and interesting memories that, we can only hope our livers won’t begrudge us for too much and our loved ones will find entertaining dinner party conversation some day when all living back home one day.

Author: Leonora Roccisano

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Richard
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24 April 2017
Nicely written. Not so homesick now :-)

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Gisele
CONNOISSEUR
18 comments
22 March 2017
Super! Thoroughly enjoyed reading your article. I often feel (guilty) when I post pictures of my trips to Bali, Thailand, etc. And of Singapore!... as my lovely Canadian friends and family are quick to remind me of the snow there. Cheers!

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