Do you know what comes next?
I've heard it at parties, I've heard it at work functions and I've heard it from the big, fat, sweaty, hairy guy whose wife is standing next to him with a fixed smile on her face.
"In my next life, I'm coming back as an Expat Wife"
Do you get it?
Can you see how funny the joke is?
You know, because it's so easy. Sooooooo easy being an Expat Wife. You just sit around having tea parties all day and when you're not doing that, you're shopping and getting drunk.
The first time I heard it, G and I had been married for about a year and I'd just found out I was pregnant. We were considering the expat experience while I took my maternity leave. G's new boss was in town and he'd taken us out to dinner. He was a seasoned expat and was explaining to me how 'easy' my life was about to become.
Now, THAT'S a joke.
This is not a piece about how hard it is to give birth or raise a child in a foreign country. It is not a piece about health care and being terrified that you may need help that is simply not available. It's not a piece about bomb scares or low flying planes or being told to avoid certain parts of the city on certain days.
It is not about trying to get the bloody phone connected or discussing your thrush with an audience of 10 while you spell out C.A.N.E.S.T.E.N. only to leave empty handed. It's not about getting lost ten times in one day. It's not about being 45 minutes late to pick up your child from his first day of school because you just couldn't work out how to get from one side of the ten lane highway to the other.
It's not about being out of your comfort zone, not being able to read the signs or speak the language when you first arrive. It's not about finding a toilet and then trying to work out exactly how you will convince your 7 year old to use it without either of you throwing up at the stench. It's not about the birthdays, weddings and family gatherings that you've missed, about feeling 21 hours away, because you are. About the grown children that you left behind that you now speak to on Facebook and Skype, trying to read or see the hidden signs that you'd immediately see in person.
This is what it's about.
It's about making a joint decision to leave your home, your career and your family and then having to listen to some wanker tell that joke.
Yes, there are fabulous aspects to the Expat life. There's the travel, the new friends, the possibility of new beginnings. Perhaps for some it's the chance to save money, for others maybe it's the possibility of having help around the house allowing more time with children. For many it's a chance to study or to develop a new career, an online business or a consultancy.
We are all individual, we all arrive coming from different situations, but there is one thing I think we all agree on.
Whether it's Singapore, The Hague or Doha, in the early days, it's not bloody easy.
What are you coming back as in your next life?