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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Expat Wives

I just read another very well written and funny post by Shamozal. She is also in Doha, but has lived in so many other more fascinating places - with a husband, 4 kids, and a beagle. Most recently, she's written about the "expat wife".

While I am technically an expat wife, I do not consider myself to be one of them. I am the anchor to Qatar who lead her not-quite-yet-husband here over a year ago. So, while some (apparently) are calling the expat wives "trailing spouses" I'd say that my situation is quite the opposite.

I'm the spouse with the benefits package (return airfare each summer, housing, interest free car loan, etc.) who is sponsored by a Qatari entity. And due to my sponsorship I became a resident who could then turn around and sponsor my husband. As the first one here and sponsored first, I signed all the papers. Basically, everything was put in my (maiden) name: car loan, car title, car registration, car insurance, bank account, utilities, Internet and satellite TV, etc. Essentially, my sweet, devoted husband could make a run for it and leave me here in this sand box of hell quite easily. But wait! Because he is sponsored by moi, he must also get my written permission to leave the country if he wishes to return as a resident rather than a tourist. I know he'd never do this because he loves our cats too much. (They are the only concrete reason why we ever bother returning from our vacations to this place afterall!)

Not only do I look different on paper from the Expat Wives, but I am clearly having a different kind of experience. Recently, we met our running club for brunch after a run. I'm one of only two female runners in our group, but for brunch there was much greater balance.

We sat down to chow down and the second most popular question was asked: "Do you work?" they each asked eye balling me like a creature who'd escaped to the outside. "Yes, we both teach," I explained. After that I always feel obliged to ask if they work (outside the home), but I always know the answer by how they ask me the same question. So, I asked. And they said, of course, that they didn't. They go on to tell me how they fill their days here. Some teach private lessons of various arts and crafts thingys for fun. Others pass time with other Expat Wives. And most spend a lot of time chasing their children. I suspect some are fans of Facebook and spend gobs of time online. I mean, that's what I do on vacation because my husband's school holidays do not match mine.

Of course there are positives and negatives to being an atypical Expat Wife. For starters we basically live off one of our salaries here. On top of that we do not have children, while it seems almost every married couple here does. Therefore, we are able to save quite a bit while working in the Gulf. On top of the financial advantages of us both working while abroad, my husband and I can equally sympathize with each other about the cultural frustrations of working here. For example, he experiences many of the same challenges with Gulf Arab students and administrative staff. These shared experiences will make it easier to decide what we do next. Having struggled and enjoyed a very similar adventure here together will mean that our decision to stay or leave will be an easy one.

Until Next Time (and I hope it isn't months!),
Image credit: Chiang Mai City Life