A few months ago, while I was still living in the UK, I wrote this post: Facebook envy: or the self-perpetuating circle of how we present expat life to the world.
In it, I discussed how easy it is to only show one side of expat life to our friends and family back home – I used Facebook as an example because that is mostly how I communicate with people I know, but this should also include Instagram, Pinterest, blogging etc. To quote myself:
Over the past few years, as Facebook has evolved, I have watched the lives of several expat friends as they moved from one country to another, settled in, started work or got the children off to school. I have seen photos of beaches and parties, cocktails and safaris….why do expats tend to focus so much on the “good-side” of life? Is it because we’re trying to prove to our friends that the life we’re living is actually as good as everyone expects it to be? Are we trying to prove it to ourselves?
Now, as I settle into our new life in South Africa, that post is coming back to haunt me a bit. Because guess what I have put up on my FB site? Ok, not beaches because we live about three million miles from the sea. But lots of posts about the weather (hot and sunny), the wildlife (impressive) and the wine (delicious and deliciously cheap). So for now, my friends back home basically think I am lying around in the sun, drunk on red wine and watching the elephants go by.
Which of course I am not.
Life is a lot more boring than my posts would have you think. There is a lot of dealing with tantrums, getting up too early, emptying the dishwasher, cursing the school for yet another confusing rule that we don’t understand, answering work emails, checking our bank accounts, trying to work out which drawer houses the vegetable peeler, buying a new vegetable peeler because it turns out no drawer houses it…
But have I posted any of this information? Not really. But why not?
This is a question I have been pondering. Back home I had plenty of updates about some (not all – no-one REALLY wants to know that we have just done our accounts…) of the above. Mostly about things like tantrums. I think it is healthy to share the bad as well as the good side of life, especially when it comes to parenting. It makes it a lot easier to know that you are not the only one whose child is lying on the floor screaming because her sister wouldn’t listen to her when she was trying to explain the rules of the “summer game” (yes that was yesterday. No I don’t know what the summer game is either).
But something stops me here. There are a lot of things I could moan about. At time of writing, I am still waiting for our air freight to turn up (let alone the sea freight) so we’re still living out of the same three suitcases we packed more than a month ago. And quite frankly I am a little fed up of these clothes. My social diary is empty, I can go all day without speaking to another soul bar for the check-out woman (I managed to spin a complement about my top into a five minute conversation yesterday!) and I am struggling to do any exercise at all as I don’t know where and when I can walk or run in this city. We had a fantastic day at a safari park, but I didn’t mention the horrendous traffic accident we passed on the way home with at least one fatality.
So boo hoo me. Although actually not boo-hoo me at all because all of the above is mixed in with the sun and the wine and the trips we have already booked to Cape Town and hot air ballooning and Kruger national park. And yes the girls are dreadfully homesick and we have had a lot of tears and I can’t get Madam M to wear anything but the same three playsuits to school every morning (when they have to leave at 6.45am!!!). But they also have a school with tiny class sizes and amazing facilities which includes a swimming pool and a stand-alone library. And we can afford to take them for pizza every weekend if we like. And our oldest daughter already has two party invites and she’s only been at school for less than a week.
Which brings me back to the updates that I have already posted, those leaving my friends with an overwhelmingly positive view of my life and why it is I don’t balance it out a bit with more of the reality. And I think it is because to do so would somehow seem ungrateful. We have been given this fantastic opportunity, and I realise how amazingly lucky we are. I know that it will also be hard, especially at the beginning, but I suppose I didn’t want to start the moaning until I could at least put it into perspective. Maybe I have gone too far the other way. Perhaps I should do it the other way round – start with the bad side and then add some of the good. But that, I suppose, is not the message I want to convey.
I will post about more mundane things. Gradually, as life here returns to some sense of normality and the excitement of seeing elephants and rhinos in the wild fades slightly, as the price of the wine stops impressing me so much and I start to get blase to the never-ending sunshine, then I am sure my posts will become more and more blah. Just like they used to be. I probably will still post when we do interesting trips, or something unusual happens. But eventually my friends and family back home will get a more realistic portrayal of what day-to-day life is like.
I just promise I won’t ever post anything about buying vegetable peelers.