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July 11, 2011

A Holistic Perspective of Expat Life - That Anyone Can Find Useful

A book review on Expat Women Confessions: 50 Answers to Your Real-Life Questions About Living Abroad
Do you ever wish there was a "Dear Abby" column for expats? If so, this book will definitely fulfill that need. 

Expat Women Confessions: 50 Answers to Your Real-Life Questions About Living Abroad is a book that touches on a wide variety of challenges faced by expats of all ages in different stages of life with different circumstances. The most refreshing thing about this book is that anyone can find something useful in this book that could relate to their life; being an expat or not.

Being an expat and trailing spouse myself while reading this book gives me a unique perspective I would not have had if I had read this book before this time in my life. It is impossible to share with you all the invaluable information and lessons I learned in the book, though I'd like to share three of the most intriguing myth busters I learned about the expat lifestyle while reading this guide:

1. Expat remuneration packages only address the needs of the expat worker; spouse and children do not take importance (unless it's for health insurance).
In the book, I learned that some expat packages if researched and negotiated properly can include such things as: allowance for regular travel back home, allowance for support for the trailing spouse (counseling, expat or cross-cultural coaching), and help with identifying day care or schools for expat's children. Talking to a neighbor in India, I also learned that things like inverters (power supply backup) can also be negotiated in the expat package- which is an important requirement in a place like India where there are frequent power outages.

2. Moving to countries where expats look the same and have the same language can be a harder transition than to a totally different country.
Often moving to a country where it appears people look and speak like us can be more difficult than moving to a completely different country as we may mistake this similarity for an easier transition with much less or no culture shock as compared to moving to a totally different country like China or Kenya. Also, English speaker expats in English speaking countries may not have the same access to expat groups or even local - English classes (learning local slang and accents) because of this myth. 

3. Moving home is the most challenging aspect to expat life.
Contrary to popular thought, moving back home to the country of birth or the passport country is often much more difficult than moving to another foreign country. Adjusting back to 'old ways' and being expected to 'know the local etiquette' can be daunting if one has been away for a long time, to many different countries, or really felt at home in another country. Where do these expats call home? How do they grapple with their identity?

Andrea Martins and Victoria Hepworth manage to touch on these delicate issues and 47 more issues in this almost 270 page book. As an expat or a person facing life transitions, this book will become a good companion to you to give you guidance when facing a challenge or obstacle. It will be a guiding light for you when you need a little extra support.

This book review appeared in the Asian Connection Newspaper, Toronto, Canada, June 2012.


Images used with permission from the book's online press release kit.

Related Posts:
An Indian Expat Americanizing but Remaining Desi at Heart
Preparing to Move Back Home To Live With Parents
Is Culture Shock Real?

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