Developing Resilience and Expat Life. Defining Moves - Information, Inspiration and resources for the global expat partner, accompanying partner, trailing spouseIt’s been one of these days that we read about under the heading ‘Developing Resilience as an Expat’, and already I am an expert. To be fair, it’s nothing life and death, just a seemingly endless parade of disasters, bloopers and general humiliation that characterizes rather too much of my life. In Global Mobility literature, I believe they are referred to as ‘challenges’ or ‘opportunities for development’. In my world, they come under the heading of ‘oh, sh…ootarabbitdead’.

Current life in my world, involves the attempted purchase of a home while our bank accounts, assets and credit history all languish the wrong continent. Factor in a housing market where any homes not scheduled for immediate demolition are selling within a day of being listed and the impending Relocation Assistance cut-off date and you begin to see how the ‘challenges’ of international currency transfer, non-local residence and 8 hour time difference all begin to fray the nerves.

In amongst all this is my abortive attempt to submit my proposal for FIGT 2013, ending with me managing to apparently delete my entire presentation – predictably without making a copy. It would have been a little less embarrassing if I wasn’t on the selection committee and already in receipt of plenty of obviously glitch-free proposal submissions. It’s not an auspicious start.

So back to today. I got an early start on it all, which with hindsight, only meant that I managed to cram rather more chaos into a day than the average expat.

The morning began bright and early with me attempting to make a payment to an online currency exchange from our UK bank. Predictably, since the global financial meltdown, banks are now somewhat reluctant to part with deposited cash, and years of corporate financial shenanigans are now being remedied by tighter security for those of us who have yet to do anything shady. Perhaps if they applied the same rigor to their own dealings, we wouldn’t be in this mess, but who am I to comment on the morality of banking practices.

So, an hour and two international currency transfer attempts later I was walking the dogs, clutching the mobile phone registered to my account in a rather sweaty hand, lest security need to contact me to verify my inside leg measurement. Sadly, for reasons known only to themselves, they had chosen to make the call not on the painstakingly registered-and-verified-by-fifty-million-security-questions phone, but instead on the never-registered-just-used-once-on-an application-form-somewhere UK line. Not only was my transfer not complete, I was now locked out of internet banking, and all hopes of transferring a home deposit before Halloween were disappearing before my eyes.

Should anyone need to know where every single customer service department in Santander is actually based, I could now tell them. Three hours, and a oft repeated ricochet between Belfast and Liverpool call centres later, my account is now reinstated. Predictably, international banking is now closed, unaware that they have my call to look forward to tomorrow.

So when the email from the delightful Maureen at FIGT came through, complete with a retrieved copy of the proposal, I thought my luck had turned. I had demonstrated resilience, patienceĀ and good manners, and my efforts had been rewarded – I had both a functioning bank account (albeit still not he wrong continent, but I was determined to stay positive) and I now had a chance at demonstrating my charm, wit and intelligence on a global stage. All of which demonstrates why I will never earn a living as a psychic.

In my defense, I thought I was being both funny and helpful, neither of which I am ever attempting again. Mrs B had called with a request for more information about tonight’s Open House at the High School, and I felt if was my duty not only to share the official details, but also my behind-the-scenes-for-those-of-you-who-have-never-done-it-before review. It was witty, it was insightful, and if it displayed a somewhat less respectful tone (I believe a hip flask was mentioned), it was at least informative. It was also – thanks to a lack of attention to detail and a unerring skill for the inappropriateĀ for which I am notorious – sent, not to Mrs B, but to the Principal of the aforementioned school..

There is that horrific moment at these times when you are desperately clawing at the computer, willing the laws of Google to suddenly change and allow you to recall something that you know full well is pinging into their inbox at that very moment. You want time to stand still, and then when it does, it finds you replaying in your mind just how that acerbic riposte sounded to someone who might not find your dry humor quite as hilarious as its intended recipient.

As all the literature will tell you, a sense of humor is one of the pivotal characteristics in developing and demonstrating resilience. What you might not know is that it’s even better when the other person has one too. That and the kind of grace under pressure that allows you to work with 12oo teenagers all day and stay sane and smiling. Clearly, the Principal has read all the literature about dealing with unfamiliar language patterns, acceptable behavior and diverse cultural norms and offered the universal gesture of tolerance, acceptance and forgiveness.

She laughed.

Thank God. I thought we were going to have to move schools.. Yet again.

 

 

14 Responses to Developing Resilience in Expat Life. It’s been one of those days..

  1. naomi says:

    O.M.G. – I froze when I read that you sent the email to the principal! FROZE. Couldn’t scroll down for a minute (fellow hip flasker here as well).

    Glad she laughed!

    • Rachel says:

      Me too. Although I think the presence of the Principal or a school counselor at our first five sessions of Back to School night was no mere co-incidence. I probably should be grateful that I wasn’t strip searched..

  2. Kate says:

    Rachel, bless your cotton socks! Having sent a couple of those e-mails myself, I understand your heart stopping pain, and am afraid that screaming at the computer does not work (or at least it did not in my case…NOOOOOOOOOO!), and on top of everything else, what an utterly dreadful day. Do hope the house comes through for you. I’ll drink to that out of my hip flask at open house this week.

  3. Apple Gidley says:

    Please may I join the HFW Club? And yes, the delightful Maureen at FIGT has saved many an ass.

  4. A day that best remembered for being over ;)

    (Wrote a longer comment earlier but your password system was acting up and wouldn’t submit. Rather irritating)

  5. Louise says:

    And amongst all that you managed to focus and pop out a blog – I’d have kept walking the dog! Things can only get better tomorrow… I guess!??
    Off to walk the dog!

  6. Rachel says:

    It is official – the HFW club is born.

    As a follow up to yesterday, especially for Louise, I have just returned from taking the dogs for a walk. Within the first 10 minutes, Daisy-Who-Never-Learns (see previous ‘Tried and Trusted Ways to Lose your Security deposit post) had dug up a wasp nest, and we were all engulfed in a cloud of angry stinging insects. She then decided to fake anaphylactic shock, lying down and refusing to move – leaving me to carry her the mile home. Needless to say, a $140 vet bill later she is feeling much better, albeit very bumpy. The rest of us are still nursing our stings and feeling sorry for ourselves..

    • naomi says:

      I’ll order the t-shirts for the HFW.

      My reference to coffee to go cup simply meant that my friends often asked to sniff my “coffee” to see if it indeed was freshly ground. snicker! I’ll put in an order for a proper hip flask so that I’ll not stand out …

      (Louise – hi!)

  7. Housing stress, school stress, Banking system frustration, compounded by intercontinental time differences, pet illness and pest infestations; you have ticked nearly all the expat challenge boxes in one week1!! I think its unlikely you could get a coup or an extreme weather disaster but I do believe if it happened you would not only be prepared but also have the humour and resilience to manage it.
    And build a new business stream at the same time!
    Really looking forward to those checklists….
    And will open a bottle of something in this hemisphere and drink to you when your house is finally yours.

  8. Sandy Mouat says:

    I’ve known that sick feeling when you’ve hit “send” and realized you’ve made a horrible mistake. Glad to hear the Acalanes principal has a good sense of humor. Now, I want to see that email! LOL Sounds pretty funny!

    Actually, Gmail has an “undo” button you can click on to abort an email going out, but you have to do it pretty fast.

  9. Jayne Gouge says:

    What an interesting site! No mention of the plight of the ever growing band of Discarded Diplomatic Wives though???

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