The exploits of an expat stay at home dad.
By: Alan Bridges
So, by way of introduction I’m Alan, and along with my wife and daughter, we are currently on assignment in Europe. This is our 6th year away from our home country, with my wife’s work. I think it has worked out pretty well so far, and we just want it to continue, at work and school, and on the home front for me as well.
Why do you want to go off to foreign parts, trailing in your wife’s professional wake?
Because it is the best darn fun you can legally have, that’s why. Learning another language and culture is a big opportunity for you and the family to broaden your horizons. See how other country’s people live, work and play. Your children will benefit a thousand-fold from the experience, in many ways not possible back home.
Most probably your children will attend an International School in your chosen country, which is great. I can highly recommend this course of education, as I have seen its benefits to my daughter. Class sizes are generally smaller, teachers are recruited from all over the world, and most International Schools will probably have students from 30 different countries globally. Your children will make friends with local and worldwide kids, as well as from their own country.
Another benefit is the parent social life. My wife and I are heavily involved in the school volunteers, you don’t have to be, but it makes you lots of friends within the school community. Very important. Culture shock can sometimes take hold when moving overseas, it can surface in many forms. Helping out at the school will explode those fears. I help out by BBQing for school sports days, putting up the stage for musical concerts and I am involved in the school catering committee meetings.
Besides this, you meet people with like minded hobbies and pursuits. Just lately, a good friend phoned me one night to ask if I would be interested in playing guitar in a Dad Band he was forming. Six months on, we now perform at all school social gatherings. We rock!!
The whopping great issue really is language, or the lack of it. Defined as “an intelligent way to express one’s thoughts and emotions “, what was easy when you left home, is now a hurdle to overcome. But it does become easier with the passage of time and study, especially with such tools as Bing and Google Translate, and others. When I first got here, every time I ordered coffee I got a Harvey Wallbanger with lemon! And I don’t even like cocktails……
But seriously though, I once bought a car using Google to change my sentences from english to Czech. Much to the bemused hilarity of the guy in the garage. I beat him down on price, while we shoved the keyboard back and forth across the table. typing our next offer and haggling with our fingertips. Great fun. I drove away happy.
Sometimes I have to enlist the use of an ipad to photograph parts of my car, so I can show the garage what needs fixing. Then, using a mixture of local words, disjointed sentences, hand gestures, iPad photos and English words thrown in to fill the gaps, I communicate very well. They hate me down there.
My last routine pastime really is meeting up with a coffee buddy. There will always be a few stay at homes at each school, wherever you land. I find it good to meet up once a week. Great for swapping information on local sightseeing, websites and talking about manly stuff like 4x4s, baseball and chainsaws!!! So if coffee mornings at the school do not appeal to you, (or anyone with one X and one Y chromosome), then escape to a local cafe, sit outside, and enjoy the cultural experience. You will be glad you did.
Must go, here comes the waitress with my Harvey Wallbanger. Cheers……