Monday 11 May 2015

Life as an "expat"

For the last five months my family and I have been living abroad.  As we are middle class white folk we get to call ourselves "expats" (see this fantastic Guardian comment piece: ) but really we washed up in the Caribbean as immigrants, just like many millions of people around the world.

We travelled with just three suitcases.  The Husband's work secondment had arranged accommodation and a car - what more did we need?

The last few months have taught me that, really, we need very little.  All the paraphernalia (detritus?) of life in London - for the most part, completely unnecessary.  All we really need, it seems, is a week's worth of clothes and a washing machine.  A couple of picture books and a few favoured toys.  A small amount of toiletries and plenty of sea water, sand scrubs and fresh Caribbean air.

We've missed our treasured friends and beloved family back home, but we've found it easy to keep up on Skype.  And to make new friends - on a tropical island there is no room for stuffiness, just a lot of open arms and willingness to adopt a new family into island life.

We've missed, it's true, the hustle and bustle of central London - the night life, the culture, the endless events and activities.  But the slower pace of life has left us with plenty of time to enjoy quality time together.  Walks along deserted beaches have replaced dodging the crowds on the South Bank.  And we enjoy what events do happen here all the more for it.  Instead of queuing for the latest trendy London restaurant, we can pop into any number of local places here and tuck into the same always-delicious fish tacos and conch fritters.

I've learned that, contrary to my first fears, I'm actually pretty self-reliant.  I've cared for The Boy singlehandedly for five months, including a week where I was flat out with 'flu and several days when he turned into a terrible toddler tyrant from the seventh circle of Hell.  I've managed my own mental health fairly well too, which is a relief as mental healthcare out here in the Caribbean is fairly minimal.

But I'm looking forward to getting back to our local community in London, where help is never far away and where Grandparents, albeit not on the doorstep, can at least visit without having to book transatlantic flights.

I think we will come home with a much greater appreciation for our home, and friends, and general way of life.  I hope we can bring home some new Caribbean habits - the "what does it matter?" mindset and a disregard for both materialism and consumerism.  

Plus lots and lots of rum cocktails, of course. 


  1. Hi Kathryn - I am trying to work out where you are! We lived in St Lucia for a while a few years ago, and before that (pre-children) Jamaica. I am guessing from the conch fritters it's not either of those, although rum cocktails means it could be anywhere in that part of the world ;) However I do agree, you need a lot less stuff than you think you do. Every time we move we always have a couple of months before our "stuff" arrives in a container and live out of what we brought in a few suitcases. During those weeks I always wonder why we think we need more! Hope you continue to enjoy your time in the Caribbean, whereever it is.

  2. What a gorgeous place to be an expat! We are true work expats, I am not sure I would have chosen to live in either of the places we have done beforehand, but I am grateful we have as it's been a real experience! :) #myexpatfamily

  3. Sounds like you've done a great job at adapting as islanders!!! It's so amazing his little you need isn't it!? I love how much you learn about yourself as a person living in a place where life is simple, it's something that I love the most about living in the Seychelles!!
    Thank so much for sharing with #myexpatfamily lovely to have you join in!

  4. Thanks for sharing! I feel you on the separation between enjoying life and thriving in a new country while at the same time missing the support network back home. Good thing you have the rum cocktails :D

  5. Oh yes, there is nothing like a big move abroad to make you realise how little "stuff" you need! We're a couple of months away from moving countries again and I'm finding myself getting rid of most of what we have. At this rate the only one with more than a suitcase worth of stuff will be my toddler - I feel guilty getting rid of his things without giving him a say in the matter!

  6. I totally agree that the stuff you figure out is important isn't what you thought before. I feel the same way about surprising yourself with how well you can do on your own. We live where I don't speak the language at all and I do just fine most of the was my biggest fear! Thanks for aharing

  7. I love the freedom you feel when you realise how little of the "stuff" you really need. I'm very jealous of your adventure! #MyExpatFamily

  8. I think that was one of my biggest realisations, we need very little! Really, home is about the people you're with, not all the random bits and bobs that go with it. It sounds like you have had a wonderful time, what a fabulous experience to have! Sorry for such a horribly late comment from #myexpatfamily, it really has been one of those months!