Thursday, May 26, 2011

EXPAT WOMEN: CONFESSIONS by Andrea Martins and Victoria Hepworth


A comprehensive book of common sense advice for women abroad.


Women who have left behind everything they know to move abroad find that many of the ordinary difficult issues women face throughout their lives are even more challenging when they come up in an unfamiliar country. This is a practical, thorough resource for women who find themselves far away from their usual support networks when life happens. The book addresses specific questions drawn from real expatriates about transitioning abroad, relationships, children, careers, addiction, divorce, infidelity, family back home, loss and repatriation. The topics are primarily applicable to trailing spouses, who make up the majority of expat women. I am not a trailing spouse or a parent, so I felt that a lot of the book did not resonate with my own experiences as an expat. However, I would recommend this book without hesitation to someone moving to a drastically different place with their family.

The advice in this book pretty much boils down to: do your homework, stay busy, and communicate with your partner. It is vital to research your new location as much as possible. Make sure you are informed about all of your options before making tough decisions or going home. Many expat women feel a loss of control over their lives, especially if they do not speak the local language. They may struggle to find a sense of purpose in a new place if they are not able to work and have not yet found new social networks and responsibilities. The authors suggest that many problems faced by expat women, especially those who are accompanying partners, can be combated by being proactive about changing uncomfortable circumstances and by seeking out others in similar situations. 

The writing style is professional, while still being sympathetic. The authors are careful to address sensitive issues respectfully and most of their suggestions are practical. They talk through the options and recognize that there is not always just one answer to complicated issues. There is an extensive list of resources at the back of the book, and many suggestions for ways to find support networks in a new place. It is a useful reminder of the need to amass contingency plans and information in the event of an emergency. It may be helpful to read through the level-headed assessment of options in the relevant chapters of this guide if you are feeling emotional or stressed about a big decision. 



I received an e-copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review


Have you ever endured a major crisis when you were far away from your usual support network? How did you handle the practicalities and the emotions of the situation?


  1. I'm not a traveller and luckily have not had any major holiday mishaps so I can't really answer your question. But the book does sound interesting, especially as I don't travel and am a bit jealous of those that do! :P

  2. +JMJ+

    I am not a spouse or a parent, either, Shannon, so when I saw your tweet about Expat Women, I thought it would be about singles like you and me, living it up abroad! (Just kidding, of course.) Being a "trailing spouse" seems more definite--no option to pack up and leave if it doesn't work out, which is different from what a single person would have, even with an employment contract hanging over him. And women are so into "nesting," too!

    Have I mentioned in another comment that I studied in another country for two years? (If not, consider this the mention!) It was awful to come down chicken pox all alone in a foreign country, with unsympathetic doctors, and most of my fellow students home for the holidays. (For obvious reasons, I couldn't fly home myself!) For several days, I had nothing but a new book (interesting enough) and the radio (terrible selection of stations) for company. That was the worst part.

    I wouldn't say I "handled" it, but I obviously "endured" it. =P

  3. That does not sound fun Enbrethiliel. Chicken pox are bad enough when you have your mom there to take care of you. I can't imagine being that sick all alone. The worst I've personally had it in HK was a respiratory infection, but I was once traveling with a girl who fell and knocked out two teeth in Greece. We spent a few dramatic hours in a grungy Greek emergency room trying to get her sorted out. Fortunately we found an English speaking nurse and our professor (we were on a study trip) eventually arrived to take care of things.

    I think it's true that it takes a greater emotional investment for a family to move abroad than it does for single folks. I'm sure it's difficult to uproot even two people and make sure that they will both be happy in the new place, and for that I think it's useful to have a supportive guide like this one.

  4. Thanks Shannon for taking the time to review the book and write up your honest review! I wish you a wonderful HK weekend, Andrea. :)

  5. I had a VERY emotional experience when in Australia in April elderly mother died back home in Scotland whilst we were stranded in Australia by the Icelandic volcanic ash cloud.If not for that, we'd have been back home when she passed. We went to visit my son for 2 weeks and had to stay a month. It was difficult because it was no-one's fault, no airline strikes or human error to blame. We just had to sit it out. It made me think about how often we look for a scapegoat when things go wrong and sometimes there really IS nothing anyone can do to make things better!

  6. Sounds like an interesting book. I have a husband who is always on the lookout for an overseas position, so that might be just the book for me one of these days! I will look into it further. BTW, even if you get a book for free, it would be helpful to post the Kindle price for others. :)


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