What Does Your Husband Do?: The Secret Identity of the Expat Wife

Of all the questions a modern woman expects to be asked when meeting someone for the first time, “So, what does your husband do?” is not one that would’ve been on my radar. In fact, it would have grievously offended my pre-expat-wife self.

What do you mean, what does my husband do? How is that relevant to who I am as an individual? How does his career, his role, his position – define me? 

And yet, after expat-wifing for 5 years now, it’s a question that no longer causes me to bat an eyelid. In fact, after being asked my name, my kids’ ages, where we live, my often-spoken, almost pre-rehearsed line about his position at X company dances at the tip of my tongue, waiting for its inevitable release.

I am a dependant. I am someone else’s Plus One. I am so-and-so’s wife or so-and-so’s mother. The homemaker, the baby-caretaker, the healthy-toddler-muffin-baker.

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9 years ago, I met a boy.

22 November 2006. I was 21. I was in a new and exciting country, visiting my sister who had been doing volunteer work for almost a year. She’d convinced me to come along to one of her friends’ farewell barbecue celebration. I was reluctant. Frankly, I wasn’t in the mood for small talk and meeting new people. But I went anyway. Heck, I like my sister’s company and I was only there for a few more days so didn’t want to miss out on precious time together.

We arrived. I did the smiles, the hand shakes, the spiel about what I “did” and how long I was staying; a spiel which I’d perfected due to repeating it so many times, and the “yes, we don’t look alike at all, you’re right!” And repeat.

I have to say, I met a lot of cool people. One of them was a golden-haired, aqua-eyed fella with a sense of humour and impeccable taste in music. Once he started playing the album Things Fall Apart by The Roots, he caught my attention, as did the fact that when we arrived, he was, being the Australian-raised man that he is, expertly putting the proverbial shrimp on the barbie (I think it was actually lamb chops this time, but hey). Continue reading