Become an Expat in Asia
A question I frequently get asked is, “how did you find yourself living in Hong Kong?” In our case, it was quite simple.
Having travelled frequently in the area, both my husband and I had wanted to live in Asia for quite some time and we, therefore, put a formal pact in place that if one of us found a job in the region, the other would quit their job and join them to become an expat in Asia.
So, true to my word, when my husband landed a job over here I immediately told him that I would not be joining him. I informed him that I would not be relinquishing my independence and career for a move to Asia where my only prospects were to cook muffins and embroider cushions… “do I look like Mrs Van Der Kamp?”
Did I mean it? No way! In reality, I was more than happy to escape the rat race. You see the problem with the rat race is that even if you win, once the euphoria of crossing the finish line dies down, it sadly dawns on you that yes, you are still a rat.
So no I didn’t mean it, I was simply commencing negotiations for my new contract… a contract for the newly created position of expat wife. Had I jumped for glee at the prospects of exchanging my career in the production of award-winning advertising campaigns for the production of brownie-point winning baskets of baked goods, things would have been very different. There’s not a chance I would have ended up with the benefits package I successfully secured. I was awarded a twice-weekly cleaner and fully paid tuition fees for a full-time master’s degree. In addition to this, I also secured a rather generous monthly spending allowance so that when the inevitable conversation concerning the repetitive purchase of shoes “that all look exactly the same” emerged, I could reply, as I always had done, “it’s my money Darling”.
Now, you may call this manipulation, I call it “applied psychology”. As my years of corporate training had taught me, the key to a successful negotiation is that both parties walk away happy. Was my husband happy? His career remained on track and he achieved his dream of living and working in Asia whilst ensuring that I remained the independent, albeit challenging, the person that I had always been. I hadn’t been a doting housewife and domestic goddess in London, and we both knew it wasn’t going to transpire in Hong Kong either.
I am by no means Oprah, but my advice to anyone who is contemplating a future as a trailing spouse is to take a step back and think of what you need in your new life abroad to make you happy. Try to proactively plan to make those things happen before you go. There’s nothing worse than a trailing spouse who moves to a new country only to find that their sole purpose in life is to convert oxygen to carbon dioxide. If, like me, you have the luxury of being able to start afresh then make sure you make the absolute most of the opportunity!
At the end of the day, my husband wanted to live in Asia with the person he married, all I did was point out what it would take… (and I do throw in the odd cooked dinner for free).