The Expat Partner's Survival Guide
Clara Wiggins (CreateSpace 2015, trade paperback/ebook ) 280pages, £7.99/£2.99 cover price
The frequent suicide bombings on the other side of the protective gates were a real worry, meaning taking the children out anywhere always felt like too big a risk. Sure, you think you have worries in your daily life regarding your kids and traffic? How would you feel if the traffic might actually explode?
With that, the British author Clara Wiggins gets her advisory book to those whose careers lead them to living abroad off with an unfortunate bang. Well, it is a good thing to capture the reader's attention from the start and in this Age of Paranoia that we live in, her anecdote of living in Islamabad certainly does it. While fears of terrorism may be the most extreme of all the difficulties a family can face when trying its damndest to recreate normalcy in a foreign country, there are dozens and dozens of such bumps and potholes along the road and Wiggins is adept at supplying advice culled from her personal experience as the wife of a British diplomat.
Speaking as someone who has also packed up and changed countries, I can relate to a fair amount of what Wiggins writes about and I am happy to attest that her counsel is well thought-out and accurate. Whether it is on the larger issues of how to go about renting a home or opening a bank account, or the mundane (say good-bye to your favourite snack foods from home) anyone moving abroad really should read this clear and rather enjoyable book.
Wiggins' perspective is also vital for that person who is in the spousal role, the Expat Partner of her title. She says:
I would argue that the accompanier is the one with the hard job, the one who has to find their own way, get through each day alone or perhaps with the children in tow, the one who is usually put in charge of organising schooling, finding the local doctor, working out where the best place to buy a decent piece of meat is or how to get hold of the required school uniform.
Relative to the above, Wiggins writes from the heart in discussing the strains that living abroad can place on a family, both between spouses and between parents and children. Suddenly, there are not the convenient seconds of familiar friends and nearby family to help pick up the slack or supply the much-needed occasional shoulder of sympathy. These are not negligible concerns.
The Expat Partner's Survival Guide is written from a British perspective, as in when Wiggins notes that most countries now have an M&S in the larger cities. Most American readers will be asking, 'Does she mean M&M's?' No, they're grocery and dry goods shops and honestly if that 'foreign' perspective in a book bothers anyone so much, maybe living abroad is really not for them. For the rest of us, we can all enjoy the adventure ever so much more with a bit (okay, a lot) of planning. That planning process can begin with reading this survival guide.
Be seeing you.