Vintage trailing spouse on camel

You know you’re an expat trailing spouse when..

Vintage Expat Trailing Spouse on Camel


These are what I came up with – I’m counting on you all to add your own at the bottom..


You receive a friends and family discount card, and you have absolutely no-one to share it with.


You volunteer as a parent driver, and then get completely lost with 4 sullen children in tow.


When someone says “we must have coffee sometime”, your immediate response is “Now?”


You have 697 Facebook friends, and not one of them lives within 500 miles.


Skype refers to you as “a valued longterm customer”.


You carry snacks everywhere – most of your life is spent battling bureaucracy, your paperwork is inevitably a three hour problem solving exercise.


You routinely carry photocopies of everything from your marriage certificate to evidence of chickenpox immunity in your purse / handbag / glove compartment.


You’re suddenly doing playdates in three languages.


Your intercultural catering relies heavily on cheese and tomato pizza and crepes.


Your first response when someone asks to visit is to check their baggage allowance and issue a list.


You know the luggage allowance for every flight to your location, and which airlines don’t weigh hand luggage.


Most marital disharmony centers around “selfish refusal to check bags’ on business trips, or reluctance to fill aforementioned bags with Cadbury’s Fruit and Nut chocolate, Branston pickle, Bisto etc.


You make your mother carry a Christmas tree to Kenya, complete with decorations.


Somehow, a single plane ride managed to erase your entire career history, and has been replaced with the phrase “What does your husband do?”.



22 thoughts on “You know you’re an expat trailing spouse when..”

  1. You know the shortest and quietest routes, restaurants, etc through several international airports.

    You know which lounges you can blag your way into with offspring in tow and which even when you’re allowed in due to x/y/z car your child whose done more airmiles in First, Premier and Steerage than the adult refusing your way as they’ll upset other guests just don’t want you in there.

    You know which parking bay at the airport is quickest in and out from collecting family and where to do running pick up/drop off for the husband.

    Your lists of what I can’t live without dwindles from 4 sides of A4 paper to 2 items the longer you spend away from home.

    1. You’re right – mine is now down to teabags (PG tips, like Clare!) and Cadbury’s chocolate. The rest is negotiable, depending on the season and what supplies the visitors will eat while they are here.

      As for the parking – we now send the Other Half to drop off the hire car, while we check everything in, and he is left to just collect his boarding card. Bliss.

    2. but you know you’ve been kicked up to Silver status when you proudly proclaim that Marmite, the only item on your list, is available one country over.

  2. For those posted to dodgy places … you keep USD $1,000 in cash and your passports hidden in the freezer.

    You trade VPN addresses rather than recipes with friends so you can access decent TV online.

    And talking of recipes, you’ve substituted so many ingredients the final dish is no longer recognizable.

    1. 5000 bob (shillings) in the glove compartment in case you are carjacked.

      If you locate a store selling anything good, you immediately text your entire local expat network and take orders.

  3. You master at least one dish from your home country, so you have something “authentic” to offer on international school events…

    You own at least one “traditional” apperal/native animal display/national flag from your home country, so you have something to represent your country with in the above events…

    You recognize national anthems of Bangladesh and the like, your kids can sing them…

    You don’t even blink when you see women covered top to toe in black clothes, or when you see men wearing skirts…

    Your passport is full before expiry, again. And so are those of your 10 year old kids’…

    You have currencies in your safe from over 20 countries. For the more frequently visited countries, you have a separate wallet for each of them…

    You can drive on both left hand and right hand side of the road within 5 minutes of adjustment time. Your traffic knowledge does not always agree with your home country’s…

    1. When the International Fair sign-up sheet comes out, you have to think about which country your children should be representing. And it might be a different one for each child.

      You can drive an automatic or a stick shift, and can change gear with right or left hand, depending on the country. Although you do keep grabbing the door handle for the first five minutes.

  4. You are home alone with the kids for YET another school holiday or nursing your kids home alone YET again!

    No one remembers to ask how you are when they phone from home – why would they, you’re having a ball – aren’t you?

    The recruitment agent looks up from your CV and asks
    “but what have you been doing for the last X years?”

  5. Some very valid points and think it’s fair to say that I’ve felt like that too. However, when life gets me down I try to focus on the positives about the amazing opportunity my family and I have been given. Life is what you make of it and I try to keep as busy as I can. I never got the opportunity to be a full time Mum with my 1st child but am expecting my 2nd and am lucky enough not to be working. I am a teacher and miss my job but I hope to go back part time at some point. I miss family and friends terribly but things really could be a lot worse. I have my lovely wee family here with me and we are so lucky to have this time together. Hang in there ladies, all is not bad. x

  6. Your children can sing Happy Birthday to their classmates in 3 or more languages.

    You know which online shops/companies ship internationally and with the best delivery charges, and have your finger on the pulse of which shipping/parcel company offers the best rates for getting 30kg of Christmas presents back to your adopted country. You also no longer need scales to tell you what 30kg of toys, clothes, books (and chicken stock cubes) looks like.

  7. You really do believe smiling involves clenching your teeth.

    You think it’s normal to visit the same art gallery to see the same exhibition every two weeks.

    You have to have a lie down every time you have been to the post office.

  8. You invent a child-friendly national dish of your country for the inevitable international day at your kid’s new school.

    You routinely schedule your phone calls for advice to three different departments at weekly interviews because you know that no one customer service agent will have all the information in one sitting.

  9. Haha – I made a similar list once, and this is one of them:

    …You spend your first year abroad whisking vast amounts of O.B. tampons through customs at every chance you get because you absolutely know they are the only real thing but never available in the right size where you live now, then finally throw in the towel and buy the local Lil-lets brand because you can’t bring yourself to ask the next expat moving here, let’s call him Dave (whom you’ve just met over the internet), to bring you a few packs, only to discover that Lil-lets are absolutely positively the only brand you’ll ever use from now on out, because they have this nifty twist-it unwrapping action that totally beats that fiddly piece of plastic you can never quite seem to grasp on the O.B. ones, and now you’re faced with the prospect of having to ferry vast amounts of Lil-lets packs back the other way when it’s time to head home again. (you can see my entire list here in case you’re interested:

  10. When you complain that you havent been on holiday for ages to your family at home, and they come back with “but your living in an exotic country- you are on permanent holiday !!”. And you spend all your leave back in your home country,chasing around seeing relatives in friends in a frenzied fashion,before shopping for all the goodies to take back to your host country !
    When writing CVs back home, I have had to try and elaborate on what Ive done abroad for all those missed years of employment…cant really keep putting hosting & attending numerous coffee mornings and official functions !!

  11. You can pack (and unpack) the entire contents of a house in under 48 hours.

    You know your passport number and those of the rest of the family by heart from filling out so many forms.

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