10 April 2012

How to be an Expat Wife :: Lesson #1

#1.  You need to brush your teeth. Every day. Preferably in the morning.

Seriously, this is my number one rule. When Amos and I were applying to live abroad, his company made us go see a psychologist to talk about what living abroad was like and how we were going to cope. The company didn't even try to cover up the reason for this: failure is expensive. If we got over to Japan, hated it and moved back to Seattle, that would cost them a lot of money. Failures almost always occur because the family is unhappy (me), the family doesn't adjust (me). Enter the corporate-required shrink (to talk about me... just kidding, we talked about Amos too. He loved it. Every minute).

Honestly, and this is coming from someone who has a very fond place in her heart for therapy, the appointment was pretty lame. She recommended we buy linens and things in the States (they are cheaper), stock up on things like toothpaste and shampoo (she said it helps homesickness), bring deodorant (hard to find in Japan). She told us it would be a roller-coaster of emotions. That we would get homesick. Super high highs. Super low lows. Etc, etc, etc.

Now that we're here, with Costco sizes of Crest and Aveda, I have to say that I don't think it has impacted my homesickness, positively or negatively. I miss people regardless of my minty fresh breath or the familiar smell of my hair. I lost our cheap American comforter cover in a freak balcony laundry-line-drying accident, so we already got to experience Japanese priced linens.

I will, however, give her the deodorant one; the supply of that has certainly helped me make friends.

There was one thing that our therapist said that really stuck me. We were discussing my work life and my leaving my job, and I mentioned that I had worked from home for quite a while before I transitioned into a flexible office environment. "Oh good," she said. "That means you already know how to get dressed every day!"


She went on to explain that the working spouse, in our case Amos, has to get up, shower, and get dressed every day, homesick or not. He has a purpose. People are depending on him. He has THINGS TO DO. The trailing spouse? Not so much. Things to do are flexible and squishy and one has to seek them out. Yoga with a friend? Easy to blow off. Calligraphy class? Just won't RSVP this week. Cookings, cleaning, and laundry? Meh, I've let those go for weeks back home when I was busy. We can last a couple days. Why yes, I would like to surf the internet a little bit longer and look at more Mormon Mommy blogs, thankyouverymuch.

But when it gets to be too much, and I find myself in a sour, snarky mood, I almost always stop myself and ask a very deep, important question: Have you brushed your teeth today, you lazy fuck missy? If the answer is No (and it usually is if I'm in a terrible mood and hating life), then I have to get up, right then, and brush them. Usually that leads to me brushing my hair too and trying to do something with my face once I see how I really look in the mirror. Then that will lead to me getting dressed. Which will lead to me making food or leaving my apartment. Which leads to me being social. Which leads to me not being a huge B.

Lesson Number One: Brush your teeth.


  1. So now I know, why the Mormon mommy blogs are so appealing...

  2. That article on Mormon mommy blogs was just what I needed!

    I try to tell people not in-the-know about the Mormon mommy blogs and they don't understand. Now I have something to refer them to.

  3. Thank you - you made me laugh out loud!

    Before we flew to Kenya, my children (then aged 4 and 7) and I had a two day cultural orientation training that involved learning how many people lived in Kenya (presumably we were expected to bump into every single one), 'getting out there" and finally, avoiding being victims of carjacking by 'being aware'. The latter two seemed to my inexperienced eye to be somewhat incompatible, so I erred on the side of caution and spent the first 4 months sobbing at home instead. Finally the need for adult conversation and chocolate kicked in and I ventured outside, only to discover all that I had been missing..
    Henceforth, I will be sure to include "First, Brush Your Teeth" at the start of every expat checklist. It's excellent advice.

    I'm supposed to be busy writing a blog for my post, and instead I have lost 45 minutes reading through yours.. Hilarious.



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