Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Book: Expat Women: Confessions 50 Answers to Your Real-Life Questions about Living Abroad

Expat Women: Confessions. 50 answers to your real-life questions about living abroad, by Andrea Martins and Victoria Hepworth. Australia: 2011 Expat Women Enterprises Pty Ltd ATF Expat Women Trust, 2011. 267 pp. Reviewed by Sandie Mirfield.
ExpatWomen.com is the creation of two long term expats; Australian Andrea Martins and American Jill Lengré. An established and reputable blog with around 11,000 members, it provides an insight on living away from home in the form of interviews and articles delivering invaluable support for expatriate women, both the new and the experienced. The co-authors of Expat Women: Confessions, Andrea Martins and Victoria Hepworth, have used their own extensive expat experiences together with those found on ExpatWomen.com to create this book.
Being Australian, Andrea has lived in various parts of Australia and further afield in Malaysia and Mexico. As an international guest presenter she has guided thousands of expat women living abroad in Houston, Washington, Mexico City, Amsterdam, The Hague, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Marrakech. With her Bachelor of Arts from the University of Queensland, Australia and a Postgraduate Diploma in Electronic Commerce from La Trobe University, Australia, Andrea has worked in strategic human resources, workplace diversity and project coordination.
Victoria Hepworth, a New Zealander, has lived in Japan, China, Russia, Sweden, India and most recently in the United Arab Emirates, working as a global career consultant. Through Victoria’s experience with supporting expatriates, she was well prepared when establishing Lifeline Shanghai, a non profit telephone helpline. Victoria holds a Bachelors Degree in Business & Human Resources, Master of Arts in Psychology, both from Massey University, New Zealand, and a Diploma in Clinical Nutrition from Stonebridge Associated Colleges in the United Kingdom. Victoria has also been involved in Expatwoman.com.
Expat Women: Confessions is well presented as a collection of questions and answers, collated from the website’s discussions. The book goes beyond expectations with the breadth of issues deliberated, from the day to day issues you will most likely face, through to some issues one might consider out of scope, not being specific to expatriate life, but the Q&A format leaves the reader to choose.
The book lets the new expat skip years of learning the hard way. It holds her hand while showing her that the new world outside her door is actually not as terrifying as it may seem; the language might be totally different, the culture surprising or even shocking, but all around the world people are generally friendly when presented with a smile and, more often than not, don’t actually bite. In showing the newfound world of the expat as a bright colourful place full of new experiences, it turns ‘this isn’t my home’ from a fear into an opportunity.
The timing for me reading the book was perfect. Though I have been an expat woman myself for the last ten years, both in Oman & the United Arab of Emirates, I have just moved to Perth, Australia, two weeks ago with my husband & three year old daughter and so am expatriating all over again. Despite the fact I’ve no sense of direction & can’t even read a map, I have managed to get involved in two local playgroups & a toddler gym, found story time sessions at a local library, found a street farmer’s market downtown, explored the local parks and, most importantly, filled my SIM card with new contacts in this strange new place, all in less than two weeks. I did get lost (as always!), but I laughed it out and when you’re smiling and confident your new world welcomes you. That’s where this book will help you too. Support and knowledge builds confidence & confidence leads to a warm welcome.
This is a unique work, an encyclopaedia into the souls and private lives of all expat women. Andrea and Victoria identified the diversity of expat life, considered the various ups and downs which women might encounter & shared a wealth of information. It de-victimises the expat women & enables us to make the best of our new experiences.
Expatriation seems daunting and terrifying! As humans, we just don’t like being outside of our comfort zones. The easy option is to pack your bags and go home, or even not leave in the first place, but thanks to Andrea and Victoria, you’ll know almost every trick to make this work for you.
My advice for a first time woman expat is: “Forget packing your toothbrush, this is what you need by your side when embarking on the first expatriate journey.” The world is your oyster, you have a clean white canvas, be bold!


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