When we decided to become expats, I knew there were others like us out there – I just had to find them. Once I started looking, I was amazed at just how many people have chosen an expatriate lifestyle. So many people tell me that they wish they could move to another country; I want to share the stories of those who have made the choice. I hope that these stories might encourage others to take the plunge. Today’s guest post is from Annabelle of The Piri-Piri Lexicon. She (a French passport holder) lives in Germany with her husband (a Portugese citizen) and daughter, who is being raised learning French, Portuguese, English, and German! I hope you enjoy her story;
I have a PhD and 5 years postgraduate research experience in academia. 2 years ago I went from academic working mum to trailing spouse. I left my job, my life, my friends to follow my husband and his great job opportunity. I do not regret it, but it hasn’t been easy.
Leaving academia was a surprisingly easier decision than anticipated. Academia is great, don’t get me wrong. The job is very satisfying and I got to meet and work with awesome people. Yet, the constant funding searches, the insecurity of the next short-term contract, the pressure to publish were aspects I hated. Too much is asked of academics. To be at the top of the game, you need to put in very long hours on your own personal time. Many successful academics (like in may other professions) breathe and live work. Weekends don’t exist anymore. They spend their nights reading the latest research paper, marking their students’ work and holidays are spent at conferences. I always knew this was not for me. Too much is expected and too much needs to be sacrificed to reach the top.
When our daughter was born and I went back to work full-time after 7 months with her, I knew I wanted to spend more time with her and be there for her during those very important formative years. Becoming a trailing spouse provided this opportunity for me. I was not sure I was cut out for the life of a housewife or a stay-at-home mum either, but at least I would have time to figure it out.
So, we decided to take the plunge. We made sure the salary offered enabled us to rely on it alone to start with and that was it. We figured we would work everything else out later. It was as easy as this.
Nothing else really mattered.
The past two years have been tough. We were not sent abroad on an assignment for a limited period of time. We decided to move by looking for a job in a new country, with no back up from a large multinational or organisation. This means that we had to look for everything by ourselves with very little support: home, childcare, organise the physical move, etc. When you speak little of the language, it makes it even harder. Germans speak decent English but are reluctant to use it.
We arrived here and slept in a hotel room for 2 nights. We had the keys to our flat but no furniture in it! We then had to open a bank account, find a supermarket, get telephone, TV, internet, register as a foreigner in the city hall, register with doctors, all while unpacking and getting adjusted to being a housewife and full-time mum to a then 18-month-old. As the person at home, I got to discover the city quicker than my husband. This was a little weird. I found playgrounds, shops while he told me about restaurants he had taken clients to (on colleagues recommendations). We discovered the city and region differently and complemented each other. We still do to a certain extent.
I am not cut out to be solely a stay-at-home mum. My husband cooks. I do the cleaning and organising of the house. But I need a project beyond that. This is why I started my blog and a small paper goods business. They allow me to keep my brain busy while I enjoy my daughter and can be there for my family when they need me. Becoming a trailing spouse means being able to show my daughter the world and raise her as a little global citizen while not having to worry about two careers in the same place at the same time (which is a juggling act in the best of situations). Becoming a trailing spouse could have been done without moving country, you may say. But I am not sure I would ever have had the courage to do so without this big jump across the sea.
A change of occupation meant a change of life.
Annabelle describes herself as a part-time stay-at-home mum. She lives in Germany with her husband and their quadrilingual 3-year old daughter. She blogs at www.thepiripirilexicon.com. She also runs a small paper designs shop at www.paperpapelpapier.etsy.com.You can follow her on Twitter @pirilexicon or @paperpapel.