NorthSouthEastWest: Expat Dispatches
Welcome to the inaugural four-way guest posting of NorthSouthEastWest! I and three other expat bloggers have joined together to rotate our monthly guest posts from the four corners of the world on each other’s blogs. We expat bloggers are Linda at adventuresinexpatland.com (North – Netherlands), me at insearchofalifelessordinary.com (South – Australia), Erica at expatriababy.com (East – Japan), and Maria at Iwasanexpatwife.com (West – Canada).
Sometimes we’ll have a theme (July’s theme is Where We Are Right Now), some months we’ll just write about whatever takes our fancy. I hope you enjoy today’s guest post on this site by Linda, an American expat living in the Netherlands, and that you also check out my own NSEW guest post over at Erica’s site, titled Home is where the heart is, wherever that may be. Better yet, why not check out all four of our posts!
In the meantime, I’d like to introduce Linda who writes about her many adventures in Expat Land at adventuresinexpatland.com and who moved to the Netherlands in 2009 when her husband took a job with an international organisation. Here she guest posts on why she is staying put in the Hague, for now….
“Years and years ago, only people who were sent to live overseas by their government, company or international organisation were thought of as expatriates. Anyone else either was being shunned, or if they went on their own, were considered by many to be doing it based on principle: exiling themselves to make some political point.
Fortunately times have changed, and today there is a more enlightened understanding of what being an expat really entails. Nowadays, given increasing globalisation and the explosion of technological advances, it’s generally accepted that more people than ever are choosing to live abroad. Being an expat simply means that we are living outside our country’s borders. No more, no less.
It’s hard to get an exact number of expats for a couple reasons: most governments don’t tally their citizens living outside their borders (even if they do carefully monitor the taxpayers among them!), and also because the overall data tends to include refugees, those seeking political asylum or otherwise pushed out of their ‘home’ countries.
In addition to our brethren who are sent overseas on assignment, many of us do choose to pack up and head abroad. We may do so for myriad reasons: a specific job or the overall opportunity for employment, adventure, cultural experience, love of travel, a sense of global citizenship, a better standard of living, learning a foreign language, an educational program, adding a skill or ‘something extra’ to our resumé. Or simply just because.
It doesn’t matter whether you sought out a job or chose to retire abroad. Regardless of how you came to be where you currently are, virtually every expat faces a point in time when they must re-evaluate their situation. It tends to boil down to a game show version of The Clash hit ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go?’
In some instances, the pesky little nuisance of expiring visas and other necessary documentation forces us to consider our situation. In other instances, an employment contract may be running out, or corporate reshuffling or downsizing is taking place. Or our sense of ‘paradise’ doesn’t quite cut it anymore.
And so we’ve found ourselves in the situation countless others are in: are we staying or going?
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, Husband works for an international organisation headquartered here in The Hague. It was his first time working for this organisation, and he was offered the standard three-year contract. That contract expires in six months, January 2012. When he first took the job, it was fairly easy to get a three-year extension, provided the employee did good work and the agency was pleased with his/her performance.
Fast forward to today. The continuing global credit crisis and weak-to-dire economic situation have made three-year contract extensions a thing of the past. This doesn’t come as a surprise, in part because we keep up with global economic news and also because Husband is in charge of global recruitment so he’s acquainted with how things work.
In order to afford maximum flexibility to determine organisational size and structure, these days the international organisation is only offering one-year extensions, and not necessarily to everyone. Husband figured that he’d hear sometime this summer, so we, like many others in similar straits, have to assess the situation and determine our own course of action.
As I recently wrote in Life Milestone: Expat Graduation, Son just graduated high school and is headed to university back in the United States next month. Daughter finished ninth grade, so has three more years of high school ahead of her.
We happen to enjoy the life we’ve carved out here in The Netherlands. Husband finds his job stimulating. Daughter loves her school and activities, her friends and year-round Dutch voetbal team. I have built a writing career, and have developed some wonderful friendships with a dazzling array of truly stellar people. We love our quiet little Dutch neighborhood in the midst of a beautiful and culturally abundant city. We like being able to travel easily, for reasonable costs and on relatively short notice. Heck, I’m even fairly decent with my intermediate Dutch.
‘Ah, this indecision’s bugging me…’
So it was with great relief and a bit of celebration that we greeted the news that Husband’s contract has been extended for another year. We are well aware that we are reaching a sensitive time up ahead with regard to Daughter’s education. It’s our fondest hope to stay long enough to see her graduate here in Nederland. We also want to avoid being unpleasantly surprised in the middle of her junior or senior year.
I do not know what the future will bring, but I do know this: we refuse to live our lives on pins and needles, worrying about what may or may not come to pass. We are going to continue living in the present, accepting our days here in The Netherlands as the gift that it is.
We’re going to dig deeper, expand our circles wider, become more entrenched in our community. To do anything less is to live life in a sort of netherworld, one foot in and one foot out.
Not going to happen. No way.”
Have you recently come to a decision regarding your next move or lack of move as the case may be? Was it a job decision that made your mind up for you or was it more of an emotional decision?
Look out for the next NSEW guest post towards the second half of August. And, thanks again, Linda for this inaugural guest post!