Expat life is not normal life. In a trailing spouse situation, the working spouse might find in more “normal” and perhaps if you’re coming from a stay-at-home mom who’s children go to private school, maybe it’s closer to “normal” life. But it’s not normal life. People have accents, you drive on the wrong side of the road, your lunchmeat goes bad within 3 days, eggs aren’t refrigerated, you can’t get a decent dirty martini, people drink beer and wine at the airport at 6am, you don’t have a job, there are sheep in you backyard, your constantly traveling or hosting, yet you don’t see your family and friends, and all of a sudden you’re two sizes bigger without physically gaining a pound. Nothing is normal!
So we’ve now been expats for a full year and we’ve experienced our first full summer. I’m exhausted and a little unsettled. In general our transition into expat-ing was a little crazy. We moved and were put into temp housing and within one month I took a week to explore Ireland with family, then a couple weeks later already returned back stateside for a wedding. Then we were in temp housing for another month, and finally were able to get settled into our home. Then we went home for a few weeks for Christmas, then came back to Scotland and all was well for a few months. Then in the last 5 months I’ve ran one marathon, been to 4 countries outside of the UK, moved house, and had 11 guests. That is a mass amount of chaos and the absolute opposite of structure or a normal, predictable life.
It’s now September. The last visitor is gone. Our house is really feeling like home (and spiders are my new family). No super crazy vacations on the horizon. The AWA (American Woman’s Association) had their first meeting of the year. Golf lessons are starting back up. Golf lessons are back in session and next week is my first book club of the year. But it’s not just me- the kids are back in school and the expats that went home to the states, or Canada, or wherever are all back as well. We all now have time to reconnect and get back into the swing of things and normal life in Scotland after the (seemingly) long summer.
And all that is great, but it also is weird for me. I feel like I was basically checked out on even the new-“normal” expat life for the last 4 months or so. Kind of completely detached from Scotland, my community, and my friends here. I’m excited to get back to routine and a sense of expat-life-normalcy. But then I look ahead (way too far as I often do) and think about how I’ll be gone for a month in December, how next summer’s guest list is filling up, and I could potentially be stateside for all of November AND December next year. Everyone knows that expat life is unsettling because you’re moving to another country and you’ll probably be traveling more…but I didn’t really consider all the time you’re not actively living your day-to-day life in your new country because you’re back in your old country, or you’re exploring a new country, or you have visitors for close to 2 week stretches instead of 2 days.
I’m not trying to complain about any of this. I loved having all my guests, I loved my travels, I love coming home (to the states- and would love to go back more for shorter periods of time ideally, but there’s the whole money thing)…it just leaves you feeling disassociated and unsettled. It’s not something that’s going to change for as long as I’m an expat, but it’s something to think about and consider or least anticipate in some way if you’re becoming an expat. Because I’m not the only one! It seems most moms and kids go back to their home country for anywhere between 4-8 weeks every summer to see family. You just have to learn to wing it and kind of accept that even though you have your new home country, it won’t be life as you knew it, and you’ll go through a lot more frequent and longer periods of not actually being home. If anything I hope that I learn to go with the flow more, embrace challenges, and exceed at rapid transitions….fingers crossed!