Expats Syndrome

As a former military brat, soldier, student, itinerant teacher, and lecturer I have spent more time outside the borders of my country than within them. I can speak with authenticity and authority on the perils and promise of an expat’s experience. Thirty-plus schools, and 640,000 non-transferable credits, in my lifetime should get me some kind of special certification. I stumbled onto Robin Pascoe’s site today and was happy to see that someone had created well-written order out of the chaos that is life spent in temporary quarters. Her books: Raising Global Nomads, A Moveable Marriage, and Homeward Bound offer advice from a veteran of culture shock. Her work, geared more toward married females, is full of wit and wisdom worthy of a read. She has a collection of articles on her site written for the Korea Times that you’ll find entertaining and subtly instructive. She has a gift for the written and spoken word and has parlayed it into a business that includes lectures to corporations and groups on Parenting, Marriage, Relocation, Going Home, and Learning to Write. She is not for everyone: Her stories are gleaned from a privileged life as the wife of a Foreign Service Officer and she often addresses the corporate and consular functions. So, it is not likely you will relate very well if you have endures soul-numbing depression as a young volunteer in rural China, self-destructive antics after losing your emotional compass in an intercultural marriage or agoraphobia brought on by the sudden affective vacuum created by a loss of most things familiar. I recently asked a business owner, a Canadian expat in China for 20 years, what he missed. He replied, “Nothing!” with great conviction. HE should be giving seminars! I have days where I ache for anything wholly American. Some days I would settle for a Ronco Pocket Fisherman or the 5-Tray Electric Food Dehydrator ads in lieu of the whole of CCTV. I become so wistful that I would wish upon a star were there actually stars above Guangzhou. And other days I am so depressed that a dark corner of a basement would suit me just fine if only there were basements in Guangzhou. Thank heavens for other Asian Bloggers, expat sites, writers like Pascoe, Bootleg DVDs (Ya, ya…I will find a State-sponsored church and whisper a confession) and, of course, Skype. Hmmm, I like the idea of a writing workshop. I know this blog, my personal jounal and the manuscript (Confucius Slept Here) keep me, uh, san-er. So, I might try to make something like that happen in China if there is an interest. And one thing deperately lacking in the Middle Kingdomn is an inexpensive counseling/mentoring refuge for individual expats and especially those in cross-cultural marriages…I am going to have to look into that as well….

By Lonnie Hodge @ OMBW

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