Expat Wife: The Agony, The Ecstasy

“If there is a such thing as reincarnation, next time I want to come back as an expat wife,” said the husband of an American friend of mine here.  This set off a fit of cackles from the rest of the men in the group and eyeball rolling from the women. It was very funny but my first thought was a bit of indignation–don’t they realize how hard the expat women work here?: Transitioning our families to a new country; dealing with bureaucracies (just ask me about Mainova the water and gas utility here–it’s epic); navigating through an entirely new language, culture and landscape; managing accounts here and back home (why does my bank keep losing my wire transfer agreement?); trying to re-create portions of our former lives (just ask how hard I’ve tried to find the right gymnastics class for Nora); commonplace things such as household repairs take on a whole new level of complexity; and, let’s not forget, serious amounts of volunteering for the international school and other organizations.  That part can be rewarding but we all know the look of friends who have gotten overcommitted–pale faced and unable to speak about anything except the project they can’t wait to finish.  All of this and much, more more while our husbands circle the globe. Actually, there are a few husbands here for their wive’s jobs but, for whatever reasons, it’s mostly the other way around.

But, I will admit, after all that, being an expat wife can be pretty cool. That is because a lot of women here are dedicated to creating entertainment and adventure. One of my personal heroes is an expat woman I met who moved here from Zurich who used to go skiing every day after dropping off her kids at school.  Wow……………….ok, I’m back after fantasizing about that for a while. But, life in Frankfurt is very good too.  Would you like to…. meet for coffee, go to the English Theater, visit the sekt cellar, check out that new Mexican restaurant, get a special tour of the Courbet exhibit, go antique shopping in Belgium, play competitive tennis, be in a book club, take a weekend cooking class in Provence? Opportunities for pleasure are everywhere, whether through groups like the American Woman’s Club or informal activities with friends. I’ve also had more great travels lately—Lake Como, Mallorca, and Ireland.  I feel very fortunate.

So, gentlemen, I’ll allow your smirks but just don’t do it after I’ve received yet another mysterious invoice from Mainova; or, when I’m ordering birthday supplies at midnight so they can be shipped in time so the next visitor can bring them; or, when I’m filing another round of 50 health insurance claims (we have to pay up front for all doctor visits and prescriptions and then file for reimbursement back in America); or, when I’ve just driven 20 kilometers out of my way just to get cheddar cheese for that meal everyone likes; or, when I’m cleaning the slop out of the clothes dryer vent (why do they design them this way??);  or….. well, you get the idea.

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One response to “Expat Wife: The Agony, The Ecstasy

  1. alison thornton

    Ellen
    Very appropriate as I’m filing doctor claims today; banking and sorting out birthday presents before I miss the deadlines in the UK.
    Saying that, the movie was good last night and so was the chilli chocolate!
    Speak soon, Alison (another ex-pat wife)

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