Last night, a friend confided that his daughter is experiencing difficulty maintaining a social life outside of school now that she has repatriated to the UK. Another has a daughter who is finding it a challenge to settle in at school within the adopted country. Both families need support clearly and perhaps organisations have under estimated the challenges and frustrations our children face before, during and after their time abroad?
Resilience and mental health are key to maintaining a happy and healthy life. Today I stumbled across a (new to me) section of BeyondBlue, a section devoted to developing and sustaining resilience within the family unit. Applicable to all families, especially applicable to those posted/living overseas or those who have recently repatriated. Of particular note were the sections relating to identifying and seeking support for children suffering from mental illness; here parents are provided with advice, information and links to gain further information.
So in support of friends, colleagues and fellow expats here is the link to beyondblue beyondblue.org.au an organisation committed to “increasing understanding and reducing the impact of anxiety and depression”. You may wish to share this information with your own family, friends, school community in the hopes of supporting others.
The moment I stepped out into the distinctive night air, that is Jakarta, eyes followed me everywhere as I made my way through the bustling stream of people. As did a gentlemen who rightly detected that I was a tad lost and trying to locate my spouse who was to meet my at the exit and which me back to our new apartment, in this new city, in our new country. Where the bloody hell is he? I kept asking myself as I realised that I had no phone coverage to call him. My new ‘friend’ suggested that I use his phone to call or perhaps follow him to his taxi and he would help me. As he moved to take my suitcase an assertive and loud ‘no’ did the trick and I was soon left to my own devices. Just then the crowd parted and my knight finally appeared. This was my first experience as an expat with all eyes watching me and a situation unfold around me. It was not to be my last.
Many Western expats, particularly those who look like me with pale skin and blonde hair, will share experiences of being stared at, leered at and having people look into your shopping trolley as they go about their business. For women, it is especially unnerving. Here there are no personal boundaries, cultural norms are very different and there is no such thing as keeping a respectful distance. Men drive this society and for Western women this is a hard pill to swallow and not something I have accepted even after all of these years. So from a local perspective we look different and behave usually which is definitely worth gawking at. We must look a funny lot as we attempt to assimilate and understand this new normal when we first arrive to Indonesia. We need to remember that we should try to adapt to our new normal, rather than try to mould the culture and people around us.
The expat experience gets more interesting though – you have suddenly become a VIP in your adopted country. Treated like royalty almost and its something that I cannot (will not/) become accustomed to. Raised in a social minded family, my world view is that we should treat others with respect and courtesy regardless of social standing, religious views, sexual orientation, gender and so on. Not always the reality in a country based on patriarchal and class based society. Here, we are waved through vehicle security checkpoints due to our diplomatic plates, offered the best tables in restaurants, extended invitations to slight after events and generally extended preferential treatment all round.
Some expats move in powerful circles and network with important people and soon find that they have drunk the cool aid so to speak. They start to believe this fairytale existence and buy into this newfound self importance. Some expats grow to love this celebrity and rand become increasingly demanding and entitled which is not a good look, lets be honest. Perhaps a reality check is needed at this point in time? That or these expats are setting themselves up for an almighty fall when they return home and they are treated as regular people.
How do you keep yourself grounded in the expat bubble?
A sudden pang hit me in the very pit of my stomach just now as a few boxes were delivered to our apartment in the anticipation that we may wish to pack a few belongings ourselves. Reality is sinking in.. we are leaving. And soon. Well, we are leaving in early January after a little holiday but our uplift (i.e., when all of our belongings are removed) is in 3 weeks!
The first pang arose during the property survey conducted by Allied Pickford a few weeks back. The rep walked in created an inventory and provided dates for the uplift.
The second pang hit when we gave our domestic staff notice, provided references and advertised their services widely within the expat and Embassy communities. That was difficult because we know that if they do not secure employment there is no Government assistance in this country and that has implications as both are the breadwinners for their families.
The third happened just now and was accompanied by mixed emotions – sadness, excitement, anxiety, happiness all delivered with these boxes!
The next pang will surely emerge during uplift.. and again when we head off on our holiday.. and for the last time when we return to Indonesia, our current home, before we board our final flight to return to… Now what do I call it when it’s not “home”?
Generally speaking, no one likes change. Change is challenging. It’s a process of upheaval of all that is known and familiar and hurls us into the unknown with lashings of anxiety and trepidation. Some worries that I have include no longer connecting with old friends; experiencing difficulty settling back into my old life easily, or not at all; concerns about work and changes to relationship dynamics with my spouse.
The repatriation process is thought to be more stressful and difficult to navigate than the initial move interestingly. Many people believe that returning to your country of origin from your new home will be a smooth transition as you are returning to your old life. But I have changed and evolved as a result of this experience and these new found beliefs are returning with me. My world view is now different – not better just different. The stages of adjustment are claimed to bite harder with repatriation and repats require a lot of support, patience and understanding from loved ones and work colleagues for up to a year after their return.
So, as the title suggests, reality is setting in and fast!