Sunday, 11 May 2008

The Expat Arc


Firstly, let me start by saying I can’t recommend Danielle Barkhouse’s book, The Expat Arc, enough. Secondly, I fell into the Avoidance trap she describes on page 9 myself, before beginning it, as we had just completed another move abroad a few weeks before I was to begin the book. Fortunately this move, to Australia, is permanent. There are always a million things to do when moving, and even more so when moving countries, which no one realises but those of you who make these moves. And then, everything you do---taxes, wills, etc, must be done 2 or 3 times over, depending on how many places you have lived, worked, or hold assets! Anyway, back to the book, which effectively handles the description of all of this, including the enormous costs involved, confusion at the shops over items that you wouldn't hesitate 2 seconds over back home, dashed expectations over customer service, bad haircuts, and just the 'overwhelming-ness' of it all. As an expat, it is always validating to read about other people's experiences, which suprisingly, you can always find comparisons to, regardless of the fact that, for example, you moved to Australia and they moved to India. Danielle's journal style of writing captures moments in her experience, yet comes together as a whole which covers all aspects of her move and living experience abroad. I even learned some new things myself by reading the Expat Arc, such as that when I go to purchase the one Bundt pan I have seen here in Australia, I need to make sure it is the same size as the ones back home (read and find out)! As exciting as it all is, and no matter how quickly we settle in, Danielle's effectively illustrates the fact that there will always be 'cultural moments' which throw us off our game, and homesickness can come at any time and for any reason, as can negativity and resistance to a new culture. And...it's all normal, which goes back to my saying a read of other's experiences is exceptionally validating for us all. If you've ever lived abroad, whether it be temporarily, for an extended period, or permanent migration, The Expat Arc is worth a read. My only tip to Danielle---make friends with the geckos. They're so much cuter than Huntsmen:/ And it's not just at the age of ten that it's all about what is fair. When you're an expat, that can be at the age of 30 as well;)

Danielle will be on to answer any questions you may have about her book and experiences, so please post away in comments. You can purchase her book here.
"Don't read this if you're expecting deep insights on culture, politics or religion in India. Oh no. I'm far too shallow and lack the intelligence necessary for that. I'm not an expert about anything. I'm just here for a good time and amusing myself about it to stay sane."

Danielle Barkhouse researched and prepared for her family's relocation from Illinois to India. She was an experienced expatriate, so she thought she knew the range of feelings that she would experience. She was wrong.

"I have found that most expats don't really talk about culture shock. We all look at one another and know we're each going through it at some level. Some people will say they're fine, when they're really not. And then there's me. Let's just put it under a microscope, magnify the details and write about it! That's all this really is, a magnification of the details."

The journey that most expatriates take when they leave their home country for an assignment abroad is like an arc. The Expat Arc is a collection of Danielle's journal entries detailing her expat arc path beginning with the honeymoon phase, hanging out in the rejection phase longer than desired and plowing her way into the phase of acceptance. It's a very personal and detailed description of her journey over the arc of culture shock, identity crisis and settling in. It includes nuggets of her humor, insight and a few 'light bulb moments' about living abroad.

"Luckily, coming back down the other side, the arc is transformed into a colorful rainbow and we know what's at the end of a rainbow!" Priceless treasures and golden nuggets."

1 comment:

Danie said...

Thank you for the review! It's so true that when you're deep in one of the stages of culture shock, something so small, like a bad haircut, can be the proverbial straw. And haven't we all been there?