Is Lewis Carroll’s legendary tale actually an analogy for the expat experience? There are certainly some amusing parallels.
Through the rabbit hole
“Down went Alice after the White Rabbit, never once considering how in the world she was to get out again…”
When a person makes the big decision to move overseas, they will often feel out of place. Even when you are very well prepared, and ‘expect the unexpected’, like Alice, you will still have to navigate a whole new world and find your feet.
Who AM I?
Having given up a job at home, and far from friends and family, expat partners can undergo a crisis of identity. Alice would empathise.
“Who are YOU?” said the Caterpillar.
Alice replied, rather shyly, “I hardly know, sir, just at present – at least I know who I WAS when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.”
A social faux pas (or two)
When you’re out of your element, it’s easy to put your foot in it. Alice certainly upsets more than one thin-skinned local in Wonderland.
“It is a MOST PROVOKING thing,” snaps Humpty Dumpty, “when a person doesn’t know a cravat from a belt!”
Entering another culture, you might experience something that seems completely illogical to you.
“No, no!” said the Queen. “Sentence first – verdict afterwards.”
If so, it’s probably best not to snort, “Stuff and nonsense!”, as Alice does.
Homesick yet curious
Alice also has a few awkward introductions (as all expats will): “Alice did not like shaking hands with either [Tweedledee or Tweedledum] first, for fear of hurting the other one’s feelings…”
Feeling disoriented and anxious, she understandably pines for home comforts: “It was much pleasanter at home. I almost wish I hadn’t gone down the rabbit-hole, and yet, and yet…” But take note how she retains her curiosity!
Languages and loneliness
“It doesn’t understand English. I daresay it’s a French mouse, come over with William the Conqueror… I am so VERY tired of being all alone here!”
Throughout her adventure, Alice has communication problems and at times feels lonely. Nonetheless, she perseveres, establishing a network (of sorts), and absorbing the culture as best she can! When she finally returns home, she delights in sharing everything she experienced – highs and lows! – just as all expats will do when repatriated.