Yes, it may sound very appealing, but being a “lady of leisure” is not all what it is cracked up to be. Especially, if you are in a new country away from you family and friends, your comforts and you don’t understand the language. It can all be very daunting and quite lonely.
Frankly speaking, the only reason why we are in a country we do not know, without a job, with no friends or family for support, is that we followed our boyfriends, husbands, significant others to the other side of the world to be with them. There are many of us out there, some complete newbies like myself and others are long-term veterans, who have followed their partner from post to post almost their entire adult lives.
So here you are, in a new country with hours upon hours to kill before you boyfriend, husband or significant other walks through that front door from work – and you’re eagerly awaiting him like an energetic golden retriever just wanting love and affection, and all they want to do relax on the sofa and not talk for a while.
Now that I have started work myself, I have looked back on the last year when I myself was a Lady of Leisure and I thought I would share a few of my survival tips which I have learnt over the last year:
Disclaimer: if you have children – these tips do not apply to you. In my experience, expat women with children spend half their time running after their children, a quarter of the time talking about their children, and the rest of the time complaining about the maid who is looking after their children! Life is tough! ;)
- Start a routine: This is exceptionally important for your peace of mind!
- Join a gym: Even if you have absolutely nothing else to do with yourself during the day, at least you can feel you have accomplished something worthwhile, and you have not just sat on the sofa growing fat and watching crappy day time telly (I am totally in love with the Kardashians now!).
- Attend a language course: This is the perfect way to meet other people in the same situation as you, as well as giving your day some structure. However most importantly it makes getting around your new country a whole lot easier.
- Social networking (A): Join local social networks in your area, every country has them and they usually organise monthly get-togethers, have interesting forums and are a very good way to meet other people who are also new in town. I joined Internations (www.internations.org) which I referred to a lot when I was new in town. However, be forewarned, as ‘C’ travelled alot I would go to the get-togethers on my own, and I must admit, there was an overall ‘meat market’ feel to the whole event, and I spent most of the evening fighting off advances from hungry looking Mexican men.
- Social networking (B): If you come across someone on the social networking site that looks as though you have a bit in common, don’t be shy in contacting them. I met a couple of people this way, both of whom I still have a lot of contact with
today and who subsequently introduced me to lots of other interesting people who have become my really good friends. (PS. if they turn out to be creepy weirdos – drop them immediately!)
- Be proactive: If you meet someone you like and you felt as though you got on well with them – take the first step, call them! Organise a coffee date or lunch, don’t wait until they call you. Remember, they most likely have a vibrant and busy life– and although they may like you just as much, they probably don’t realise you are sitting at home on the couch growing fat while watching crappy day time telly and feeling sorry for yourself.
- Start a hobby: You finally have all this time on your hands and have no excuse not to start that art class you always wanted – do it! This blog is in existence for precisely this reason – and it has given me so much enjoyment. To be able to see something tangible that I have created in my spare time is very fulfilling (it also means I have not sat on the sofa growing fat while watching crappy day-time telly!)
- The Fool: Accept that you are going to feel foolish at times – especially when you are learning a new language. You will say the wrong things at the wrong time and feel silly. Get over it! I once asked my waiter in Spanish that I wanted to pay my bill with buildings instead of cash…(edeficio vs efectivo!)
- Push you boundaries: Do things slightly out of your comfort zone. You are in a new city, no one knows you…you are a blank canvas. For example, I am a terrible, unco-ordinated dancer, yet l love to dance and wish desperately that I could shake my booty like Shakira –but unless I had a gallon of vodka sodas in my system, you would never see me on the dance floor. So after 6 months of pushing it off, and with a lot of apprehension I finally started Zumba classes at my gym and I love it and can’t understand why it took me so long to build up my courage to join!
- Accept Reality: Accept the fact that some days you will have nothing to do. You will wake up and feel slightly down, and wonder where on earth did your career go? Your friends? Your family? Why am I so crappy at Spanish? But try not to let this get to you. Making a network of friends will take time and patients, its impossible to learn a language over night, and finding a job is hard even in your own country, let alone a foreign one! But over time, things will slowly sort themselves out, and the pieces of the puzzle will slowly fall into place, and one day you will wake up, with fantastic friends, a good job and far more Spanish under your belt than you ever realised…and the good news? It will only get better from here on out!